An amaaaazeball post about your social media voice, guys!

Do you write g’day on your Facebook brand page or ‘good morning all’?

Do you sign your posts ‘cheers’ or begin with ‘hey guys’?

Do you tweet using kisses (xxx) or write #reallylonghashtagsthatarehardtoread?

The language we bash out from our keyboards intrigues me – especially when it extends to the world of social media.

It’s worth thinking about the language you use because it can support or damage your brand. If you have time (and depending on what type of business you are), you might even write voice branding guidelines.

A lot of corporations and government bodies have branding guidelines. You may have seen some yourself.

It’s usually a document (sometimes a huge volume) dictating how to use the official logo, what the corporate colours are, and sometimes what the official fonts are. They’re like a bible for graphic designers, web designers, advertising agencies and others to enable them to carefully manage your visual brand appearance across different communications collateral.

The best branding guidelines – the ones where an organisation has really taken care to consider how it communicates – also allude to the brand’s style in terms of language. Sometimes a ‘brand persona’ has been identified. There may even be a separate Style Guide.

When I started working at the SA Tourism Commission in 2006, we had an uber style guide that outlined language use for brochures, websites, news releases and more. It laid out how the SATC referred to towns, regions, Aboriginal heritage, titles (as in Mrs, Minister, the Honourable) and so on.

Of course, a lot of organisations (maybe yours included) have not been able to devote any resources to a tone and style guide.

What sort of language do you use on social media?
What sort of language do you use on social media?

Which is a pity, because if you do have some, it can help you find your social media voice. And it’s especially handy when you have several people posting online on behalf of your organisation.

This means when you hit the keyboard, you’ll know how to phrase things. It makes posting to Facebook, Twitter and so on, much easier.

Need examples? Here are some simple questions I ask clients to consider, to illustrate how very different you might sound on social media …

What would you lean towards saying:

  • “Thank you” or “cheers”
  • “You’re wonderful” or “you rock!”
  • “Good morning everyone” or “hey guys”
  • “We are pleased to announce our latest report findings are available for download and look forward to your feedback” or “Amaaaazeballs! Our super-duper new download is OUT, bitches!”
  • Do you use emoticons? And if so, which ones? 🙂
  • Do you LOL, ROFL, LULZ or TGIF?
  • Are you allowed to use a heap of exclamation marks or question marks at once??? Can you use gr8 text speak?

Aside from these language considerations, you might want to also reflect on whether you’re affectionate / corporate / excitable / calm / professional / supportive and so on.

There’s another interesting aspect to throw into the mix:

Is your social media voice, different to your ‘usual brand voice’?

This is an important question, because social media is quite a different to some other communication spaces. What works in the boardroom or in a news release may not work on Tumblr or YouTube.

But how far do you bend your ‘social media voice’ to maintain warm connections with people online (and also appear attractive and easy-to-read on screen) before you split your brand personality?

17 thoughts on “An amaaaazeball post about your social media voice, guys!

  1. I love love love this post Prakky. Language and tone of voice are so important but are often left out of brand styleguides. In terms of consistency, a brand would never dream of mixing up their logo, but seem to think nothing of having multiple social media admins posting using totally different styles of writing.

    I cringe a little when I read posts on accounts where I know the marketing person has recently left, and somebody else steps in to make posts – using a totally different style of writing – not to mention inconsistencies in punctuation, spelling etc.

    Another cringe point for me is social accounts that use kisses when they really shouldn’t – appropriate if your target audience is pre-teen girls maybe, but sometimes there seems to be a lack of judgement around the kind of language your audience would find appropriate – or indeed use themselves.

    Love this blog =)

    1. Thanks Robin, appreciate your kind words! I think, too, that some brands could have a lot of fun if they decide what sort of ‘lingo’ or warm language they will use to foster a sense of community.

      And you’re right: we’re very clear and precious about logos, while scant attention is paid to the words we use.

  2. Multiple question and exclamation marks almost make me cry, figuratively speaking, but I guess ??? and !!! are used to emphasise the question or the point being made (with limited text formatting options available). I wonder if people have a process for deciding just how many question marks or exclamation marks they use – what’s the maximum acceptable?!

