Despite all the marketing hype about big data, cloud, social automation tools, developing cool online personas and more, what your social fans are really looking for is a real person behind the account.

Because I consult for a company that has made social media a major part of its business, I know from the inside that, at Dell, we "walk the talk" for social media.  (At this point, I have to say that, although I consult for Dell, I do not speak for them. My opinions are my own.) Just look at the direction we get from the top. Here’s a quote from Michael Dell:

“Engaging in honest, direct conversations with customers and stakeholders is a part of who we are, who we’ve always been. The social web amplifies our opportunity to listen and learn and invest ourselves in two-way dialogue, enabling us to become a better company with more to offer the people who depend on us.”

– Michael Dell

We provide evidence every day that there are real people engaging with customers over social media. We support customers via @DellCares, ask for new ideas on @IdeaStorm, blog and tweet about technology and more with Twitter handles like @LoganAtDell, @AnaCatDell, @NicoleSatDell, and so many more. There are thousands of people on social media at Dell that have been trained and certified as social media experts. And, to support us, we have social media guidelines  to help us to interact over social media while still supporting our values, ethics and our brand.

Launched on September 29, 2008, @DellCares has been going strong ever since. The experts on @DellCares answer all manner of questions via social media, from “Help me fix my PC!”  to “Can you find my order?” and they do it in record time. In addition, @DellCares posts links to stuff you might need, like driver updates, solutions to common problems (forgot your Windows 7 password?) and even weather updates that may affect shipping that brand-new XPS 12  you are awaiting so eagerly. @DellCares answers are  powered by real people, whose avatars are displayed in the sidebar on the profile page. They definitely make things easier for customers, as you can see by the replies below.

Another shining example of the power of “real personality” is Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer at Cisco. As one of the top executives in this corporate Goliath, one could hardly blame Padmasree if she shied away from social media, as so many do. Her responsibility to protect the brand is huge, yet she is a social media powerhouse and a truly authentic presence on Twitter.

@Padmasree has used social not only to her personal advantage, but to benefit her company and causes, as well. She has amassed a following of over 1.4 million people on Twitter by sharing her knowledge, passion, and real personality.

 

While it might be tempting to play it safe and stick to preapproved corporate social messaging, Padmasree’s strategy of just being real has paid off in spades. She tweets a mix of messages about business and life, checks in to places she visits, and is a passionate champion of women in tech. When she does have corporate messaging to promote, it gets a warm reception, thanks to the great mix of other content she offers.

 

On Christmas Day, for example, she tweeted a picture of her fresh baked cookies, with a holiday message for her social connections. Earlier in December, she asked for support for Architecture for Humanity in this tweet to help communities by using architecture to create a better world:

 

Architecture for Humanity supports communities around the world by building infrastructure like schools, playgrounds, and clinics; supporting power and water infrastructure needs, creating jobs; and helping areas affected by disaster with safer, sustainable structures, among other tasks.

Being in touch with your business and the causes you support means that, to be aware, you need tools to use for social listening, so that you can discover opportunities for engagement that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. The takeaway? Corporate messaging has a better chance of a good reception when it comes from an actual person with interests and ideals that followers have come to trust and respect.

Don’t be afraid to show your followers the real people behind your company’s social accounts. At Dell, we encourage employee involvement in social by empowering people to take part, promoting their awesome interactions through corporate accounts, and investing in our innovative employees. How does your company encourage employees and management to get involved in social? Share your tips in the comments!