By Sidneyeve Matrix, Contributing {grow} Columnist

We know that people prefer to connect with other people, not brands. Not too long ago, Mark wrote about how one of the biggest mistakes you can make in online branding is using a logo instead of a headshot photo in your Twitter profile. Coming out from behind your logo is a big step toward humanizing your brand, so too is using humor to engage, and giving your network a peek behind the curtain of your official brand message. Here’s a roundup of four other creative communication strategies you might try to increase the emotional and personal engagement factors in your online messaging.

1. Lifecasting. A new study from communications scholars at Elizabethtown College published in The Chronicle of Higher Education confirms what we already knew to be true — being human sets thought leaders apart. The study found that professors who post tweets about their personal lives earn higher credibility rankings in student teaching assessments of their professional capabilities. The researchers concluded that those tweeters who appear to  “go beyond knowledge transfer” to include personal updates in their microblogging streams seem more caring and engaged. There’s no equation for us to use in determining the right mix of personal and professional updates, but try adding personal touches to your stream.

2. Storytelling. Whether in video, audio, text or snapshots—everyone seems to agree that great stories are what make brands (and people) more emotionally compelling and human. But if you’re like me, stories don’t just appear on cue when I most need them. A bit of help from books and podcasts and even filmmakers can inspire and provide a blueprint for structuring stories. Using carefully selected personal stories is an essential part of many entrepreneurial branding initiatives (think Ralph Lauren, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart) and you’ll notice that celebrities follow a few classic storylines when narrating their life lessons, adventures, and accomplishments.

3. Video. A step up from still snapshots, video blogging adds personality faster than any multimedia format — pictures tell a thousand words, but moving pictures have an immediacy like none other. A Flip camcorder is an inexpensive way to take the video plunge. Up the ante on your videos with some relatively inexpensive editing software (I’m using Camtasia for Mac right now) and intro and outro music (take a listen at to royalty-free tracks at AudioJungle but be warned, there’s so much amazing sound there you might get caught up in endless sampling). YouTube is the obvious choice for uploads, but check out Vimeo too, where the vibe is a little more creative than commercial. Looking for ideas for videos that are not adverts? Profile your employees—testimonial videos are not just for recruitment pages. More ideas here.

4. Audio. Add your voice to your website and you’ll instantly become more personable. Podcasts don’t have to be elaborate productions, in fact experts agree that shorter is better-and it’s easier to be concise if you’re working from a script. Obviously in podcasting, top quality audio matters, so you might want to invest in a professional digital recorder. I use an Edirol R-09HR. For editing, Audacity is a free download that’s easy to use. Need inspiration for your podcasts? Check out the ever-expanding range of themes and formats on iTunes.

The recipe for a humanized online brand is composed of 1 part personality, 1 part emotionality, and a generous measure of creativity!

How are you humanizing your brand on the social web?  What brands are doing a great job?

Sidneyeve Matrix is Assistant Professor of Media at Queen’s University, consults at MatrixMediaFX and blogs at CyberPop.

Illustration by kprogram

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