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How to Discover Your Ideal Social Media Voice

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This post is part of a series called Get Started: Social Media Guide for Small Business.
How to Optimize Your Social Media Profiles
14 Helpful Social Media Management Tools for a Better Workflow

Setting the guidelines for your social media strategy and optimizing your social media profiles are the first steps towards a unified and impactful online presence. In order to reach your audience and be memorable, you need to stand out.

With the right actions, you can quickly distinguish yourself from the competition, by tapping into your most powerful asset: your brand

When you inject your brand into your online activities, you are giving your users a taste of what it’s like to work with you and how you treat your customers or clients. They can immediately determine how their particular problem or situation will be handled and based on that, they make their decision on whether to work with your small business.

Translating your brand onto social media can seem difficult because of the lack of face-to-face interaction. But, the good news is that you can make that transition a lot easier when you use your brand’s biggest asset: your brand voice.

Social Media Voice for Your Small Business
Discover the power of your social media voice. (graphic source)

In this part of our Social Media Guide for Small Business, we cover how to identify your brand’s voice and utilize it on social media to attract your target audience.

How to Discover Your Ideal Social Media Voice

The idea behind a brand’s social media voice reverts back to your target audience. You need to have a crystal clear image of who you want to serve to be able to reach them. A brand aiming to attract teenagers will use a different voice than the one trying to appeal to stay-at-home moms, right?

Knowing your audience’s demographic profile is incredibly helpful as everything you do that’s related to marketing will inevitably start with your target audience in mind. This is why marketing and branding experts recommend creating a fictional persona with all the characteristics, traits, as well as their age, education, income, interests. This fictional persona is also known as a buyer persona. Whenever you are creating promotional material, you need to keep this person in mind and tailor your message accordingly. 

Learn more about getting to know your customers and create your first buyer persona: 

Once you know who you are trying to attract, it’s time to consider a few key concepts.

1. Brand Personality

The easiest way to determine your brand personality is to think of it like an actual person. So with that in mind, try to answer the following questions:

  • If your brand was a person, what would they be like?  - Think in terms of adjectives here: friendly, playful, inspiring, empowering, fun, quirky, geeky…
  • If your brand was a person, how would they act around your ideal customer? - Is your brand more like a best friend or a mentor?
  • Finally, if your brand was a person, what they would NOT be like?  - Use adjectives here again to determine which terms you don’t want to be associated with your brand.

Your brand’s personality is not the same as your ideal customer avatar so it’s important not to confuse these two. Bear in mind your company’s culture as well. What are your core values? What drives you? What motivated you to start your business?

Your brand’s personality will translate into your brand’s voice, which will ultimately guide you in creating content for social media and in every interaction with your audience. 

2. The Tone

Once you’ve determined your brand’s personality, you need to define the tone. Even though your voice will always be the same, the tone is what adds that special flavor whenever you interact with customers. The tone largely depends on the situation at hand as well the channel where the communication takes place. The tone of your voice helps you establish credibility.

For example, your brand’s personality may be playful, fun, and friendly and your social media voice should reflect that in every interaction. However, there are situations where a more serious tone of voice may be required and it’s okay to use it. Even if your brand relies heavily on playfulness, avoid joking around with a customer who is obviously upset or stressed. Do your best to maintain a positive and friendly attitude but show them you have heard their frustration and are working on resolving it.

A great example of a friendly and playful brand that recognizes the importance of being serious is MailChimp. Their entire Voice and Tone Guide demonstrates various uses of their voice and tone throughout their entire online presence. Take a look at the below screenshot to see how they handle a serious situation:

Mailchimp Voice and Tone Guide Example
Mailchimp example from their Voice and Tone guide.

Learn more about developing your small business brand's tone of voice: 

3. The Language

Perhaps you’ve read online that if you want to establish a connection with someone, you should use their own language. While that statement is true, most guides don’t tell you how to actually get to know the language of your audience.

The best way to get familiar with the kind of language your audience uses is to observe them online. This may sound creepy but it’s not. It doesn’t mean that you should obsessively stalk their online profiles. It means you should figure out where your audience likes to spend their time online and do your best to spend a couple of hours a week on the same channel.

Let’s say, for example, your target audience consists of Facebook users primarily. You could join a few groups that they belong to and take note of the way they express their frustrations and problems. Watch the language they use. Observe their words, especially their adjectives.

Consider creating a Google Doc or an Evernote note that lists those adjectives. You don’t have to memorize their entire sentences, but do note the most common phrases they use.

Then consider how you can use those words in your own voice in your social media campaigns. The important thing here is not to copy their exact words but to show them that you do understand their problems, concerns, and frustrations. Make them feel like they can relate to you and watch them turn into loyal fans of your brand.

