Social media has made the relationship between brands and consumers closer than ever before. Brands don’t just have the power to reach their audiences. They now have access to a two-way street of communication that lets them speak directly withtheir customers. Audiences remember how something is said as much as what is said, so it is just as important to develop a social media voice as it is to create the actual content for social platforms.
Wendy’s is a prime example of the role a memorable brand voice can have on audiences. The Ohio-based fast-food chain’s Twitter account has become the de facto model for a strong social media voice thanks to its memorable tweets, friendly jabs at users and brands, and overall playfulness.
However, Wendy’s can get away with this because it knows its audience, who tend to be younger and appreciate online banter. This style of voice can come across as unprofessional for other companies. You must understand how a social voice works for different audiences, social media platforms, business sizes and communications with other branded accounts.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
As Wendy’s demonstrates, your target audience is the number one determinant of your brand’s social voice. You should already have a complete profile of the users you are speaking to, including their needs, attitudes, behaviors, ages, maturity levels and other qualities that make up your customers and potential customers in your market. It is essential to know exactly who you are communicating with to figure out how they will receive your voice. For example, if your brand sells luxury watches or other high-end goods, a casual brand voice may come across as unprofessional and will likely alienate your users.
CASUAL OR FORMAL VOICE?
Generally speaking, the more passion-driven and recreational the nature of your products are, the more playful you can be. Audiences who follow automotive, gaming, collecting, and other hobbies tend to be more enthusiastic and communal about them, so it is more appropriate to communicate casually.
Social media is community-driven by nature, but some are more communal than others and allow for a more casual approach. Whether you choose a casual or formal brand voice depends largely on the social platform. It’s okay to adjust your brand voice to suit each platform as long as the message itself remains consistent.
Platforms that permit an informal brand voice include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Your voice should promote interaction between your company’s page and your users on these sites, and you set that example by speaking directly to the audience. You can provoke discussion by starting polls, asking questions and responding to individual users who engage with those posts. You can use more contractions in your posts and responses and speak to users how you would in casual in-person conversations.
However, networking and other professional business-oriented platforms, such as LinkedIn, require a more formal tone. Your speech should be more direct, confident and polished. Since the primary goal of using these platforms is to build and engage with your network, the general rule of thumb is to communicate with your audiences the same way you speak to people at an in-person networking event.
Regardless of what type of voice you select, your brand voice should mimic how people talk to each other in that community. You should treat every user you interact with as a community member rather than just another username.
HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH OTHER BRANDS
When you interact with other branded accounts on social media, use the same tone you speak to your audience. Switching to a different voice than the one you typically use on the platform can seem out of place. Your followers will quickly notice the change.
That said, you should amplify and engage with branded comments as much as possible because the accounts posting them may have larger followings or crossover appeal. This engagement mutually benefits the businesses involved allowing them to share audiences. Especially since most social platforms show when followed accounts interact with other more prominent accounts.
GOING WIDE VERSUS GOING DEEP
When developing your social voice, you must also choose whether to speak to users in your network or out of it. A deeper voice connects with people within a brand’s network by using more specific terms and references to their brand and industry. On the other hand, a wider-reaching voice appeals to the lowest common denominator and seeks to include as many users as possible, especially those outside the network. Anyone who comes across a wide-reaching post should be able to engage with it without being in the know.
The social platform you use dictates what reach strategy you employ, just as it does with your tone of voice. Community-based sites that amplify the importance of followers or subscribers, such as Facebook, allow for a deeper communication style. Platforms that rely on discovery feeds to disseminate content, such as TikTok, require a more inclusive style of speech.
Your approach also depends on the size of your business. Smaller companies should cast as wide a net as possible, so they have the best chance of connecting with new customers. Larger businesses with well-established followings should engage with their user bases on a deeper level.
Professional companies should go wide by crafting their messages to appeal to people and brands outside their network. On the contrary, community-driven and hobby-driven brands can speak more deeply to their followers to promote passion-fueled discourse.
KEEP IT SIMPLE, AVOID JARGON
Although it is acceptable to include relevant terms, trivia and other references in your posts, you walk the line between casting a deep net and using jargon. Jargon excludes most of your audience and makes your brand come across as insincere. Hootsuite has a list of words and terms to avoid regardless of the platform and social approach.
Social media users pay attention to how something is said just as much as what is said. It is crucial to develop how you communicate to your audience on each social platform. Your brand voice will make the difference in who engages with your content, how many people subscribe to your pages, and how you build your network further.