Google is special; you know it, I know it. Besides Google’s plethora of amazing tools and its revolutionary search engine infrastructure, Google is special because it has personality.

There are thousands of boring tweets floating in the twitterverse, millions of characterless Facebooks with fans dropping like flies, and an incalculable amount of websites so devoid of any charm that it’s highly likely they will never make a bookmark list. So why on earth should you get lost in the masses? It’s easier to get lost than most would tell you. There’s so much noise on television, radio, and the internet that if there’s one thing you can do to give your organization the death sentence online, it’s forgetting to be a little human every once in a while. Google knows this.

On April Fools Day 2010 Google jokingly mocked Topeka, Kansas which had changed its name to Google briefly to try and get in on Google’s new fiberoptics project. Google changed the logo on the main page to Topeka and the staff released a pun-filled press release announcing the name change. This wasn’t Google’s first hoax however. In 2000 on April Fools Google announced a “MentalPlex” technology that was supposed to read user’s minds so they didn’t have to type in what they wanted to search for. When users touched the button for the technology it took them to a list of April Fools pages. In 2006 on April Fools Google introduced Google Romance with the catchy slogan “Dating is a search problem. Solve it with Google Romance”. Google Romance offered a “soulmate search” mocking online dating. Of course the fun doesn’t end there. Google even includes fun little jokes throughout the year. One of its most recent jokes is in the Google Maps feature. When users search for directions from China to Japan instruction number 43 tells users to “jet ski across the Pacific Ocean”.
Another joke involves the infamous Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris has numerous sites and Facebook pages with “Chuck Norris jokes” devoted to his “bad ass” personality. Google decided to make their own joke with their search feature. When users go to the Google Search page (first you have to turn off Google Instant) they have to type in the phrase “Where is Chuck Norris?” and then click the “I’m feeling Lucky” button. When users do this they get Google’s error screen which informs them that they should “Run, before he finds you” or “try a different person”. These are only a few of the examples of Google’s sense of humor, you can find jokes and funny tools in all of Google’s products including stodgy ones like Google Scholar.

Time after time Google has shown that they are full of personality. Ff it was in the Miss America pageant it would get a 10 out of 10 for personality. It’s not surprising that users across the world love these little quirks from Google. It gives the Google corporation a human face and makes using their tools much more enjoyable. My favorite personal touches from Google are its illustrations of the Google logo on the search page. Google has shown that they aren’t afraid to change their logo (perhaps because it is so well-known, but it still takes courage) and adapt it for special occasions. One that touched me the most was the Veterans Day (or Remembrance Day for international readers) illustration. I have worked professionally with the military for the past two years, volunteered with veterans, and have several family members that have been in the armed forces; needless to say it’s an institution near and dear to my heart. This Veterans Day illustration is just one of the many Google logos they have unveiled day-to-day, however such a small touch can mean much more to users. Acknowledging holidays, special events, or causes lets users know that they care. It shows that Google is aware of what means the most to the everyday person. It’s this kind of acknowledgement that creates strong business to consumer bonds. Not following? Think back to a world before the internet, cell phones, and computers. Back then the world was dominated by human interaction rather than emails or texts. What made you stand out was your ability to develop relationships. Consumers trusted mom and pop shops because every morning Mr. Smith would have their order ready before they even walked in the door, and Mrs. Smith would ask them how their children were doing at school. “Is Joey still having trouble with Math? How about Suzy? I heard she is a lovely singer at choir,” Mrs. Smith would say before they walked out with their order. The consumer would walk away feeling satisfied not only because of the product, but because they felt special, like Mr. and Mrs. Smith understood them and cared for them. Google’s personality and logo changes are just the 21st century version of this kind of relationship focused business model.

If you want to be like Google keep a few tips in mind:

1) When you develop your organization’s mission statement, don’t just build a philosophy for how you will run your business and what you will produce, create an institutional philosophy of how you will treat your employees and consumers.
2) Spread this institutional philosophy to your employees and consumers. Let them know why you’re different. Let it shine through in every aspect of your business that you can
3) Develop a communications and marketing plan which highlights these characteristics
4) Don’t be afraid to get personal. There’s a fine line between being human and being TOO laid back and unprofessional. Don’t be afraid to get near that line. Let consumers know what your organization cares about (So you sell soda, but you’re trying to save the rainforest right? Let them know why!), let them know what news you follow and songs you love turning up when they play on the radio, share an employee’s personal success story, etc.
5) You might be an organization, but you’re run by people and they can make mistakes. Admit when these mistakes are made. Good example: if an employee catches fire by the media for an action that violates company policy, don’t be afraid to admit that you find this action improper as well (of course also add that you’re going to fix the problem).
6) Make Jokes
7) Tell your users when they are right, when they bring up good points, when they’re funny, etc. Good example: When I worked for the Marines we had a user who created the profile “Duty NCO” on Facebook; a Duty NCO is a junior military officer assigned to a rotating leadership position during a watch period. The Duty NCO is in charge of keeping order during his watch duty. This user would come on and report that the Facebook page was “all clear” at specific times during the day. He also told colorful, yet appropriate jokes, about Marines. He was quite the character who gained much attention on the page. We started thanking him for his “reports” or commending his jokes and soon enough gained support from many followers who liked seeing that we had a sense of humor. Another plus was that these users then made sure no fighting or bad language was used and began giving more good advice to potential Marines because they felt more of a connection to the page.
8 ) Recognize other things that are important to your users besides your organization/product. (Who knows this might help you brainstorm more markets for your product as well)
9) Give credit and thanks when due. The average person in the 21st century works more and is always on the move, making what they do with their personal time much more limited. The fact that they care enough to interact on your online efforts and care about your organization/product should speak volumes. If they bring something beneficial to your online community, thank them.
10) Give a little extra! Create new tools and applications that might not necessarily fit into your marketing or communications plan for that month, but help build relationships with users.