If you are managing a brand’s social media presence, you probably came across recommendations such as ‘interact regularly with your customers on social media’, or ‘humanise your brand’.
But does it work?
According to a series of studies, conducted by Simon Hudson, Li Huang, Martin S. Roth and Thomas J. Madden, with social media users in France, the UK, and the USA, it does. As detailed in their paper in the International Journal of Research in Marketing, social media interactions are positively related with consumer-brand relationship quality, under two conditions.
The first condition linking social media activity with brand relationship quality is brand anthropomorphism. Brand anthropomorphism occurs when we attribute human characteristics such as feelings and soul, or even human shape, movement and voice to brands. In this study, brands that were perceived as human scored better on brand relationship quality than the others.
Companies can foster brand anthropomorphism by using human-like physical and personality features, as M&M chocolate do with their mascots.
Another way is to show the human side of the brand. Companies can use personal names or initials on social media postings. They can show behind the scenes images. And they can connect company and personal milestones – for instance, when the organisation Stemettes celebrated its third anniversary, it posted pictures of staff when they were three years old.
The second condition linking social media activity with brand relationship quality is frequency of interaction. In this study, higher levels of social media presence were associated with higher levels of brand relationship quality.
The authors posited that high levels of social media activity increased brand familiarity and knowledge, which decreased uncertainty. The authors also said that this effect was particularly significant in situations where customers wanted to minimise risk – for instance, for cultures high in uncertainty avoidance.
In summary, frequency of posting on social media is important not only in terms of getting your content seen, but also in terms of creating trust in the brand. However, brand managers should focus on anthropomorphizing the brand, before rushing into high levels of social media activity.
In your opinion, which brands do ‘the human side’ really well?