Back in 2005, I launched a MySpace campaign for a company I worked for. (Pause for effect.) It was a way to connect with potential customers in a human way. It also didn’t last very long.
I’ve been both a consultant and practitioner, and thus been offered many pieces of advice and employer branding tips to become successful. To drive engagement. To get our message out there. To use this or that new tool in the best way possible. To create dialogue and connection. But the most interesting piece of advice was to be more human. Not me in particular, but whichever brand or company I worked for.
The reality is: Humans are humans, and brands are brands. Brands are companies. They are products and services and profits and loss. Yes, products and services are made by humans, and the company is filled with humans, but the company is in of itself not human.
And people know this. According to Nielsen, 84% of global consumers believe recommendations from friends and family about products. Because their family and friends have emotions and desires and feelings and needs – most companies just have a desire to sell.
When you know that 84% of consumers believe their peers and network about products, it’s not a stretch to believe that the same would be true for employers and careers. Making the choice to change jobs is a much bigger decision than selecting a toothpaste, phone or laundry detergent. It’s an emotional choice. It’s a life change. Changing toothpaste is not a life change. Even buying a phone is not a life change.
So somewhere along the line, when brands could reach people one-to-one on social media and through videos and online communities, they tried to start being human. And for some, it worked. Brands were funnier. More personal. More real. The first few “human” brands out of the gate were cool and different. People reacted. But then all the brands followed suit, and they all ended up on the same playing field, and most people were over it.
This is today’s world of employer branding, where everyone says their talent is their differentiator and they have an open culture and you can play foosball on breaks. It’s all sounding the same, to a bunch of smart people who know that as a brand, you simply can’t just be human.
So, what next, if not human?
The Case for Being Useful
We are all consumers of something (jobs and career opportunities included). And we are in a constant state of prospective consuming: we do a lot of scrolling and scanning. And we do even more deleting. Last year, I deleted about 97% of things that were sent to me via email. The last time I engaged with a brand’s post was March 35th. (Pause for chuckle.) Seriously, I don’t comment or like anything that brands post on social media. Do you? When is the last time you engaged with a brand’s social post (that you don’t work for)?
For every 1,000 social media followers, only six will interact with a consumer brand. Compare that to your last Facebook or Instagram post. You would be SO sad if only six people liked your kid’s picture! It’s against human nature to click on something from a brand because we inherently know, from years of commercials and newspaper ads and market research, that brands try to sell us. We are not on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to be sold to. We’re there to learn and be inspired and connect and share. (And to look at back-to-school pictures, dammit!)
There are brands that do human superbly well: Southwest, Redbull. But they aren’t only human – they are also extremely useful to their customers. I admit, it’s not as sexy for a brand to be useful as it is to be human. But useful is helpful, supportive, guiding, inspiring. Are these human traits? Abso-freaking-lutely. Useful is also surprising, because no one expects a brand to help over sell.
I don’t want to ask a hotel or airline a travel question because I don’t want to be sold to. But what if they simply didn’t? What if they just tried to add value to my life?
And there’s this from DaVita.
This is useful. It tells and shows what it is like to work at a dialysis clinic day in and day out. It’s human, yes, but it’s valuable. It is not all sunshine and roses (because that isn’t believable). Being useful means giving them the good, the bad and the ugly and allowing people to screen themselves in … and out.
Every recruiter and sourcer and hiring manager and interviewer is human. Great, be human and be personal … that should be easy. Make useful the new bar, your new goal. Ask yourself, will this reduce the barriers that my universe of people are facing? If the answer is yes, hit send. If the answer is no, start over. If you wouldn’t click it, neither will they.