I still think it’s interesting that we live in this whole networked age where we can speak to anyone we want across a multitude of platforms.
Most of that communication is via text, but soon it will be via real time open video messaging and augmented reality. Just this past week I was tweeting back and forth with Shira Ovide from Bloomberg and Abigail Posner from Google. We had wonderful conversations about the AT&T and Time Warner merger and a discussion about an upcoming podcast that Abigail and I are discussing doing. Yet when I tweeted to a few brands I heard nothing from them. Deafening silence. Unless they had to tell me something they could care less about what I had to say to them. I probably won’t hear anything from those companies. Maybe they didn’t pay their social media team this week or that team is overwhelmed because most companies still underfund this area.
Whatever the case may be, brands are boring on social media. They stick to social media like PR with canned messages and amplified spam.
While brands are boring on social media, the people who work at those brands are not.
I’ve always been at odds with any brand I’ve consulted in the past (Coca-Cola, Kraft, American Express, IBM) or currently work for (Microsoft) on how they should speak on social media. It’s impossible for brands to truly have a personality. In the pre-social media era, that personality came through in various communications like commercials, sponsorships and press releases. But that read only communication seems old and boring in our hyper-connected day and age. Yet brands still follow this stodgy rule of brand voice, brand temperament and brand logic. I guess the people who work behind the scenes really do believe brands are human even though we know they’re not.
What is human? The people who work at brands and companies. Yet many times they’re told to not talk about business, to not show an opinion, to not have a point of view. This goes against the nature of our social world. Social long before social media in that people are social animals and yearn to be connected and talk with others.
Smarter companies have seen that people don’t care too much about the company voice or brand identity. But they love the inside view of who works at those companies. They love profiles, interviews and subject matter expert conversations. In our cognitive era of product development, it’s people who make brands come alive. So why not showcase more of the people talent that makes up that company?
I find it hilarious in the year 2016 all the time from management no matter where I go that “People are the most important part of our organization, that comes first” and yet when those people yearn to breathe free and showcase who they are as representatives of the brand the brand PR police go nuts. “You can’t do that, you’re breaking brand guidelines. We need the brand to speak to the voice of what our brand is and what it believes, not you.”
A few smarter companies have rebelled from these pompous guidelines unleashing social employee advocacy programs to help their employees not only become agents of the brand, but let them share news around the brand in their voice.
No more robot speak is the new rallying cry.
Death to brand journalism is another one.
Platforms and software now exist to scale these types of programs but what’s more important from all this loosening of the rules is what many of us have known for years since the first early community forums: the brand is no longer the defining voice for the brand. The people who work for your brand and your customers are the defining voice of your brand.