The Business of Being Human

Why do we feel a stronger affinity to some companies more than others? You know the ones I'm talking about, companies that make your face light up when a friend asks you about them. I'm guessing it's more than just fancy marketing pitches or a few cool products.

What makes them really stand out in your mind?

Are they the ones that make it really easy for you to speak with an actual human? Do they respond to your tweets right away, engage on social with you, and offer creative contests / promotions? Maybe they even create a $1 Million Integration Fund to support really cool businesses integrating with their product (*cough* Mailchimp *cough*).

To weigh in on the subject, I've called upon Jonathan Kay, Ambassador of Buzz (yes that's his real title--something you could only find at a startup), with Grasshopper.

Thanks Shawn. This whole idea of "being human" is something I've really embraced head on while building out Grasshopper's Buzz Dept over the last 2 years. About a year into the job I began realizing that "good things" I did, and 1 on 1 conversations I had months back were starting to yield real results. When I say "results" I am referring to signups, press, and/or word of mouth referrals--actual measurable conversions.

My goal for the remainder of this blog post is to convince you that being human, and engaging your community is profitable (and not just something people talk about in business books and at conferences). I am going to give some tips/examples of things I have seen work, and well, some things that #fail'ed.

AdWords & PPC

People are always asking me, "How do you track what you are doing?"--"What is the monetary value?" Well let's dive right into one of my favorite stats. When people search for your website they either come in through a "branded term" or a "product specific term." For us, a branded term could be "Grasshopper" while a product specific term would be "800 numbers." Before our Buzz Dept existed only about 8% of our paid search traffic was on branded terms. Now it's important to note that branded terms cost about $0.87 while product specific terms (that many more people are bidding on) cost about $6-7 a click! Two years later, nearly 45% of our paid search traffic is now coming in through branded terms. Think about how much money that saves our company--thousands upon thousands of dollars each year ...

Word of Mouth Converts

About 18 months ago we created an internal application on grasshopper.com called "refer an entrepreneur" (you will notice this button on every page of our site). Very simply this is a platform that allows users to very easily refer a fellow entrepreneur to use our product (we empower that entrepreneur with a $25 discount to give their friend). Over a year's worth of analytics, we learned that these peer to peer referrals were converting at nearly 20%!! while most organic website traffic converts at 0.8-1.5%.

On top of that, we've done extensive research on the data collected when someone says "how they heard about us" on our signup page. I fell out of my chair smiling when I saw that we are consistently getting 26-33% of our weekly signups from someone who heard about us from a "Friend, Colleague, or Family member" (and yes we automatically rotate which dropdown option is on the top). In fact, some weeks we are getting more signups via word of mouth than we do from people who find us online!

How do you ignore that??

Social Action Has Value

I recently stumbled on some awesome research from the guys at chompon.com about the value of social action. You should read their case study, but here is a brief overview:

Facebook Share = $14

Facebook Like = $8

Tweet = $5

Follow = $2

An Example of a #Fail? Of course!

In my 727 days of using Twitter, I have yet to receive an automated direct message which added any value. Nor have I ever met someone who has had something positive come from an automated DM (by the way, if you have a story I beg you to please email me or share in the comments section).

Then why send them you ask?

It's cheap (free) and easy. People see an easy way to get "their brand" in front of someone so they take it. The point is, this will get you nowhere. What you should do is invest 28 seconds of your time in reading that persons twitter profile and maybe even visiting their website.

This is what happens when you take the time to be human:

Grasshopper referral

About an hour and a half later, Herb and I ended up hoping on a quick phone call to see if there were any synergies / what we could do to help each other. Turned out there was a ton of overlap and we have been working ever since on a partnership. And it took 28 seconds of his time.

Automated DM's? (Note I have endless screen shots/examples I can give you)

Screen shot 2011-03-15 at 5.45.56 PM

So, are you convinced being human is better business?

 

Jonathan Kay is the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, a provider of virtual phone systems for entrepreneurs. He is extremely passionate about helping / meeting new entrepreneurs and always excited to learn about their unique journey. Find Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanCKay or via email at jkay@grasshopper.com.

Shawn Graham collaborates with small- to medium-sized companies to develop impactful social media and marketing communications content and strategies and seasoned job seekers to help them find their true north. Find Shawn at ShawnGraham.me.

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4 Comments

  • Chris Vieville

    Enjoyed this post and I couldn't agree with you more about "being human". When we developed SnapEngage it was with the goal of changing how people perceived website chat and allow for real connections. One of our tag lines is "No Robots!".

    I have an auto DM I actually enjoyed as well @noahkagan puts in his Twitter bio "follow me for an exclusive video" It showed up, I laughed, Noah is human.

    PS Hi Mon! Did you really make a typo on your last name;)

  • SativaBella

    Great post, and while I generally agree with you on the automated DM's, I do have one example that I thought was good. I followed a band on Twitter and when they followed me back, they DM'd me a thank you along with a download code for one of their songs.

    I appreciated that they were giving me something in return for my follow, and I ended up buying their whole album because I liked the free song they gave me.

  • Jonathan Kay

    Monika - you actually make a fantastic point. The DM's that truly aggrivate me are generally saying something meaningless or ASKING for something or saying something AT me (like follow me here, or find me here, or read my blog here)....The fact that the band decided to "Add Value First" is extremely powerful...in fact the last time Shawn and i worked together on a post we talked about how powerful it can be to add value first: http://www.fastcompany.com/161...

    Thanks for the reminder!

  • Shawn Graham

    Couldn't have said it better, Jonathan. The key to meaningful connections is actually wanting to help people on an individual basis--not by hollering through a megaphone at anyone within earshot. Automated messages can serve a purpose, but they definitely shouldn't be used to make an ask before adding any value.