Learn how to find and develop your online "voice," and how to use it to build a brand that's recognizable and relatable.
Whether you're a new entrepreneur setting up shop or an established business looking to bolster your online presence, it's imperative that you reflect on how you want to represent your business to billions of social media users and establish a strong and consistent voice. By reviewing today's most popular platforms, being mindful of the audience you want to reach and utilizing the four best practices laid out below, you can create a well-thought-out social media voice that resonates with your audience and helps your brand gain some traction.
What is brand voice?
Your voice is the tone and style of communication that your company uses. The concept of brand voice is all about how you and your team express yourselves when representing the brand. Your brand voice will largely determine how people think about your business.
The importance of developing a unique brand voice
When it comes to writing, whether on paper or online, a person's "voice" means their tone. People generally speak and write in a specific, distinctive way. Some people rely on certain turns of phrases, use punctuation in a certain way or put forward an attitude or personality in their writing that creates a style that's all their own.
The same concept can be used in your business's brand voice and social media presence. When it comes to creating an online persona for your official accounts, you must keep your company's audience, brand values and outward presence in mind. For example, you may not want to adopt a serious brand tone if you run a hobby shop. Similarly, you may not want to be flippant in your online interactions if you run a private law firm.
With the right tone, social media interactions humanize your company, and make your brand more relatable, endearing you to your audience and making them more receptive to your overall message and the products or services your business offers. A good brand voice also engenders loyalty with your consumer base. In this way, common words, phrases or feelings that people associate with your brand become free marketing tools.
Best practices for finding your brand voice
When developing your business's online brand voice, there are more things to reflect on than the type of content you're going to share. The way your company represents itself in the digital space requires some tactical thinking ahead of time. To help facilitate that process for you, we've identified four things you need to do when starting out.
1. Be genuine.
The key to creating a cohesive social media voice for your business is to "just be yourself," said Kiara Martilla, a social media marketing manager and strategist. If people sense you're being phony, that could hurt your brand and image.
"If you are naturally a funny and casual person, don't force yourself into a box of professionalism and dryness. Similarly, if you are naturally soft and sweet, and jokes don't come naturally to you, there is no reason to try to clone an online voice like Wendy's," she said. "Ultimately, the same traits that draw people to you offline are going to be the same traits that make you attractive online."
2. Make sure the company's voice is consistent.
After spending time reflecting on your company's voice and establishing one through your initial social media posts, it's important that you remain consistent with that voice. As more people recognize your company's content and come back to your page to check out your latest updates, one of the worst things you can do is throw a curveball by changing your methods.
3. Establish brand voice guidelines.
To ensure the voice remains consistent, either designate an individual to handle your social media accounts or create an easy-to-follow brand voice guide that multiple people can access. Making sure everyone is "on the same page with the brand's tone" is something Jason Myers, a senior account executive at The Content Factory said should be at the front of your mind.
"Decide and agree on what 'good' looks like – possibly using other successful brands as a guideline – and set ground rules for what's to be avoided or require multiples keys to turn before the bombs are launched," he said. "Create a style guide, even if it's just a shared Google Doc on the simplest levels, so that anyone who comes into the fold later will have a workflow."
Think about what sets your brand apart from your competitors and capitalize on those differences. Consider the things you do that bring customers back and see if you can turn that into a post. If your company has a stance on current events or major issues like climate change or equality, let your followers know – just tread lightly with some of the thornier subjects.
"Positive conflict can be highly constructive, introducing new ideas that solve an industry's ongoing challenges. While there is often a fear of contradicting or challenging someone, breakthroughs in thinking occur when opposing ideas are fully explored in a respectful and astute way," said Colby Jones, co-founder and managing partner of The Relentless Collective. "You should not be afraid to draw from your leadership's own perspectives to take stances on issues, too, so long as you offer examples, anecdotes and personal experiences to fortify your brand position. This will keep audiences satisfied and engaged."
4. Hire a social media specialist that fits the company culture.
If you need to hire someone to handle your social media, sometimes it helps to make sure that person fits your company culture. Hiring someone who gets your business's voice right out of the gate can be a huge step in ensuring your brand's online visibility is handled with care.
"Our brand voice is approachable, conversational and laid-back – kind of like the way you'd speak to your college friends at parties. That voice transfers to our customer service interactions, our written content, and, of course, to social media," said Bret Bonnet, co-founder and president of Quality Logo Products. "The way we've developed this voice is by hiring only people who already have this voice. You can't teach someone to speak a certain way, so we look for personalities that fit our brand voice rather than trying to force someone to speak our 'company language.'"
