When Bad Websites Happen to Good People When Bad Websites Happen to Good People When Bad Websites Happen to Good People
Tip 1 Tip 2 Tip 3 Tip 4 Tip 5 Tip 6 Tip 7 Tip 8 Tip 9 Tip 10

Tip 9: Be Human

In the digital age, how do we express our humanity online?Compassion. Empathy. Playfulness. These traits are easily recognized as human.

In the digital age, how do we express our humanity online? How can we carry over the positive traits that make us human to the cold and impersonal series of tubes that form the Internet?

It's deceptively simple: By sounding like a real, living breathing person.

The reason why there are so many games mocking bizspeak language – like buzzword bingo and corporate-speak generators – is that this type of robots-are-really-running-the-show lingo runs rampant. The neutral, jargon-laden language of business is carefully crafted to avoid lawsuits, blend in, and pass the scrutiny of the dreaded committee.

Online, marketing cannot be about just pushing out a message. As we mentioned in Tip 1, the Internet is a unique medium. We are not a passive audience. We share stuff with our friends, we read and write blogs, we watch videos and listen to podcasts. We rate products, write reviews and sometimes rave – or rant – about a company or service on Twitter. Marketing is no longer a monologue that is blasted out in one direction. On the web, it is experienced. It is participatory. It is human.

But, it's hard for potential customers to feel all warm and fuzzy about "paradigm-shifting solutions." Consumers fail to engage with companies that use machine-like language. We are drawn to warmer, friendlier voices.

Because no one has ever criticized a company or website for being too human, here are a few tips for creating better-quality, ongoing exchanges:

Find your voice.

Let's face it, there's a lot of noise out there. A strong brand voice with a well-differentiated point of view creates a sparklingly unique you. How can you best talk about what you do and bring personality into the mix? Cut the corporate speak el-toro poo poo, and never, ever use the phrase "think outside the box" – it just proves how far in the box you are.

Put the focus on your visitor.

Stop the self-aggrandizing puffery, tired clichés and other corporate me-me-MEEEEEEEE blah blah. When you include your audience in your writing, it becomes a shared conversation. But, inclusive "you", "we", "us" language is just the beginning. What do visitors really want to see on your site? What information do they need at various stages of the buying cycle? What type of post-purchase content provides value? Where can you be gracious and say "thank you"? What human desires are you fulfilling?

Tell a story.

Everyone loves a good story. Vivid, compelling stories make information easier to remember, and create an emotional connection between the reader and the content. Blogs, podcasts, case studies, photos, and social-media networks like Twitter are the building blocks of a deeper, richer and ongoing story.

Be truthful.

Don't get carried away in your storytelling. Always be truthful. Over-promising and hype trigger skepticism and inevitably lead to disappointment. And, if it smells of Eau de Too Good to Be True, it probably is.

To err is human.

Companies often want to be seen as perfect, flawless entities. However, the ability to admit and apologize for mistakes is innately human. You messed up? Be accountable, and outline how you will correct the error. Then keep your word. People are amazingly forgiving, as long as you take responsibility.

In Tip 8 we touched upon the need for swift page-load speed. But the fastest loading page on the web is useless if there is no human connection with the content on the page.

So be brave, daring and courageous – be human.

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