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We’ve all heard the advice that in order to gain followers to your brand’s Twitter account, you need to humanize your voice. Some would-be gurus even point the way toward a more human-sounding voice:

  • Have a real face in your avatar
  • Answer questions posed to Twitter
  • Host or join in a Twitter chat

These are all very important characteristics to bear in mind — if you’re designing an artificial intelligence. Really sounding like a human isn’t so formulaic.

We ought to be insulted by advice about how to sound human — most of us do it every day without even thinking. But, instead, we eat up the advice, build social media strategies around it and form committees whose sole purpose is to define a consistent human voice to speak for the brand.

In short, we’re trying too hard.

If you’re concerned with making your tweets sound more human, you’re missing the point of Twitter. Saccharine isn’t sugar, Gallagher Two isn’t Gallagher, and sounding human isn’t being human.

How to be human without even trying

If you want your tweets to sound more human, just do one little thing: Let a human take control of them.

Intuitive, yes, but letting employees’ humanity show in the company Twitter feed leads to risks that many companies — even those that are most gung-ho about being real and transparent — are unwilling to take.

It takes respect and trust, not documentation. Respect, of course, runs both ways: The people at the helm of a company’s Twitter feed must respect the company’s goals, culture and history. The company big-wigs need to respect employees’ ability to think critically and make good choices — essentially to be good people.

A matter of trust

As far as trust, do you trust your employees to tweet for your company? If not, you might need to take a closer look at your culture. Employees, too, have to trust that those in charge aren’t going to go ballistic when something goes awry on Twitter.

And it probably will.

Humans are, after all, flawed creatures. By turning your company’s Twitter feed over to an actual human, unrestrained by best practices, formulaic constructions, quantitative expectations and company guidelines, you run the risk that your company’s feed might

  • Go off-topic. Real people are interested in much more than just what is happening in their industries.
  • Show vulnerability. Everyone has a bad day, personally as well as professionally, and no one has all the answers.
  • Make a mistake. Humans make mistakes. (Some of them rather large.) Be prepared for it to happen, and don’t overreact when it does.

But with the risk comes the possibility of reward. Real human Twitterers can do things that a carefully monitored, branded corporate voice cannot:

  • Make your company more approachable. Too often, tweeting at a company is like talking to a wall; if followers know there’s a real person listening, they will be more likely to interact.
  • Gain followers based on the personality of the human, not the brand. This is when you know you’ve found someone who’s doing it right, but it also presents a challenge should that person ever leave the company.
  • Gain followers who aren’t customers or industry insiders. If this sounds like a bad thing, you’re missing the point of social networking entirely.
  • Entertain. People turn to Twitter for some of the same reasons they go to the Internet; don’t underestimate entertainment value — even when it has nothing to do with your industry.

Taking the blinders off your Twitter feed can be risky, but is it really? Employees who enjoy their work, are loyal to the company and hold a stake in its future aren’t going to be that great a risk, and the possible rewards could easily overshadow any lingering worries.

Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of you.

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