5. Choose a social media platform that amplifies your company's strengths.
When it comes to creating a social media marketing strategy, one of the most important decisions to make is which platforms you will adopt at the outset.
Each platform serves the same general purpose – connecting like-minded people around the world – but they do it in different ways. As time goes on and you get more comfortable with social media, you can eventually branch out to other platforms, but your initial selection can impact your exposure.
"Social media evolves, changes and adapts in real time – and so should brands," said Jack Meehan, director of social media at Molton. "The right brands, the brands that are succeeding on social media, are on the cutting edge of figuring out how to keep their brand in line with the paradigm shifts that social media represents."
Whether you want your social media presence to be limited to pithy 280-character bits of commentary or one that gives you a way to share photos of your business, the platform you choose can greatly help you meet that objective.
Here are the top three platforms available today and how you can use them to promote your business.
As arguably the most popular social media platform on the planet, Facebook is the natural landing place for businesses that are just starting out. If you have a personal Facebook page, you largely know what you're getting as a small business.
Facebook has adopted a more business-friendly model over the years by offering specially crafted pages for companies of all sizes. These pages give the administrator access to a set of specialized tools that help make the page stand out and provide detailed visitor and analytical information.
Through this multimedia-based platform, Facebook affords businesses the ability to "show and tell" what they have to offer, with photo, video, audio, and text social media content. Coupled with the platform's instant messaging functionality, which allows businesses to communicate directly with its audience, Facebook is a powerful social platform.
Though once known for its tiny 140-character limit, Twitter has ballooned its concise messages – known as "tweets" – to 280 characters. Though predominantly started as a text-based social media platform, Twitter has become a more robust service, with support for photos, videos and live video feeds to help you connect with your target audience.
This platform has always been the spritely alternative to other social media outlets, thanks to its focus on small bursts of commentary that immediately reach your followers.
If your company prefers to post frequent, brief messages to your audience, Twitter could be a good platform for you.
Owned by Facebook, Instagram is a strictly visual platform that has also added support for businesses. Visited predominantly through its mobile app, Instagram allows users to post high-resolution photos and videos to their pages.
Just last year, Instagram added to its business capabilities by allowing users to buy products directly from business' profile pages. This is a potent tool, because users get to see the item they're looking to buy before committing to the purchase.
Whether you're looking to directly sell to consumers through the service or just want to highlight your company's products and services through photos, Instagram makes all that possible.
Examples of a strong brand voice
Off the top of your head, can you think of any brands that have a strong, resounding voice? These examples may be familiar to you.
A few years ago, Wendy's pivoted its marketing efforts with its Twitter account, becoming known as the fast-food restaurant that sassed everyone and took none in return. Its roasts of everyone became a fun game. It might be hard to articulate what this type of voice is, but you recognize it instantly. Wendy's decided to be the brand giving everyone else a hard time, but always in good fun.
You have probably seen plenty of Old Spice commercials, and they all stick. Perhaps best described as screwball comedy, the Old Spice voice makes an impression because it is saying things to you that you have never heard before. The goal is to get a double take out of you at every turn; that makes you pay more attention. Can you remember the motto that kicked off this campaign?
Cards Against Humanity
You have probably played this game somewhere, but have you ever seen its marketing? Once you do, you will never forget it. Cards Against Humanity takes the roasting voice of Wendy's and dials it all the way up. This is a brand that makes fun of its own customers on a regular basis.
Every Christmas you see the polar bears and know what it means. In between Christmases, you'll see plenty of other Coke ads, and they all cater to a theme. The Coca-Cola Company wants to be accessible. It wants to make you feel good, to focus on the bright and positive. Many brands try to be the bright and positive company, but they are all chasing Coca-Cola in this regard.
Love it or hate it, Apple has garnered a huge cult following. Apple is a few specific things: sleek, stylish, friendly and fun. Being a tech company that makes people feel like part of the "it" crowd is an impressive achievement. Apple's been doing it for 20 years, which gives us a great opportunity to point out the importance of consistency.
Disney sits at the pinnacle of brand voice. This company has cornered the voice on magic and wonder. If it's something that could light up the face of a child, we assume it's Disney. Think for a moment how powerful that is. Consider what it took for Disney to accomplish this feat. The company has been devoted to the voice of magic and wonder for almost 100 years – and that dedication has paid off in spades.