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Tone: How to Nail It

Our personalities are unique, individualistic, and driven by layers of perspective. We speak a certain way, use specific words to convey what we’re thinking, and change our tone depending on the circumstance. And it translates to our presence in the digital world.

Today’s organizations and brands are also expected to have a personality, especially as social media pages are absolutely necessary in modern culture. Companies need to create an experience for their community and customers. Brands become personified in a way that consumers not only relate to, but interact with, rely on, and hopefully trust the brand

Developing a brand’s social media personality isn’t an easy task. It combines the efforts of marketing, digital, communications, and perhaps even the executive team to ensure that the persona — and the tone that that persona uses — reflects the organization’s values. In some ways, developing a brand’s tone on social media is a bit like crafting the perfect recipe.

A sprinkle of youth. People of all ages use social media. While there might be more popular platforms among specific age groups, social media is widely used by nearly every generation. Interestingly, however, the language and tone on social media, specifically on platforms like Twitter, has become noticeably casual, entertaining, and youthful — even within the content posted by companies.

While grammar and professionalism are important, keeping up with trends and maintaining a youthful persona is equally so. For example, instead of using “we” when participating in a trending hashtag, many brands have taken to using a singular “I” simply because it aligns with the trend and comes across as informed rather than “trying too hard.” 

But take caution, establishing a youthful tone on social media is a delicate balance between being hip and sounding fake or out of touch. Users want to feel a kinship with their favorite brands and the easiest way to do that is by staying relevant, engaging, and approachable. It’s important that companies learn to understand and embrace the current landscape, without losing the core of who they are and who they’re targeting.

A dash of professionalism. It is important to maintain a sense of professionalism. It can be tempting to dive into every trending hashtag or conversation, but that can have dire consequences on a brand’s perception if not handled appropriately. Countless brands have tried to hop into something trending in pop culture moments and ended in disaster (or, at the very least, negative sentiment). Embracing a youthful tone and participating in pop culture is a useful tactic, yet it can occasionally come across as tonedeaf. 

Professionalism extends to engagement with community members and followers. Organizations that opt for a more direct or casual tone on social media need to consider how that comes across in their interactions. Respect and polish are still big components in trust. Use proper grammar, punctuation, and appropriate images or GIFs where applicable. A bit of playfulness or competitive language with another organization is generally acceptable, but belittling or embarrassing a follower is not. This type of behavior reflects poorly on the entire organization — even if the original interaction was harmless in its intent. 

A dusting of expertise. Individuals look to social media for expertise and knowledge about specific products or services. In today’s digital age, an organization has the opportunity to serve as both a friend and an information source. This is both exciting and challenging.

Organizations can add a bit of expertise to their tone and delivery by providing accurate, relevant information on the proper channels as well as answering questions and responding to requests from followers. Expertise and professionalism go hand-in-hand, and it’s important for any brand on social media to ensure that the language they use showcases their knowledge of their particular industry while remaining professional and humble. 

A spot of novelty. Every social media platform is different. They reach different audiences, encourage different types of content, and emphasize different trends. But there’s one quality that tends to resonate on all platforms: novelty.

People like new things. They like to be surprised and delighted and entertained. However, it’s common for brands to adhere to specific guidelines, especially as it relates to tone. It’s important to remember that social media is always changing and embracing a little bit of novelty or intrigue shouldn’t be overlooked.

Adding a spot of novelty in this case might mean departing from the organization’s usual language (i.e., what’s written on the website or marketing materials) or it could mean embracing an unconventional tone such as a snarky attitude or a specific, individualized persona, depending on the brand’s goals and values. 

Crafting the perfect recipe takes time and so does establishing the right tone for an organization on social media. But with a sprinkle here and a dash there, any organization has the opportunity to connect with their audience on a more authentic and genuine level, which could translate to creating lifelong customers.

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