4. Your Brand Purpose

The final piece of the puzzle is your brand’s purpose. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to educate your audience or inspire them to take action? Do you want to delight them so that they feel compelled to visit your website and buy from you? How can you help them solve their particular problem? Your brand purpose will help you fine-tune your social media voice and the type of content you share with your target audience. It's the touch-point that guides your actions as a small business.

The following couple of tweets from State Farm are a great example of a caring brand that maintains their personality even when they are sharing trending content. Note their use of branded hashtags which further enforces their brand message:

State Farm Hashtag examples
State Farm uses branded hashtags and messaging even when curating content.

How do you define your brand's purpose and values? Learn more about developing your small business's brand values:  

How to Use Your Social Media Voice to Connect With Your Audience

Now that you know the core principles of a brand's voice, it’s time to put them into action in your social media strategy.

1. Develop a Style Guide

If you have employees that handle your social media and marketing in general, develop a style guide for your brand’s voice. Share it with anyone who is involved in writing for your brand or speaking on behalf of your brand. That includes your marketing gurus, your content writers, and editors, your customer service agents, as well as public-facing employees.

The guide can be as simple as a one-page Google Document with a list of adjectives that represent your brand’s voice. You can also be more specific and include examples of messages to share across social media or how to respond to various customer inquiries.

Take one of the adjectives and turn it into a branded hashtag that you can attach to your tweets or Instagram photos. Be sure to include examples of what not to do or say as well, using your words-to-avoid from above.

2. Put Your Social Media Voice to Use

Once you’ve established a style guide for your voice it’s time to use it on social media to connect with your audience. The type of content you share will again depend on your target audience.

If you’re looking to attract teenagers or young adults, tailor your social media updates to be short and optimistic. Consider creating or using memes to entertain them as well as educate them. Videos can also be quite effective as they are easy to consume, especially on the go.

If you want to empower and inspire young females, add a mix of inspirational and motivational images or quotes with a personal message attached to them.

Take a look at how Peg Fitzpatrick uses a quote with a personal interpretation to engage with her target audience:

Engaging Message Example
Personalized updates go much further than generic ones.

Questions are another example of a status update which can be perfectly tailored to fit your brand’s voice and engage your target audience.

A brand that does this well is DiGiorno Pizza. Their Twitter feed is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but they offer a nice variety of content that speaks their values, and they managed to translate that well into questions to engage their customers:

Engaged Question on Social Media Example
DiGiorno knows the right questions to ask to engage with its target audience. 

3. Keep In Mind These Essential Tips For Best Results

Here are a few last things to keep in mind when developing your social voice: 

Be Honest and Show Your Human Side

Not many companies or small businesses are willing to be honest and transparent. Some of them might be worried that too much transparency will leave them vulnerable, but the truth is that people connect best with people, not brands. Open yourself up and share not only your success but your mistakes, as well, as this shows that there is a real person behind your brand.

Furthermore, this type of marketing can help you stand out from everyone else who portrays an ever-perfect image of their brand. It also shows that you are confident enough to admit when you run into problems. Also, if you go so far to show how you handled it, your customers will be able to relate to you even more.

Focus on Your Brand Persona

If you shift your mindset and start communicating as though your brand is a person, you have a great chance of gaining an advantage. Mention your followers by their name, thank them for engaging, and acknowledge them on a one-to-one basis. Just because your business has more than one employee doesn’t mean you have to sound generic. You can even go so far as to create a mascot to interact with your audience.

Stay Authentic and Consistent

Your voice and your tone should stay authentic and consistent no matter what. If something doesn’t feel right, or you have a difficult time imagining yourself saying it, don’t say it at all. Avoid sounding forced and don’t try to inject humor into your brand if it’s not a part of your style guide, just because a competitor’s brand is doing it.

Analyzing your voice and tone is a lot harder than it is to analyze the performance of your latest tweet because it can't be measured in such a straightforward way. If your approach is resonating with your audience though, you'll see more shares and more get more engaged feedback from them. 

Yet, it will take time to see results, so avoid changing your voice because you don’t see engagement immediately. The only thing this will accomplish is to confuse your target audience and make them feel less trusting of your entire brand. 

If you don’t stand behind your brand, then how do you expect others to trust the products you sell?

Your Social Media Voice Starts With Consistency 

Your social media voice is not a stagnant thing. Consistency and authenticity are key, but bear in mind that everything evolves in time. The same thing will happen with your social media voice because your brand will inevitably change over the years. 

If your social media presence is still new, take the time to flesh out your guidelines. If you've been engaging on  social for a while but you don’t see consistency in your messages, then now is the perfect time to refine your voice.

Take it one step at a time and plan out the process. With the tips discussed here, you'll set out in the right direction. 

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