When we talk about a ‘voice’ on social media, what we’re referring to is how you come across as a brand or individual. For many companies that use social media for promotional or interactive means, finding the right voice that represents them can be very difficult to achieve. Channelling your company values as well as promoting your products and services walks a fine line between being engaging and interesting, to being boring, annoying, or too repetitive. Knowing what kind of language and approach to take for the voice of your social media is essential to knowing what the best practices are for achieving good results and audience engagement.
What is ‘voice’ on social media?
Voice is defined as your brand personality. How do you describe it? Is your voice informative? Lively? Professional? Offbeat? Your voice should be the overall feel of your social media.
As a charity for survivors of sexual abuse, Safeline’s voice is friendly, kind, and non-judgmental. This is reflected through the imagery used (such as simple sketches, playful colours and inspirational quotes), and the way Safeline always actively reaches out a hand to the reader, such as ‘we are here to #support you’. The language used always places the reader in the position of power and stays away from persuasive or demanding terms; again to help put the reader in the position of decision-making.
What is ‘tone’ on social media?
If voice is how you can be easily described on social media, it becomes a little more complicated with tone. Tone often varies greatly even within a single social media voice. This could be due to campaigns being run, the types of products on offer, the time of year, or in response to social situations, such as a political event.
“Voice is a mission statement. Tone is the application of that mission.” – Kevan Lee, Buffer
Safeline are again a great example of this. While their overall voice is supportive and welcoming, the tone of the social media can vary. When commending a fundraiser for the charity, the tone becomes celebratory, focusing on the great work of the supporters of Safeline. When there is a more serious topical issue, such as the Hollywood sexual abuse allegations and #MeToo, the tone becomes a little more serious, but still maintains the friendly voice of Safeline.
Establishing appropriate voice and tone
There are a few key steps to take in establishing the appropriate voice and tone for your social media. These are known as Community, Conversation, and culture. Below, we’ve fleshed these out into what that actually means.
- Community. Know your audience. Have a clear understanding of who your target audience are, and how they should be approached. Research your competitors and see what routes they are taking if you need advice.
- Conversation. Maintain consistency. Having a consistent flow of new social media content daily is essential to helping establish the voice and tone of your channels. As with anything, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. Create new, original content and put it out often to generate results.
- Culture. Understand the purpose. Why are you using social media? This can help define your voice a great deal. Is it to share information, advertise products, provide a space for customer feedback? Once you know what purpose you’re trying to achieve, the voice can naturally follow this.
In addition to the three points listed above, it’s also very important to maintain transparency and authenticity. Readers are smart, and they can and will publicly call you out on social media. How you deal with these interactions will say a lot about your brand voice, so think about how you can be authentic and transparent. If your stock has run out and people are complaining, it’s best be upfront and admit it. People prefer honesty in most cases when it comes to social media, and although you won’t be able to keep them all happy, showing transparency (by replying publicly) and authenticity (by giving a personal response to the question) goes a long way in helping people maintain trust in your company – and it’s all down to how your voice and tone come across.
Social media content is fast, ages rapidly, and is quickly consumed and discarded. Having a strong voice and tone that are fully understood can help you stay ahead of the game. When these are combined, along with a proper understanding of the brand values and the reason behind the use of social media, you can begin generating content that appeals to your target audience in a way that will generate engagement and interest. Keeping your social media content fresh and engaging is a daily task, but when done right, it can produce fantastic results.