“You’re not your f**ing khakis.”

In the popular movie “Fight Club”, actor Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, momentarily addresses the audience. In a 30-second mini-rant, he chastises viewers about trading their humanity for consumerism. The Casual Friday attire reference relates to real-life TV commercials for the Levi’s Dockers brand. The commercials’ inference was essentially, “You are not an individual. You’re simply what you wear.”

Today, Durden could direct a similar mini-rant at logic many companies apply to their social media. And he’d be right. Companies miss opportunities to engage with audiences by trading their humanity to focus entirely on their brand.

So, what would a social media-managing Tyler Durden suggest companies do instead?

Sell Your Employees

Ok, don’t literally try to sell your employees. That would be weird.

Instead, include your employees in social posts. “Sell” their humanity… personality… compassion… and dedication to your customers. A few examples out of nearly-infinite possibilities:

  • Highlight work accomplishments… promotions; retirements; work anniversaries like X number of years as an employee
  • Show employees interacting with customers
  • Post about personal lives… office birthday parties; a newborn; fun vacation photos; a new pet; graduations; hobbies; a first marathon, etc.
  • Let skills shine… for example, if you’re a restaurant, post a short video of an employee-chef creating a culinary masterpiece
  • Mention names… names are part of what makes us humans
  • Take people behind the scenes by showing your employees doing their jobs

But what do these posts have to do with selling your products and services?

Nothing. And that’s exactly why your customers like these posts. They engage without selling.

Yes, social media is a valuable branding and selling tool. And some posts should focus on sales. But many companies are all about sales and branding… all their posts are “Sell! Sell! Sell!” Instead, a best practice is to post a mix of sales, branding and humanity / personality.

Look Up to Airline Ads

Examples are everywhere of companies that push the brand above everything else. A clear example, and its opposite, can be found in airline television commercials.

“I thought we were talking about social media!” you’re thinking. (I can read your mind.) Yes, we are. But this is such a clear illustration of the branding direction I’m talking about, that we’ll ignore the medium for a moment.

Take a look at this American Airlines commercial. What do you notice?

  • A narrator talks about the company and its new direction
  • You see snippets of employees, (or actors) in profile or from the back
  • You don’t hear anything directly from the employees
  • Nothing engages the audience… just a disembodied narrator, and quick images of employees, travelers, a plane, a logo and a mostly-empty airport

In short: the commercial sells the product, but it’s 30 seconds of boring, bland and utterly forgettable.

Now watch this commercial from Southwest Airlines. Do you notice a difference from the American Airlines commercial?

  • There’s no narrator – the people in the commercial talk to the audience
  • The actors are very likely real Southwest employees
  • The employees are engaging, likable and personable
  • The people, not the brand, are the focus of every scene

In short: the brand is visible, but it’s in the background. The people are the commercial’s focus, highlighting their personalities and passion for service.

Imagine that content not as TV commercials, but instead via social media in various forms (text or video, etc.). Both commercials were only 30 seconds long. But one spot gave you a good sense of the company and the types of passionate people who work there. From the other ad, you know the company is an airline.

It’s Simple, Really

I get it. You want to make profits by selling products and services. And you want people to see your products and the results of your services, and to remember your logo. Capitalism 101.

But to succeed with social media, you must accept that people expect to engage with your company differently on social media than they do elsewhere. Potential customers don’t want all your posts to be “sell, sell, sell!” Instead, they want to know who they’d buy from… not just what they could buy. They want to feel that you employ people they could trust. And they want to see who would solve their problems, or fulfill their needs. In short: your potential customers want a personal connection to your company.

They want humanity and personality. They want to engage with more than just your brand. Through your social media, customers want a better sense of your company, your employees and what they believe in. Earn customers’ trust, and their desire to work with you, by showing you employ people who are great to work with.

Yes, posts without a focus on your brand, or your products or services, is counterintuitive to selling. But it’s a social media best practice that works. It’s really that simple.

With a nod to Tyler Durden… Your company is the people who work there. “You’re not your f**ing logo.”