People connect with people, not logos. Most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have developed a strong social media presence of their own and give consumers a face to relate to their brand. Using your face in your social media strategy is necessary if you want to make a deeper connection with people.
In fact, for social media identifiers, I often use my personal name vs. my business name. As an example, my Twitter handle is my personal name.
I have two Facebook business pages: one for my company and one for my personal brand. Guess which one I use when I run ads? The one with my name and my face.
Let’s face it, browsing through their newsfeeds, people are much more likely to pay attention to an ad with a face attached to it versus a logo.
My Facebook advertising company recently said, “Melonie, reviewing your analytics, we can’t believe how many people search for you on Google.”
My name, Melonie Dodaro, has more online searches than does my company, Top Dog Social Media.
It’s because I AM the face of Top Dog Social Media.
Let me ask you a question.
When it comes to B2B products and services, what is one of the biggest factors influencing the decision-making process of a buyer?
In a word: trust.
Trust is even more important than the price tag.
In most cases, if your customer knows you have the solution they are looking for and they trust you, they will find a way to pay for your solution.
But if your customers don’t trust you, they won’t give you a dime of their money. In most cases, they won’t even give you their email address or a moment of their time and attention.
It doesn’t matter how good your social media strategy is, how professionally branded you are, how flashy your ads are or how impressive your products or services are.
None of this will matter if you haven’t established trust.
The erosion of trust in business
You may have noticed over the last couple of years more and more people talk about trust.
Why is that?
Warren Buffet said it best:
“Trust is like the air we breathe — when it’s present, nobody really notices. When it’s absent, everyone notices.”
Many people are talking about trust now because it has become increasingly absent in the world of business.
According to Sacha Romanovitch, CEO of Grant Thornton UK LLP, “Trust and integrity is are essential to the effective and efficient functioning of markets that underpin a vibrant economy. Too often we hear about failing of trust in the market. However, more compelling is the power of trust to drive and sustain competitive advantage.“
She then goes on to say, “And yet trust in business and government has been eroded in recent years and remains low …“
Authors Ghassan Khoury and Steve Crabtree share a similar opinion stating that “consumer trust in businesses is at an all-time low. In fact, worldwide, two-thirds of adults say corruption is widespread in business.“
Everywhere you look, people are talking about the loss of trust in the business world.
Yet, it is a well-known fact that people buy from people they know, like and trust.
Why faces are important
I started this article by saying people connect with people (faces) and not logos. This is largely because we are born to engage with and be engaged by others, which is what trust is mostly about.
According to an article by Roderick M. Kramer published in the Harvard Business Review, “…humans are ‘hardwired’ to make social connections. The evidence is impressive: Within one hour of birth, a human infant will draw her head back to look into the eyes and face of the person gazing at her. Within a few more hours, the infant will orient her head in the direction of her mother’s voice. And, unbelievable as it may seem, it’s only a matter of hours before the infant can actually mimic a caretaker’s expressions.”
From a survival perspective, we quickly learn to “engage and be engaged,” building trust with the people around us from the first hours of lives. Essentially, we learn how to trust and be trusted, all based on the power of the face.
The power of a face to help build trust is just as important in business as it is in our personal lives.
This is why I always recommend using a face (yours or that of the head of your company) as part of your social media strategy. It is especially important in industries requiring a high level of trust among the parties to conduct business.
If you don’t include a face as part of your social media strategy, your brand identity can appear impersonal and even cold to your customers. Your goal is to provide your customers with a face they can quickly identify and relate to, making your brand friendlier and more relatable.
Quite simply, it is much easier for people to get to know, like and trust a face than a logo.
Include Your Face in Your Social Media Strategy
Many companies, including the biggest and most well-known brands, use prominent faces as part of their social media strategies.
Whom do you think of when you think of Apple? The late Steve Jobs, of course.
What about Microsoft? Bill Gates.
Virgin? Richard Branson.
What about KFC? Colonel Sanders.
You get the idea.
Even companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Zappos have very prominent and well-known CEOs who have helped define the brand.
If having a human face representing the company is this important for major brands, how important do you think it is for a smaller, unknown business?
