Among the many ways of standing out in marketing and on social media (i.e creative content, badass visuals, specific formatting and more) — there’s one thing that often gets overlooked, tone of voice.
Managing your brand’s tone of voice is an integral part to achieving a unified reputation across all communication channels, both internal and external. Just as it’s desirable to have a consistent look and feel in design, the same is expected for written or spoken messaging.
What Is Tone Of Voice (TOV)
Tone of voice (TOV) refers to how your company 'speaks' when communicating with your customers. Giving a brand or company a distinct voice gives an impression of solidity, trustworthiness and honesty. Most importantly, it makes communication congruent.
Your brand’s tone of voice should be reflective of your values and beliefs, but also reflective of your audience and their culture. The best brand voices sound and feel like a person, not a corporation or mission statement.
Finding Your Tone Of Voice For Social Media
So how do you find the perfect tone of voice to target your buyer personas? What can you do to make sure your messaging is attractive to your target audience? We’re here to help you find that out.
By following these steps of the TOV building process, we hope we can help you create a brand voice that’ll increase engagement and build the brand image you want to portray.
Understand Your Audience
The first step to creating your tone of voice is to understand your audience. This is a crucial first step, after all, your audience is an essential part of your brand. At this point you should have an idea of your buyer persona. Check the strategy section of your brand manual if you’re not sure.
You’ll want to take some time researching your customers inside and out to decide which voice they are most receptive to. To get a good understanding of your audience start with the 5 W’s:
- Who: This is where your buyer persona begins and ends. Who is your audience? Who are the people who will be looking to buy your product or services? Consider their gender, their age and their ambitions.
- What: What kind of vibe do they like? What kind of language do they speak. What are their likes and dislikes?
- When: When are they experiencing a pain point? When are they researching about your product? Does your ideal buyer decide to purchase on impulse? Or does he or she exhaustively research options before making a purchase?
- Where: Where is your audience hanging out? What social channels are they on? Where does your buyer personas shop- online or offline?
- Why: The “why” is all about psychographics. Why do they need your product?
Once you’ve established who your audience is, it’s time to move on to your brand.
Understand Your Brand
Before you reach out and start connecting with audiences, you need a good understanding of your brand in terms of each persona.
Now let’s work on describing your brand… using only three words. Think of your brand as a person, how would you describe its personality to someone?
For example, let’s use these 3 traits:
Now let’s define these traits a little further. How would these characteristics show up in audience communication? How can they come across in the kind of content you’re creating? Let’s continue with this example:
- Passionate – enthusiastic, heartfelt, action-oriented, expressive, emotional
- Eccentric – out-of-the-box, funky, remarkable
- Authentic –genuine, trusting, direct, honest, credible
Lastly, let’s add some style tips. Style tips will help content writers write in the language you want to portray.
- We want our messages to be heartfelt and emotional. Avoid being boring and uninterested.
- Our brand is eccentric so we want to stand out with funky and remarkable content. Don’t talk about what everyone else is talking about, be different.
- We are authentic and trusting, therefore use positive language.
Real Life Example: MailChimp
Here’s an example from MailChimp’s tone of voice for social media, particularly their twitter account. They aim to educate people without patronizing or confusing them.
MailChimp describes its three traits as:
Let’s expand on these traits:
- Familiar: casual, relaxed, comfortable
- Friendly: cordial, warm, outgoing
- Straightforward: simple, easy, painless
Here are the style tips MailChimp adds:
- Familiarity: Use an active voice. Avoid passive voice.
- Avoid slang and jargon: Write in plain English.
- Write positively: Use positive language rather than negative language.
Refining Your Voice Based On Channel
Although Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter tend to get roped into the same general category of marketing, they are actually quite different. The audiences and the platforms call for slightly different types of writing.
Because of their distinctive characteristics, it is crucial that your brand avoid posting the same exact updates across the board. Instead, manipulate your tone of voice according to the channel you are sharing the update to. Take a look at these examples:
Twitter: You have a 140 character limit on twitter so you have to think of something enticing to get followers to click on your link. When sharing a link to your blog, find an actionable line from the post to draw in engagement.
- Keep your update under 140 characters.
- Create your own clickable headline if possible.
- Use a link shortener like bit.ly to truncate some of your copy.
- Try to incorporate popular hashtags that relate to the update *and* your target audience.
LinkedIn: The audience for LinkedIn is exclusively business oriented, which means they’re probably pressed for time. Make your posts more direct by highlighting something actionable.
- Highlight an actionable tip from the post.
- Ask questions to encourage conversation.
- Tailor the update to groups where you are sharing.
Facebook: Keep your audience in mind when crafting your Facebook posts. These posts can be longer than twitter and similar length to LinkedIn. Your headline needs to be catchy (not salesy) Because you’re competing in the newsfeed with your followers friends and family, you’ll want to share genuine updates that catches their attention.
- Match your status tone and focus to your audience.
- Ask a question or encourage discussion on your page to increase engagement.
- Always feature an eye-catching image with your status update.
Create Social Media TOV Guidelines
From the moment you’ve gathered all of this valuable information about your company’s culture, goals, and audience, it’s time you create clear guidelines (or rules) to fall back on. Include all the practical stuff like when and how to reply, how to deal with angry customers, and so on. Make sure these social media TOV guidelines complement your overall brand tone of voice.
Social Media Crisis Management Plan
Having a company-wide plan in place will empower you to act quickly and effectively when a crisis begins. With a social media crisis management plan, your team will be empowered to take action and prevent the crisis from growing out of control.
To get started with your crisis plan, outline the exact steps everyone should take on social media during a crisis. This can range anywhere from your top executives to the most junior employees. Include a list of who should be contacted at each stage of a potential crisis, and provide guidelines for how all employees are expected to communicate on social media.
Your social media crisis management plan should include:
- Guidelines for how to identify the type of crisis.
- Roles and responsibilities for each department.
- A communication plan for internal updates.
- Approval processes for messaging posted on social media.
- Pre-approved external messaging, images, or information.
- A copy of the company-wide social media policy.
There isn’t just a single strategy that doesn’t require improvements along the way. Finding a suitable tone of voice for your social media channels, like all of your brand manual, is a constant work in progress. Evaluate your guidelines on a regular basis and identify and alter the elements that need to be changed. Whether it’s from your customers or your employees, keep track of all the feedback you get, both positive and negative. Set up quarterly reviews of your guidelines and overall brand manual to ensure you’re always evolving in the right direction.
Tone of voice acts as a guide and a filter for what you say and how you say it. It gives personality to your brand. Once you have finalized your tone of voice, you can confidently create social media strategies that align with your copywriters to ensure your tone is fluent and consistent throughout your brand's social media marketing.