When social first started, it was just a place to socialize online. Then businesses with one-track, money-oriented minds began to see an easy opening into consumers’ thoughts. Says the marketer to the CEO, “Suppose we can use this whole social thing? What if we could ‘befriend’ our customers? This is a direct line to them: a place where we’d have no problem creating brand advocates and cheerleaders!” Nod, nod, goes the CEO…

A New Way

It sounded good on paper. Corporations can talk to the “little people” on a platform the consumer trusts, and the consumer will just buy, buy, buy. Unfortunately, it didn’t work like that, it doesn’t work like that, and many a business has failed to catch on.

The Warm and Fuzzy Corporation

When you look at those towering building of steel and glass, it’s hard to think “warm and fuzzy”. Those things look cold. The corporate mentality, for the most part, seems to be an inner reflection of that outside chilliness. It’s not going to work in social.

Who wants to be friends with a hard, cold person? In a world of memes, businesses bombarding with flashing image ads, screaming salespeople on T.V. and huge billboards all selling wares or services, is it any wonder consumers are tired of the business mentality? Is it any wonder that it’s become harder to create brand advocates rather than easier?

So what type of personality is easier to develop positive feelings towards? Those that are upbeat, friendly, open – the ones you can see a smile on their face through the 140 Twitter characters. The ones that make you feel good about yourself and bring a smile to your face as well.

How does a corporation do all that if the mentality is steel and glass? Well – you have to wrap all that cold, hard metal in something soft and fuzzy. You have to turn your corporation into a huggable teddy bear.

-And the only way to do that and make it believable is by using your story.

The Three Bears Didn’t Have a Chance

They Didn’t Stand A Chance

You know, no matter what the stories say about the three bears and Goldilocks, the bears got a bum rap.

This brat kid shows up while they’re on a nice, leisurely stroll through the woods. She commits a B&E (breaking and entering) and tears up the furniture. Upon going into the kitchen, she tastes the food they had left to cool, spits the too hot/too cold food out (probably on the table or floor), and eats food that would have strengthened their baby. She turns their house into a squatter’s retreat and passes out in their son’s bed after getting germs all over the bigger, softer ones.

In the original story, the bears came home, found her and ate her. People didn’t like the fact that the poor, cute, helpless little girl was eaten by those vicious brutes (the bears), so later versions left the bears as helpless victims.

The point? Any story can be written to display someone in the best (or worst) light – including Goldilocks. You have to be careful about the story you tell in the public, social setting of the Internet.

If it’s not true, you’ll get caught and the truth will eventually become known. Your story can be hijacked and changed by critics and/or competitors. However, if you choose not to write your story, you can end up with someone writing it for you – and not necessarily in the best light.

Cases in point:

  • The McDonald’s social fiasco was a huge FUBAR. They tried to pass off that McD’s was awesomely loved, when it turns out that it was just a made-over fairy tale.
  • Chapstick, normally hidden in terms of the media, also found out how careful you have to be with your story and how you tell it. Their social media failure was to build a story that didn’t agree with their target market, and then ignore the market when it complained.
  • In 2010, Nestle responded with sarcasm and threats when Greenpeace took over their Facebook page and told a story Nestle wasn’t happy to read.

Social Content for the Personable Business

Alright, so we’ve proven the point; once you get online, you’ll end up with a story whether you want one or not. Therefore, it’s best to be the first one kicking that story out, right? Right. So – let’s look at turning your glass and steel monolith into a warm, fuzzy (and non-carnivore) teddy bear.

Beyond Digital recently released the results of study in the form of an interesting infographic, The Science of Sharing: An Inside Look at the Social Consumer. In short, “social consumers” are growing, and they don’t shop the same way as the traditional buyer. For example, 53% of the 1,500 interviewed, used Facebook to interact with a brand. 42% wrote a blog about a product, and 33% wrote a review.

Although the interview pool is relatively small, those are high percentages. Consumers are not only interacting online, but they’re also recommending through highly visible word of mouth channels. What’s more interesting, however, is what most influences the social consumer, and the fact that specific influences are higher for some markets than others.

Facebook, the study says, has the most influence for baby brands while, unsurprisingly, YouTube has the most influence for music. However, for industries overall, search results, brand websites and rating/review sites top the list as most influential.

Focus With Precision

The lesson then, for businesses, is to find out where your target audience is most influenced, and prepare content with this in mind:

Company Website
Tone: trustworthy, knowledgeable, authoritative, professional
From beginning to end, your site has to be the base – the foundation – of your warm, fuzzy teddy bear story. While creating your site’s content, don’t forget the AIDA method, but also, don’t forget that you’re a non-violent bear. As you get into more conversational areas on your site, it’s time to start turning over and showing your company’s human side.

Company Blog
Tone: friendly, authoritative, community-driven, professional/personal
Of course, be all professional on your site if that’s the way you feel you have to be to properly represent your company. However, part of the purpose of a blog is to connect with people – to start laying a trail of breadcrumbs towards your main selling area.

Guest Posts
Tone: helpful, authoritative, professional/personal, information-driven
Most people think guest posts are there to drive traffic. They aren’t – not really. Guest posts are there to drive authority. When you’re starting online, one of the few ways to build authority through all the noise (competitors, spammers, etc) is to piggy back off of other authorities.

Social Sites
Tone: helpful, friendly, in-the-know, personal
The tone changes dramatically once you get into the social arena. Here, you’re building relationships, and you just happen to be knowledgeable about this topic or that. In other words, building the relationship becomes top priority, rather than selling your services.

Finally, you have to make sure you connect the dots. You connect each part to the next; the Internet is, after all, called the World Wide Web. As your visitors and followers begin to move across every point of contact, via your company website, blog, guest posts, social sites and so on, they’ll start to build a visual picture of your company. They’ll learn your story, and begin to feel like they’re connecting with the business as an individual.