The Art of Being Human


This isn't the first time I have written about the benefits of inserting a human voice or presence into your online communications. And I make no excuse for writing about this again.

Site visitors crave the sense that someone is there, within and behind your Web pages, your emails and newsletters.

Dealing with the bare technology of online interactions is a cold experience for many, or even most of us. It makes us feel anxious. Technology isn't warm. It has no heart. It neither understands us, nor cares for us.

For many Web sites, whether for businesses or organizations, we simply plug in and play the bare technology - the super-duper means of information delivery. All the site visitor sees and feels is the design, the interface, the links and the clicks. The experience is about as warm and human as banking with an ATM machine.

And then we sit in our expensive offices and wonder why it is that we get such terrible conversion rates on our sites, why so few people continue to open our emails or read our newsletters.

Well, perhaps it's because we're bringing an 'ATM' style to the most interactive, vibrant, networked, warm and essentially human communications space imaginable.

But what if you enabled your visitors to catch just a faint scent of humanity in your site? What if you did a few small things to show that your business is more than just a cold room, filled with servers? What if you showed that the heart of your business is about people, and not technology?

Would that be such a bad thing?

In fact, it would be a very good thing. Your readers, prospects and customers will feel relief, they will smile, feel reassured. And they are more likely to sign up, to register, to buy and come back.

Can I prove this? No, not with certified, verified figures, charts and signed affidavits. But I have corresponded with and listened to so many business people who know very well how 'being there' and 'being human' has helped them online. They have seen how conversion rates, sales and levels of customer loyalty can rise and fall in response to the level of 'humanity' expressed through their sites.

Here are a few, very simple examples of how different businesses have sneaked a little humanity into their sites and emails.

- A second level page at 1800Flowers.com features a photo of the CEO Jim McCann, and a personal message to his customers. (You might consider this to be an unoriginal and mundane idea. Well, do you have an equivalent page on your site? Would it harm you to give it a try?)

- At iQVC.com you can see how they have included images of and short messages from a variety of hosts and experts. (Are you too cynical to believe that visitors can really relate to paid 'hosts'?)

- At Foolmart.com they use simple words and phrases that tell you right away that a 'real' person wrote that content. Have a look at the text for their Customer Service Pledge. See how the word 'leap' and the phrase 'burning questions' transforms this from corporate-speak to something very human and a lot more credible.

It's not hard to take a few steps that will add a sense of humanity to your sites, emails and newsletters. You can do this with images, a few carefully chosen words or a combination of the two.

And if that works for you, take an audit of all your online communications. Take a look at all the places where you could add a more human voice.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

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