In today’s new media landscape, consumers manage a distributed digital identity – one that changes depending on platform, audience and even interest group. Surprisingly, shifting among these nuanced states isn’t such a feat. It feels natural, even intuitive. But when brands attempt to do the same, the results can feel schizophrenic and confused.
These days, it takes a small army to manage a brand’s presence online – including stakeholders in marketing, media, legal, consumer relations and corporate communications, not to mention a roster of external agencies. There are a lot of personalities in the mix, which can result in a fragmented or inconsistent brand personality in social media. To combat chaos and provide a level of consistency, it’s hard to overstate the importance of developing a “social tone of voice” that everyone can rally around.
A brand’s social tone of voice acts as a guide and a filter for what you say and how you say it. It should be reflective of your brand’s values and beliefs, but also reflective of your audience and their culture. The best brand voices sounds and feels like a person, not like corporation or mission statement. They give personality to the brand and make content a bit more ownable.
When translating your brand’s voice for the social media world, marketers should take advantage of the nature of the medium, which paves the way for two-way conversations and more sophisticated “character development,” so to speak.
As an example, let’s look at Allstate’s Mayhem campaign. You may recall the brand’s commercials that feature the tagline “Mayhem is coming.” A visit to Allstate’s Mayhem Facebook page reveals status updates such as: “I’m a car alarm; let me sing you the song of my people for the next 3 hours.” Or, slightly more timely: “I’m the awesome Halloween costume idea you’ll think of this week, not write down and then forget about forever.”
So how can you develop your brand’s unique social tone of voice?
1. Start with the people who understand your brand best. Consider your brand’s personality, your brand’s perception and your goals within social media.
2. Identify a muse, someone that provides inspiration and aspiration – a celebrity is a great way to go, since everyone in your organization will immediately know who it is and how that person talks and acts. This person, whether it’s Tom Hanks or Rachael Ray or Bill Clinton, is the person who you think embodies the traits your brand would if it were a person, too.
3. Create linguistic guidelines; think about how your muse speaks. Consider things like grammar and punctuation. Does your brand speak authoritatively or are they a bit more casual and colloquial? Do you use short sentences or are you a detailed storyteller? How do you celebrate successes or deal with moments of crisis?
As is the case with people, a brand’s tone of voice can and should change depending on who it’s talking to and where the conversation is taking place. But no matter what’s being said – or where it’s being said – there should still be consistency.
While coherent, a brand voice and its translation into social shouldn’t be static. With an ever-evolving digital landscape, your brand’s voice should also evolve over time, reflecting nuanced shifts in your brand and your audience. When done well, a social tone of voice can act not only as a strategic filter, but also as a predictor of success.