Would you love to stand out from the crowd on social media in a unique way? In a way that not only boosts your business, but is great for the world in general?

Then why not create a huggable brand? (And by that I mean one that goes out of its way to make customers and clients feel like they’ve been hugged.)

I was inspired to ask myself ‘can a business actually come across as huggable on social media?’ after reading Mark Schaefer’s amazing article on ‘What It’s Like to be Hugged by a Brand.’ If you’ve not read it, please do – it’s (I’d suggest) an essential read for all marketers – and it’s so, so human!

In a nutshell, Mark’s point is that ‘the most human brand will win’. And he tells a great story about being given a physical hug by an employee of one big company.

It’s an amazing, powerful story – and it got me thinking that, although many of us strive to be ‘human’ online, how many of us strive to come across as huggable?

And if we were to adopt this as our mantra, couldn’t this make a big difference – not only to our businesses, but also, maybe, to those we reach?

If we lead with humility, vulnerability, honesty and respect – mightn’t we start to see little ripples heading out into the world?

Here’s a video I created around these thoughts … below is the written version:

Here are my suggestions on how we can be a huggable brand online:

1. Be human in the content we share

The first way we can seem to be human as opposed to being just a business online is of course just in the content that we share, and the way that we come across.

Ask yourself whether your content comes across as being friendly, for example, or a bit aloof. Are you joining in conversations on social media, or are you just using the social media platforms as places to broadcast your stuff?

2. Respond to people

Point number two would be we need to respond to people.

If you were having a conversation with someone in a bar, for example – and they said something in reply to something you’d just said – would you ignore them?

Yet that’s what so many businesses do every single day on social.

It’s basic stuff, yes, but oh-so-important!

If we are a brand or a business that comes across as being huggable, as actually going out there and hugging our customers or clients, it means that we’re going to stand out from the crowd. It means that we’re going to be memorable. It means that people are going to warm to us and to our content, that they’re going to talk to their friends about us, that it’s going to help us position ourselves as the obvious go to, as the only viable option, Mark Asquith would say.

Content and responding to people on social media are obvious ways of doing that. But then the third way … Oh, and the donkeys are at it again. I thought I’d choose a different place in the garden to do this video from, but the donkeys found me anyway. A minute ago, I heard the duck, actually squawking, so yeah, something was going to happen, obviously.

3. Put yourself in their shoes

I can’t emphasis this enough. If we want to be ‘human’ and huggable online, we have to make the effort to think about how we appear to others and what could be going on for them. How does it feel for them to see our stuff, and to see the way that we behave? Do we come across to them as huggable, as likeable, as friendly?

Are we doing yukky marketing things like sending automated DMs and having pop-ups on our websites because that’s what ‘marketers do’ and because it makes our lives easier?

They are a great example of ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should.’ Do you really want to start a relationship with someone new, with them feeling a frisson of annoyance?

Put yourself in their shoes, and you will soon get to see a really clear guide for how you could be a huggable brand.

4. Don’t ask them to marry you

Would you ask someone to marry you on the first date? Or even before the first date? asking people to marry you before you’ve even had the first date.

That’s a saying that’s used a lot in marketing terms, but so many businesses are out there asking for, say, an email address from someone who’s never met them, in order that they can then give up an hour of their time to sit through a webinar (often a thinly-disguised sales pitch) . And then the business wonders why they don’t get many sign-ups!!

People know that businesses aren’t giving them a ‘free’ training out of the goodness of their hearts, they’re doing it so that they can ultimately try to sell something. But very rarely will this be mentioned. So there’s a whacking great elephant in the room before this relationship even gets off the ground!

How about if we’re really going to be a brand or a business that makes people feel hugged, that stands out from the crowd, that we start sharing stuff without asking for anything in return?

5. Use ads to share value

Now, I recommend to my clients, to not only go out there and share stuff, say on blogs or on Facebook posts, but also to spend a bit of money sharing their valuable content more widely using Facebook ads. This will raise your visibility with exactly the right people for you (remember you can target Facebook ads to very specific groups of people.) And it will raise your visibility in a way that’s really valuable for your (new) audience, rather than the way that most people use ads, which is to try and push sales on people who’ve never met them before.

You are going to stand out like nothing else from the others in the crowd when you take that course of action.

6. Do the things that don’t scale

Mark Asquith spoke at a conference I was at last year and suggested that, to be more human (and therefore huggable) we need to do the things that ‘aren’t scalable’ in business.

This could include sending out cards or hand-written notes to customers.

When people sign up for my courses, I can automate the whole thing and it’s lovely; I can automate the payment, and then when they’ve paid, I can send them all the stuff.

But there’s a much nicer thing to do, and that is to send a personal email to say how delighted I am that they’ve signed up, and to find out a little bit more about them, show an interest in them and what they want to achieve from the course.

One of the best ways to attract people to us in the offline world is actually to be interested in them. So why don’t we start practising that in the online world as well?

So there you have it – some of my thoughts on how we can stand out from the crowd, how we can be a brand that appears huggable, that starts to hug our customers and our clients before they’re even customers and clients.

Maybe we can send out ripples of caring for others, that have a cumulative impact. I really hope so!

Let’s go and hug the world!!

Oh but before you do – please let me know what I’ve missed off the list – I’m sure there are loads!!

Thank you!