How to Find Your Social Media Voice and Tone (TheNextWeb.com)

Among the many ways to stand out on social media—killer contentamazing visualsspecific formatting, and more—one that often gets overlooked is voice.

We don’t want brands talking at us as if we are dollar signs. We want authentic communication.

Finding a voice for your social media marketingcan be difficult because the concept is somewhat unlike other optimization strategies online. Voice is not a statistic you can track or a design element you can tweak. Voice goes deeper than that.

Instead of tracking and analyzing, you can plan and practice. Here’s what I’ve found works best in terms of getting your voice together and using it to interact online.

What is the difference between voice and tone?

When you jump into the discussion of voice in social media marketing, you can’t help but touch on tone as well. The two go hand-in-hand and are often used interchangeably. In this sense, it’s less important what the definitions are as long as you have definitions. You’ll be better off knowing where you’re headed with a well-defined direction.

The definitions that make the most sense to me are the ones that note a difference between voice and tone. Gather Content breaks down the difference in this way:

Voice: Your brand personality described in an adjective. For instance, brands can be lively, positive, cynical, or professional.

Tone: A subset of your brand’s voice. Tone adds specific flavor to your voice based on factors like audience, situation, and channel.

Essentially, there is one voice for your brand and many tones that refine that voice.

Voice is a mission statement. Tone is the application of that mission.

Another way of looking at voice is through a four-part formula suggested by Stephanie Schwab, writing for Social Media Explorer. She takes the general topic of voice and breaks it down into not only tone but also character, language, and purpose. In the graphic below, she uses adjectives to define each different area of the overall brand voice:

Character / persona – Who does your brand sound like? If you picture your social brand as a person (a character), here is where you can flesh out this identity with specific attributes that fit who you want to sound like online.

Tone – What is the general vibe of your brand?

Language – What kind of words do you use in your social media conversations?

Purpose – Why are you on social media in the first place?

Together, these four areas can help define the overall voice of your brand. It’s a helpful exercise to go through these steps to gain insight into each area, and as you’ll see below, the process for determining your social media voice includes many of these same ideas and parts.

From here on, though, let’s work with the definition that voice is the overall defining sound for your brand personality and that tone refers to the specific implementations of voice.

(While we’re defining things, I should also probably explain “brands.” You’re right in assuming that brands refer to big and small companies who sell products and services. I’d also like to open up the definition to individuals as well. Coca Cola has a brand. Pat’s Corner Store has a brand. You have a brand. Basically, everyone on social media has a brand, whether they know it or not.)

Why voice and tone matter to your social media

Traffic is nice, but conversation with the reader is nicer. A glorified RSS feed is a waste of time.

Point No. 1 for why voice and tone matter: they humanize your brand and let you take part in conversations naturallyThe quote above is from the person responsible for Esquire’s online voice, Matt Sullivan. He believes so strongly in the value of voice that he recommends keeping voice under the management of an editor rather than an intern or a marketing team member.

Along with having good conversations, I’d imagine a fair share of you are after conversions and ROI, too. Then how does this sound: A social media marketing voice can lead to others doing your marketing for you. 

Sounds a little too good to be true, right? Well here’s how the thinking goes, courtesy of Jay Baer of Convince and Convert.

  1. You cultivate a voice that delights your customers.
  2. Delighted customers talk positively about your brand, essentially creating new content.
  3. This content reaches other customers and prospective customers, delivering your brand’s message for you.

Baer explains that the key to giving voice to your content is this:

Don’t just give your customers something to talk about, give them somebody to talk about.

In other words, put a face onto your brand, and let a real personality shine through. People often want connection, not information.

Do this right, and you could end up with an army of fans who will gladly grow your brand for you.

Read the original post here.

About the author: Kevan Lee is a content crafter at Buffer, the super simple social media management tool. His social media and productivity tips have appeared in Fast Company and Lifehacker, and he's always on the lookout for a good headline pun. Connect on Twitter or Google+.

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