UP FRONT: I am not writing this post to continue a scuffle with Jason Tryfon. I now know Jason is a good guy with good intentions. It wasn’t even him that said what was originally said by the tweepular account in response to my comment in frustration. I only provided those links here, for context…I hope that the argument can be put to rest and we can just discuss what we can learn from this example.
Our argument did bring up some very interesting topics, worthy of discussion…all of which I plan to cover on this blog in multiple posts. The first topic is especially interesting for our community here after our awesome discussion about True Transparency. That post focused more on individuals participating in a community. Now lets look at it from the brand-to-customer relationship angle.
(This is about companies in general, whether or not they charge for their service. That’s for another post.)
Now I’ve said many times that brands should be human. I’m not saying I was wrong, just that I am now going to be more specific.
A brand should be human in that they’re not talking to their customers like numbers. They shouldn’t so worried about business formalities that they can’t just talk to a customer, like you would an acquaintance in real life. You can smile, you can laugh, you can chat, you can use (some) slang, and you CAN joke but to a point.
Jokes are human. Everyone has a sense of humor to some extent. It might not be a very good one, but you have one. As a brand however, when conversing online, you can only go so far. Many of us, myself included, have a very sarcastic sense of humor. Sarcasm doesn’t come through in text form…at least not until you get to know someone. I’ve given people like Danny Brown (about his hat), Scott Hepburn (about him being wrong), and Lauren Fernandez (about everything) a hard time before, but because we’ve established a relationship, they know my personality and are not offended. I’d even venture to say that a respectful person wouldn’t make sarcastic jokes at someone in real life, offline, until they’ve gotten to know them. You make fun of friends, not first-time acquaintances.
So to my point, brands can be human, but we don’t always know who’s actually behind the keyboard. And even if we do, unless the brand and the customer already has an established relationship, the brand should always stay away from sarcastic humor and comments that may come across as offensive.
Should you be human online? Yes…but should you be yourself when representing a brand? That depends on who you are. If you have a sarcastic/offensive personality (even if you think it’s in good fun), turn the filter on when representing a brand online.