One of the biggest things to consider when curating, writing and managing content for your brand is tone of voice. Whether it’s on behalf of a brand you work for or you ARE the brand, It’s so important to get the tone of voice right and represent your brand in a way that your followers understand, respond and relate to. Whoever the chosen social media expert is within the business, tone of voice (TOV) should be a key element of the overall digital communication strategy.
The Royal ‘We’?
Consider your use of ‘I’ or ‘We’ when you write, this can have a huge impact on how your customers think of you. Referring to your business using the plural pronoun “We” gives your business a more corporate, established feel. “We” helps dispel the stereotype of you working alone in your bedroom, in your PJ’s, “We” may help convert clients who prefer business-like relations with a company to a person who might be less reliable.
On the other hand…
“I” gives your business that personal feel. People will feel that you are more approachable, personable and flexible. “I” is easier to connect with, trust and occasionally allow the odd after-office-hours call from a client. “I” feels more affordable than a big team.
TOV should be clarified and mentioned in either your marketing plan or brand guidelines, (You have either or both of those documents don’t you?).
Take a look at Skype:
The Skype tone of voice is unique. As a company built around our users, the Skype voice is always plain speaking and human. Our products are always explained in the simplest terms. If your mum couldn’t understand what is being written, then it’s not the Skype voice. Humour is an important part of the Skype voice. We don’t tell one-liners, but employ a gentle wit to engage our users.
For instance “You could think of us as that overly generous Aunt who always insists you have a third helping. We prefer to think of ourselves as a big group hug, even a present. Yes that’s it, we’re a present but without the ribbon.”
And the creative team behind the John Lewis TOV, Serious Oomph:
‘To the casual observer the John Lewis voice might seem effortless, but actually it’s a delicate, beautifully considered thing. Smart, but not smug. Warm without being overfamiliar. Always informative, but never pushy. And just like with all the best voices, you instantly recognise to whom it belongs.’
The key points to take from these examples are:
- Plain speaking
Let’s look at these in a bit more detail.
Try to keep things beautifully simple. Even if you are creating a post about something a little less glamorous.
An image or video clip with a short, concise caption goes much further than complex blurb with no image at all. Let imagery do the talking for you. There are a host of apps out there to help create beautiful brand consistency across your Insta feed. (I feel another blog topic coming on…).
Technical speak can be lengthy by nature so if you need to elaborate on a particular post, write up a blog and post this on your website and direct your followers there for more info. This not only creates referral traffic but improves your website’s SEO and adds value to your customers in the form of sharing your wisdom, for free!
Top tip: Avoid adding links to your website in every post. The social media bots don’t like this and it will affect your algorithms. It’s OK, you don’t need to see the doctor about it, it just means your content may not be seen by as many people.
Engaging people is what it’s all about. If you know who you are speaking to, you’re half way there! Understanding your followers goes a long way. Who are they? What do they like? What else are they interested in? Which other brands do they follow and when are they online.
Do a bit of research (or stalking, as I like to call it) before you start writing. You could build social media customer profiles, which I might add, dispels the more traditional demographical customer profiling. Watch this TEDtalk from 2010; it’s a light bulb moment!
Once you begin to understand your followers more, you can engage much more effectively.
A huge turn-off is waffling, a technical term for those brands (usually personal brands) who like to talk about themselves…a lot. Nothing irks people more than self-righteousness, inflicting strong religious or political views or narcissistic essays. Your content should have purpose and be a good mix of informing people about your company and its products and services but also sharing valuable advice, ideas or fun stories. Your content should make your followers feel valued, loved even.
Top Tip: Create a visual language mood board, it will help define what you want to get across to your followers, and how. Refer to it often and update it regularly.
Are you trustworthy? ‘Of course we are!’ I hear you cry.
Well, how do I know that? Unless I’ve been through your sales funnel, I wouldn’t have a clue. Building trust is far more difficult online as there is no human interaction.
There are a few ways you can gain people’s trust:
- Micro Influencers
Reviews and recommendations are pretty obvious so I want to focus on Micro Influencers (Not to be confused with celebrities!). What the hell is a Micro Influencer then? They are essentially a revolution in digital democracy. Each one of a micro influencer’s followers is a ‘friend’ or is certainly made to feel as valued and important as a friend. Their followers already trust their opinion and they have a lot of clout so their recommendation of your product or service is like the holy grail of word of mouth! It’s not easy to find the right one (and they should fit with your brand) but if you go with the general rule of thumb that they can have between 10,000 and 90,000 followers, anything above that and THEIR engagement drops by 20%. Another factor should be that they fit your target audience; many of their followers will fit the same criteria.
Top Tip: To get them on board, try sending them a freebie and follow up with a message to ask how they liked it, this should get the ball rolling. Be warned though, a lot of micro influencers ask for payment for product reviews. They rarely do something for nothing!
The final cog in the ToV wheel is approachability. Your tone of voice literally speaks volumes and if you come across stuffy or as if you know it all then you will have people clicking that ‘unlike’ button faster than you can count! It’s a really fine line between being a leader in your particular field of expertise and coming across as condescending.
So let’s start by defining approachability:
- Capable of being approached; accessible.
- (Of a person) easy to meet, know, talk with, etc.
Number one, you have covered. You are online.
Number two is how you cement your approachability. We, in the industry, like to call it ‘Community Management’ (I always get the urge to do the quote, unquote fingers when I say that phrase!). It sounds so cliché, I know, but community management is no different to what you would do with parents in the school playground, the locals in the pub or going on the morning paper run (people still do that, right?).
Just chat! Respond in a timely manner to any comments and messages that come in and be helpful. Have a bit of ‘bants’. Lighten up, people are usually quite nice, especially if they are invested in your brand or their chosen micro influencer has recommended you to them.
Top Tip: Make sure you turn on your notifications. This will help you to respond to comments and messages as they come in.
You are ALWAYS going to get the odd keyboard warrior but perhaps I’ll impart my knowledge on that in a separate blog….
To sum everything up…
Keep it simple, stay on-brand, chat to people as if you would if you were face-to-face, be open and honest and always have a purpose to your posts. Easy, right?