Whether you are a large brand, a start-up, small business, consultant or advisor, using your face as part of your branding will significantly increase the “know, like and trust” factor with your prospects.
Your face tells a story
Studies have shown we judge a face on two key traits: warmth and competence.
These two aspects must be present in your interactions online and in the images of your face if you hope to establish the “know, like and trust” factor with your customers.
A study by Susan T. Fiske, Amy J.C. Cuddy and Peter Glick discusses a number of interesting notions around social perceptions of warmth and competence – both relevant and important to your business.
The first is that “warmth and competence are reliably universal dimensions of social judgment across stimuli, cultures and time.”
This is a hugely important statement. It tells us that it doesn’t matter who your customers are, where they are from or how old they might be, it is vital you and your face convey warmth and competence.
The second notion is that “people perceived warm and competent elicit uniformly positive emotions and behavior, whereas those perceived as lacking warmth and competence elicit uniform negativity.”
This tells us that if you, or your image, lack warmth and competence, you are better off not being your company’s face. Otherwise, your brand may be perceived negatively.
The third notion is that “cognitively, people are more sensitive to warmth information than to competence information.”
This means people are faster and better able to recognize and judge warmth (or the lack of it) than competence. This makes it incredibly important for you to authentically exude warmth.
Don’t underestimate the value and importance of warmth in business. This trait is vital for everyone to have, especially for leaders and business owners.
A Zenger Folkman study that looked at 50,000 managers found that a leader’s overall effectiveness is predicted more by warmth than competence. For example, if you’re seen as low-warmth, you have around a 1-in-2000 chance to make the top quartile as an effective leader.
It is even more important for women to appear warm. A study by Margarita Mayo described in the Harvard Business Review shows that “men are seen as confident if they are seen as competent, but women are seen as confident only if they come across as both competent and warm. Women must be seen as warm in order to capitalize on their competence and be seen as confident and influential at work; competent men are seen as confident and influential whether they are warm or not.”
As you can see, warmth is a vital characteristic to have when cultivating business, whether in person or digitally.
But one should not overlook the importance of appearing competent as well. While warmth is the biggest contributor to the “know” and “like” factors, competence is a must to establish trust.
Potential customers need to see you as smart, capable and reliable – that you will get the job done.
When people assess your competence, they assess whether you are knowledgeable, skilled and capable. People will also look closely at your track record.
A study by D. Han Ming Chng, T. Kim, B. Gilbreath and L. Andersson determined that “…leaders are perceived as competent when they do two things. First, they effectively communicate the future of the organization. And second, they continually grow themselves—as well as the people they lead—through learning and action.”
As the face of your brand, you will increase your perceived competence when people see you as someone who:
- has a vision for the future
- is a good communicator
- makes decisions and acts
- is continuously learning
- cares about the people you lead and encourages their personal and professional growth.
Put your best face forward
Part of being the face of your brand literally means having an image of your face prominently displayed on your social platforms, website and elsewhere online.
That photo needs to portray your warmth and competence.
Conveying competence in a picture might be more difficult than conveying warmth. Here are some tips to help you appear both warmer as well as more competent in your online photos:
- look straight at the camera as if you were making eye contact with the viewer
- smile easy, slightly showing your teeth
- have a slight smile squint to your eyes, but keep your eyebrows relaxed
- show your full face and keep your hair out of your face
- take the picture from the neck or shoulders up
- dress in formal or business-appropriate attire
- stand up straight with no head tilt or lean
- have a clean, simple background
- use good lighting
- have the picture professionally taken.
Real trust does the selling for you
In the current climate of eroded consumer trust, you need to increase the trust your customers have in you to achieve business success. Use every means available to accomplish that goal with your social media strategy. Using your face to represent your business is one of the simplest ways to build trust online.
Keep in mind that adding your face to your social media strategy is only one important aspect of building and keeping the trust of your customers, potential and existing.
Trusted businesses have shorter sales cycles and win more deals. Today, the economy of trust needs to be on the minds of all business leaders and integrated deeply into their digital and social media strategies.
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