As every element of our lives goes digital, the phone conversation, the personal email and person-to-person interaction have never been more scarce or more valuable. Companies have made it extremely difficult to speak directly with a real person, but customers are still seeking that personal touch, as evidenced by sites such as gethuman.com. When you think about brands that stand out to you, I would be willing to bet there is a human factor involved - maybe a celebrity endorser, maybe a personal connection you share with an employee or founder of the company, or perhaps a previous one-on-one interaction that positively or negatively molded your impression of the brand. So what is the takeaway for your business? Give your brand a human factor. As social media and online marketing methods take the place of traditional advertising, connecting with your customers is becoming much easier. I, for one, get a flutter when I tweet a message and get a direct response from someone at the company I was tweeting about. I rarely, if ever, know who sent the message, but I appreciate the gesture as much as if the president herself had e-mailed me. I can appreciate the fear a company may have about revealing personal identities, but in order to grow your brand to its full potential, this fear must be overcome. The fear comes from a need to control everything your brand is putting out, but that traditional model no longer works since today your consumers are participating in your overall brand reputation via social media channels. Show the people behind the brand, everyone from the president down to administrative assistants, and blog about yourselves, your interests, hobbies and histories. Interact with your customers personally and the payoff will be a loyal consumer base that is more forgiving when you make mistakes.