Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can and should play an important role in your reputation management strategy. But if you’re using a tried-and-true marketing voice to amplify your message, you could be missing out on the “social” part of social media.
If you shift your tone and let your humanity come through (in other words, if you “get real”), you could see some huge benefits. But, you’ll need to take care to handle that shift in the right way.
Why Get Real?
Most of us spent years in business writing classes, learning all about how to share a brand’s marketing message in a tone that was kind, but a touch on the aloof side. There is a time and place to get real, my professors always said, and when you were writing for a business, all manner of lowly chatter should disappear.
Many people think shifting from professional-speak to human talk makes sense, especially in social media channels.
For example, in a study in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, researchers found people who followed corporate-run social media accounts were more likely to have positive thoughts about a specific company if that company used what researchers called a “human voice”. The higher the stiffness level of the company, the lower the impression. For these consumers, a real voice was a real winner.
Some bloggers have drawn connections between brand mistrust and marketing-speak. To these bloggers, the best way to create a sense of trust between a business and fans is to help fans to understand that the business is run by real people with real goals. Once that connection is clear, these bloggers say, a sense of trust might rise.
So, clearly, there are a number of very real and enticing benefits associated with using a real and human-like voice on social media channels. But, there are some very real dangers, too. After all, humans can be quirky and unpredictable, and sometimes, our behavior can be downright nasty. That’s not the human side that should show through on your social sites.
So if you’re ready to get human, but you don’t want to ruin your reputation in the process, I have a few handy dos and don’ts for you.
Let’s get started.
‘Get Real’ Dos
Let’s talk a little about what you should be doing as you plan for and then execute your social human makeover.
Define Your Audience
You wouldn’t use the same voice when talking to an infant and a corporate executive. Both have specific likes and dislikes, and both audiences have expectations about what you might say and how you might behave.
Those same rules apply on social media. Using the same voice when talking to consumers shopping for coffee and patients shopping for a heart surgeon can lead to disaster. One group might appreciate a hip tone, while the other might prefer for you to keep things formal.
Before you hop on this trend, take a few moments to really think about what audience your company serves, and what your company stands for. You might find that formality is your best bet, and if so, you might need to tune down your humanizing plans.
Give One Person Control
When it comes to branding, consistency is key. As Social Media Examiner points out, consumers that follow your voice on one channel will expect to hear that voice and only that voice when they visit that channel. And should they skip from one channel to another, they might be reassured to hear that same voice again.
As you make a shift, put one person in charge of your posts. Let that person do all of the writing, updating, and promoting. Once that person has the voice down well enough to write a style guide, those responsibilities can be shared. But at first, just one person should do the writing.
Devote the Time
When you’re using social media like a business, consumers might expect delays in responses. They might understand that you have other things to do, so you might not sit on the social page all day long. But, when you are running the site like a human, your customers might expect you to use the site in the way a human might.
At the moment, AdWeek suggests consumers spend about two hours per day on social sites. Chances are, they aren’t spending that time in one big block. They’re probably logging on, checking a few things, and then getting back to work or real life. Your social team should do the same. A nearly constant presence can help you address issues as they appear, and you might be able to start conversations with your fans in your new human voice.
Can’t think of what to say? Use emoji. You certainly won’t be alone if you add sparkle to your words with little smiles and clapping hands, as The Next Web suggests that some 74 percent of Americans use emoticons or emoji in their online notes.
Just make sure that there are actual WORDS in your posts, too. A post made up of simple images is hard to parse, and it doesn’t give you the opportunity to really amplify your brand message. Stick to using emoji as emotional amplifiers and you’ll be on the right track.
Get Real Don’ts
As I mentioned, getting real could be really hard on your reputation, especially if you get slapdash about the whole process. Here are a few things to avoid.
Disrespecting Your Customers
Sure, you’re using a hip and human voice. But that doesn’t give you a free pass to call out your detractors on your corporate social site. Chances are, you can think of some real zingers to share when people attack you, and those might be statements you would throw right down on your private site. But you should never, ever use them on your corporate site. Just don’t do it.
Want examples of what I am talking about? Let me point you to the Target spoof social media account. This guy is using a very human, very real voice. But the things he’s choosing to say are horrible for corporate reputation scores. Just don’t do this. (Thankfully, he wasn’t speaking for this company. He was poking fun as an outsider.)
Make Light of a Serious Situation
A human voice can help you share a story about your brand, your company, or your employees. But there are some issues that are so serious that they demand a shift in tone. If someone hits your page with a complaint that is serious enough that you start to think of calling in the legal team, start shifting.
You can use your new, human voice to ask the person to contact you in person, off social, to speak about the issue. But do not use your social channel to riff on the issue. At best, you’ll look callus. At worst, you’ll look like you’re hiding something. Just don’t do it.
Degrade Your Brand for a Laugh
I’ve been following the Twitter account of an English coffee house with a seriously filthy name. It’s so filthy, in fact, that I really can’t type it here. Since that brand has a curse word in the name, most posts have curses in them. That’s pretty much expected.
But on October 9, this company posted a video about making coffee, which was full of unhygienic practices and customer abuse. (You can head to Twitter and see it for yourself.)
Now, this might be a human and social win, as it’s a little funny. But, it could be a joke at the expense of the brand. Chances are, this is a brand that wants to sell coffee, and maybe curse while doing it. Making a video about how the coffee isn’t suitable for drinking? That degrades the brand message.
Remember, you can be human without being offensive. If you are tempted to poke fun, take a step back.
If a human voice supports your brand and your company, don’t be afraid to give it a go. Just make sure to take it slow and be mindful. And if you have any tips and tricks you’ve used in making this transition, I’d love to hear them! Share in the comments, please!