Corporate Social Media Driven by the Need to become more Human

John Hope-Johnstone

Hola, I was giving a Social Media bootcamp to my good friends at Travel & Tourism Research Association’s Greater Western Chapter in Montana last week, when it struck me that the driving force behind the use of social media for brand promotion purposes is the demand by the consumer to make corporate America more human. 

The following graph from  shows that a majority of marketing execs (82%) partially get this and are using social media for brand building purposes. The question is are they able to achieve what the consumer is demanding from social media?

Brand building is an important goal but companies must understand that in the post recession era, consumers are demanding transparency and a human face to corporate America.

In discussing the concept with business owners, they have expressed to me a concern about having just ONE face humanize a company (such as Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airways). In speaking to the social media consumer they don’t want just one face or one spokesperson. They are quite happy to get to know many of the companies’ brand angels just as long as it isn’t a faceless, humanless, guarded LLC.

The other side of the coin is transparency. Businesses need to speak in a way that today’s consumers understand and not in a way that some lawyer or marketing professional feels they should speak. Toyota is a good recent example of a lack of immediate transparency and the disasterous results to public image of a good corporation.

If a company accepts this philosophy of opening their human face and being as transparent as possible, then the next step is to figure out how to take their brand promise and translate it into a message with which you can have a conversation. This can best be done through Public Relations activities. The PR activity can be a socially responsible act or a marketing promotion and by using social media you can start buzz and have a conversation.  Social media can report on the success of a PR activity, give visuals and show the purpose behind these activities as they relate to the brand promise.

While corporations (mostly small and medium-sized) have done a great job of joining the social media conversation, there is a vague sense in some quarters that social media is not producing the returns expected. I have to remind people that social media was NOT created as a marketing tool it was simply adopted as one. It was created to facilitate a conversation. So if businesses wish to have a conversation with their consumers it is available to them to do so.

Using social media as a tool to grant customers a platform to vent admiration or anger towards a brand is not enough.  For many companies, the wall of the ‘brand’ is still separating the consumer from the people behind the brand

The following has been adopted from an excellent Travel 2.0 blog by Troy Thompson

In this blog he argues that the employees ARE a major part of your brand and that corporate culture is an important part of the brand.  The public perception of your company IS your brand and that a logo and a made-up social name is not a representation of your brand.

He argues that for good or bad your employees set the tone of your social media marketing even with the polished and scheduled messages from your ‘official’ fan pages.  (These same fan pages are often struggling to attract followers because in most cases they offer nothing of value.)

He states that people want to connect with other people via social media, not brands or an agency-created persona.  The people in your organization are (hopefully) passionate about their jobs and active on social media.

If a corporation has enthusiastic brand angels within their employees who believe in their product and believe in the ethics that the company upholds then I for one would want to check out that brands products or services.

Social media is NOT an answer, it is an enabler. It enables communities of common interest to find each other and have a conversation. Social media can be a great enabler for corporations to show their human face and to be transparent. If that is of value to the business then it should be used. It not, then leave it alone.

Thanks for reading this post, please leave a comment, I would love to read it and respond. For more social media join the conversation with me on these social media platforms below. Also visit with me at



  1. Great post, I especially appreciate the comment that social media was not created as a marketing tool but adopted as one, a fact that many businesses lose sight of in their efforts to sell, Sell SELL.

    • buzzmaster says:

      Thanks Timothy, I agree with you it is a difficult balance not to ruin a great medium. Appreciate the read and comment.

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