Social Media Marketing for Startups: The Basics 6 - Tone Of Voice and Brand Guidelines

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Communication isn’t just about words. It’s more about how those words are delivered. Prof. Albert Mehrabian conducted research into the ways we communicate, finding that 55% is body language, 38% tone of voice, and just 7% our actual words. Just 7%.

So, what happens when we’re communicating online and can’t rely on facial expressions and body language?

By simply setting the right tone you improve the chances that your message will be well-received by 38%.

To engage your audience emotionally, you must let your brand’s personality show.”

— Aarron Walter

In short: Tone of voice is vital for online communication.

The words you use on your website, on social media, customer communications, and in your marketing define how people perceive your business. Your words are part of your branding and keeping a clear, consistent tone of voice is as vital as your visual branding.

Set the Right Tone

We’ve previously spoken about the importance of visual branding. When we think about some of the biggest brands on the planet — Innocent, Ikea, Coke — it’s not only their logo or their colour palette that spring to mind, we also have a strong idea of the brand’s personality. They have taken the time to focus on creating a distinct, clear, and consistent brand persona and tone of voice.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, it’s vital you develop your own personality.

Take Old Spice as an example. They can trace their roots back to 1938, but in modern times their business fell into decline. Until 2010. To adapt to a new market, they changed the focus of their branding, and with that — their tone of voice.

They re-positioned their brand to target confident young men. It was a memorable campaign. Their strong tone of voice fit the market perfectly and the brand successfully reinvented itself. That’s the power of tone of voice.

To devise a successful tone of voice for your brand, it’s important to have clear brand values, an explicit mission, and a core target audience. You can then begin to tailor your voice to fit these.

Finding your voice may take time, but it’s a worthy investment.

Consistently Consistent

Consumers like consistency. So it’s vital that you find your voice and commit to it.

If you have more than one person acting as the mouthpiece of the brand (social media managers, content writers, designers), it’s worth taking the time to create a style guide. Keeping everyone in the team on the same page not only helps your values and end mission align but prevents conflicting messages being delivered to customers.

Establishing your brand personality doesn’t just relate to your own in-house content, you should also consider carefully curating any retweets, shares, and likes. Actions online are traceable, so it’s vital that everything you do while acting as a spokesperson for your business falls into alignment with the brand values. Every action should contribute to your brand message.

A quick and efficient way to match up your platform personalities is to link them all by using a hub to create social posts, so you can crosscheck and ensure all posts are cohesive.

Find Your Voice

As we’ve already mentioned, when it comes to finding your voice, you should have a clear understanding of your brand and also your core audience.

With this in mind, we recommend going over the following questions:

  • What is our personality?

    • You can only deliver on-brand content by knowing your company’s persona or character. What does it sound like? What would your company’s character look like? Knowing this will help you establish what tone of voice best fits your business model.

  • How do we sound to others?

    • It’s important to check that you’re hitting the mark. If your witty remarks are falling flat, or you seem too corporate, it might be time to reassess.

  • Are we authentic?

    • Consumers are turned off by the hard sell. The demand is for engaging, useful and honest content.

  • Who are we targeting?

    • If you don’t know your core audience, it’s impossible to create a tone of voice.

If you have a clear idea of what message you want to deliver, and who you want to deliver it to, then developing your own voice shouldn’t be difficult.

Review and Refine

As with everything in business, it’s important to stay nimble and evolve. You should take the time to manage and review your brand’s positioning.

Interact with your followers. Reply to mentions. Browse relevant hashtags and join conversations. Social media is a great forum to allow for easy and quick communication between brands and consumers. They’ll tell you what they like, and what they don’t. You should take the time to listen and respond in a timely and on-brand manner.

Don’t forget that anything you say online can be seen publicly — it’s vital you maintain your tone of voice and stay polite and professional.

Most importantly — if it’s not working — adapt.

Still Searching for Your Voice?

Everything we do is genuinely about helping our clients succeed.

The Social INK team has the time and the resources to help B2B and B2C SMEs, and small businesses optimise their digital marketing and social media efforts.

If you’re struggling to find your brand personality, or just need a bit of help in shaping your tone of voice, get in touch with us.

We look forward to helping you.