To humanise a brand, give customers a sense of who you are: Sean Gardner

The influential social media consultant spoke to exchange4media about what brands should avoid doing on social media, the importance of being creative and inspiring humanity

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Sep 19, 2014 8:18 AM
To humanise a brand, give customers a sense of who you are: Sean Gardner

Sean Gardner or 2morrowknight as he is known in social media circles, is a social media consultant and correspondent who blogs for Social Media Week, Huffington Post and Smedio, and has appeared on CNN, PBS, and FOX. He has contributed to Fast Company, Buzzfeed, among others, and has lectured at leading colleges and universities.

In addition to 20 years in marketing and public relations, he’s also worked extensively in the area of speech writing, arts advocacy, conservation, as well as promotional campaigns with celebrities, educational institutions, and for nonprofits such as Charity Water, Project Medishare, SeeYourImpact and World Vision. His ‘Twitter Powerhouses Series’ in the Huffington Post is integral to social media conversation.

In India for the upcoming Social Media Week, Gardner spoke to us about the impact of social platforms on media and brands. Excerpts.

 With people increasingly turning to social media for news and views, what would be your advice be to media organisations to not just survive but also thrive?

They must recognise that it’s not simply about being competitive anymore. Sure, a little competition is good for any industry. But it’s less about competition and more about being relevant. This means you must be in tune with your readers, and stay in step with trends and tech shifts. One of my pet peeves is the number of journalists who still don't say "thank you" to some of the people (the non-journalists and non-celebrities) who retweet/pin/share their material, or, simply communicate with them with an answer to a question. In the Age of Digital, that is surely a quick way to eventual irrelevance.

What are the learnings that brands on social media can take from individual influencers like you?

I think it’s a two way street. No one knows everything there is to know about social media. So it’s important for brands to team up with influencers on campaigns, and on things like re-organisation initiatives within the company. When I go and talk with big brands, I love giving them unconventional advice. I tell them to not see 'Best Practices' as your ceiling, but as your foundation, and as you go along, do not hesitate to delete what doesn't work, and keep what does.

It’s a perception that most Indian brands don't take themselves too seriously on social media. Is there a ‘right’ tone for social platform?

Certainly, but it depends on what field you're in and whether you use it for work or pleasure. Figure out what style or tone works best for you. I figured out years ago that the "Inspiration, Information, Aspiration" model fits me best. And four years later, I wouldn't change a thing. Set your tone, and then amplify what you're passionate about. It can work.

With consumer behaviour changing, how can brands leverage social media to attract, retain and convert audiences?

Three things. Attach their name to a social-responsible cause. Most people want to support companies that have a record of giving back to the community, or, playing a role in social good around the world. So this is a must. Also, get a sense of humour, because there will be some tough, and nerve-racking customer service moments. How you handle them will determine how long you'll be in business. Build a strong support network online, because social media is round the clock and you want customers looking out for you when you're not around.

If you were asked to mention one thing brands should totally avoid doing on social platforms what would that be?

I would say it’s imperative to not be afraid of being creative. Brands that think out of the box are the ones making strides with the creative approaches. When your online community observes that you're going the extra mile with concepts, they will surely want to get involved. So it’s a win-win proposition. Step out and connect your brand with 'next level' social business.

We keep hearing about ‘humanising the brand.’ What does this actually entail and how does a brand go about doing this?

The best way to humanise anything is to give the customer a sense of who you are. When you do that, you give everything the brand stands for a significant spotlight. And when you have the spotlight, make the most of it. Always seek ways to improve and elevate your brand.

What do you think about using social media to create a platform to inspire humanity in the society?

I love that idea. I actually use my platforms to do just that. The first thing I think about when I wake up in the mornings is, "How can I inspire humanity?" I get up with that thought and I go to bed with it as well. It is why I eventually became a digital volunteer for, the global day of giving that I also help the UN Foundation promote online. It is all about inspiring everyone to be the best version of themselves and to find a way to be of service. You can never go wrong with inspiration that is both passionate and principled

This year, you are associated with Social Media Week (SMW), could you give us a view of what you’ll be sharing at the event?

Yes. I am doing three sessions. The first one is a keynote presentation on how to use social media to connect and inspire humanity. The second one deals with the art of networking online, which I am doing with The Indian Networker founder Sampath Iyengar. The last session is a two-hour event on how anyone can be their own best competition in the social space.

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