How “Human” Should You Be?

serious-businessPeople might not like who you are or what you have to say. Sometimes customers can be over-sensitive about certain comments because lets face it, the traditional professional community isn’t exactly “laid back”.  In social media, it is expected that we show our “true” form, and be honest to who you are, or transparent as we like to call it…but what if an honest statement is offensive to a customer?

Last night I had a great twittersation (yea, I said it.) with Tara Hunt (@missrogue) after reading this story about James Andrews,  VP of Ketchum, making a negative comment about Memphis on twitter that offended some people at FedEx.

The Question:

With social media still not close to universally understood and accepted by businesses:

Is it the responsibility of the businesses / people who haven’t embraced being human in communications to “take the leap or get left in the dust” and become more “human”?

OR

Is it the responsibility of those businesses / people, who understand the importance of being human in social media, to censor some things that may not sit well with a business world that only gradually begins to understand social media and how it’s effecting the way we communicate?

The Arguments

You will inevitably offend people once in a while, no matter how careful you are.  Some people are just more sensitive to certain subjects.  What if you can avoid it?  You need to think about what you’re writing and how your customers may view it.  If you know you’re customers will get offended by what you’re about to say, unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t say it!  No point in losing a good customer for something so petty.

On the other hand, the business community used to be uptight and all about creating an image for the public to see.  Now the business community isn’t about creating an image but rather being true to your actual image, or personality.  Companies need to learn how to lighten up and be “human” in their conversations.  Don’t get offended by someone’s opinion if it isn’t clearly and directly meant to offend you.  People have different views and opinions and they need to learn how to accept that. “Embrace differences. Make mistakes. Get dirty. Have fun.” as @missrogue described how she advises her customers.

My Thoughts

There really is no right or wrong answer as different situations and people will warrant different approaches to this issue.  I love the advice to Embrace differences. Make mistakes. Get dirty. Have fun.” as that is what being human is all about. Choose your battles wisely however, as it is something that is new and unfamiliar to the traditional business world. The sooner they start to understand it, the better, as being “human” is quickly becoming more and more acceptable and they could be left behind in the dust.  They’re not left behind yet though. We have to realize that when communicating with them.

It’s important that those who have embraced transparency encourage those who haven’t.  It is not something that they can just leap into without understanding however, or they could end up getting too “dirty” or making too big a mistake.  Gradually, we can help them get there by helping them to understand it first.

I’m sure many of you will disagree with my recommendation.  I welcome your thoughts…