    1. Great question. I think exclamation marks should be used sparingly and when you definitely have a major point to make. But others enjoy using them frequently and this raises another point – should you take your audience’s language into account? If they dig !!! then should you employ that?

      1. It certainly bridges gaps and cements good foundations to use the same/similar style as your audience. I like it when I start to feel more familiar with someone I communicate with – we start to ‘get’ each other’s language and expression nuances. I think familiarity could be the key, and it can be a mistake to assume familiarity too early.

    2. I’m with you there! I think, in some contexts it can be okay, but what annoys me is sloppiness. I hate seeing this: “!!!?!?!?!!?” It looks like a dog just coughed it up. The magic number is three–just like with an ellipsis.

  3. I often feel that people overusing exclamation marks, question marks and the like are not confident in their writing style and believe they need more emphasis to get their points across. They tend to write in a flow without thinking what they just wrote, and where they are going – akin to rambling in person.

    Then there’s the other side of things too, where people want to bold and underline words *everywhere*. Eek!

    1. That’s a good point, David. Perhaps it a confidence thing. I have had come across some people who add exclamation marks to every sentence in an email. I think it’s because they fear there won’t be enough importance attached to their words, if they leave the exclamation mark out.

  4. I enjoyed this post! It is amazing the difference that effective branding and targeting makes. For example: there is nothing worse than a company that decides to target young people with text-speak. ‘Ur gr8’ is probably more likely to deter a certain type of young-customer from a brand than attract them so a company really needs to have good research on their audience before making a decision like that about language choices. Uniformed or poorly-researched choices based on assumptions can pan out a little poorly. Similar to the font choices people make. Using something as universally-hated as Comic Sans or Papyrus is a clear indication of a company having its finger well off the button for ‘things that are trendy’. Whenever I see a billboard or the like with either of these fonts I always question whether it is ironic or if I am just really not their target customer. Not that I’m trendy or anything.

    I think its hard for a lot of companies to get the right balance between a well-established brand and its traditional communication contexts and new social media. You can’t necessarily use the same voice in both places but you do need to make the voice you use really authentic across the entire branding campaign, or it gets a bit confusing for the customers. It amazes me how many companies clearly don’t have a proper strategy for social media and particularly addressing comments or complaints posted on social media. A great example of this was with Regretsy and the “you look nice today” battle with H & M. If they had handled their Facebook account with a more clear overarching response strategy the issue would have been dealt with differently. Facebook may seem like a easy and uncomplicated forum but it is amazing how quickly there can be an issue. And it is public – so you can’t take it back. Uh oh, rambling a little – but I really did enjoy this post a great deal!

    1. Wow, thanks for taking the time to leave such a considered response. It’s not rambling at all.

      You’re right: a lot of companies still don’t have a strategy let alone a document like a tone and style guide.

    2. “[T]here is nothing worse than a company that decides to target young people with text-speak”. <<– I hear you! Even noticed how complex text-speak has become? I swear, some of the updates I see in text-speak must take 10x more effort to write than if written properly.

  5. Awesomesauce post, Prakster. It’s like totes amazeballs. You so cray cray!!!

    I think there’s a real balancing act between using your language your audience uses and the language your audience expects. I’m always thrown when a company tweet or Facebook update feels a little too casual, whereas some brands I wouldn’t mind being more ‘fun.’

    Poor kids can’t win either way.

    1. Add this to the mix: it’s late at night and you’ve been on social media all day. That can certainly have an impact on the language you use.

      I think our voice is also impacted when there’s a “prior relationship” with someone online. For example, interacting with one of your dedicated forum or Facebook fans.

  6. Oddly enough I’m more formal on twitter and Facebook than I am in work related e-mails and other written work. I suppose I recognise that for many, Twitter being limited to 140 characters means it’s okay to shorten everything and use abbreviations. I don’t like that mainly because I can’t comprehend much of the shorthand.

    1. That’s interesting Gary: and makes sense too, because Twitter in particular is very public and anyone can see your posts (provided it’s not a locked account), whereas with work emails we’re often sending them to colleagues we know well and have warm relationships with.

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