5 Steps to Finding the Perfect Tone of Voice on Social Media

By: Sofie De Beule

April 16, 2014

No matter where, when or how customers communicate with brands on social media, they want to participate in genuine, authentic conversations. When there is a lack of a strong tone of voice in those conversations, it can be an unfortunate deal-breaker. But why exactly is it so important? Because when done correctly, it allows you to show off your human side. It’s an opportunity to engage with your customers, build relationships, and help them become your own marketers.

A powerful tone of voice on social media doesn’t go unnoticed, and it helps companies to be consistent in their use of language. When a brand’s tone of voice on social media has a familiar and personal touch, people are more likely to trust a brand. The aim of a successful tone of voice isn’t to make your catchy language stand out but instead to make your business stand out with quality, authentic conversations.

To get your act together, you should start developing a tone of voice for today, not tomorrow. Therefore, we have compiled 5 steps to go through when establishing your tone of voice. But first, let’s take a look at the difference between tone and voice.

The Difference Between Tone and Voice

As your voice remains the same, it’s your tone that changes all the time. Depending on the situation, you will adopt your tone accordingly. Imagine you’re dealing with an upset customer. In that case, it would be inappropriate to address that person with a funny tone. But in some cases, if you’re talking to one of your biggest brand advocates, a light-hearted tone is more than welcome.

1. Analyze Your Company Culture

A tone of voice doesn’t come from a company that wants to be cool but from a company that’s already there. It isn’t about what you want to be but about what you already are and should completely reflect your values. What makes you stand out from the others? Pin down your company culture and don’t think about which fancy words you’re going to use. Focus on the story you want to tell about your brand.

The perfect example of a brand that uses a distinctive, yet powerful tone of voice is Innocent. Their warm, natural tone of voice full of personality makes you feel like you’re talking with the people behind the brand. Their fun and cheeky language really boils down to the values of the Innocent brand.

2. Determine Your Goals

Once you have a pretty good view of who you are, determine the goals you want to achieve by establishing your own, unique tone of voice. When considering effective social media strategies, begin with the right tone of voice. What is it exactly you want to accomplish? Set achievable goals that determine your way forward. Do you want to become a reliable source? Jot down all of these goals, and don’t forget to reflect upon it with your overall social media strategy.

Mailchimp is a great example of a company who adopts clear goals and is very open about every single aspect of their particular tone of voice. One of their goals is to always take the blame for any confusion or problem, because they strive to be respectful and honest with their customers.

3. Know Your Audience

Don’t just look at your company’s characteristics, turn to your audience too. Know who you’re talking to, and create a type of persona that will appeal to them. Use it to adapt all of your future content because your tone of voice should be community-driven and change according to your community’s interests.

Lucie Bright, Copywriter at the Innocent drinks brand, says it’s about employing the right people. The people who understand what the brand is about and therefore don’t require extensive training.

We write the way we speak, and we speak to everyone the same way we speak to our friends. (Innocent)

4. Create Guidelines

From the moment you’ve gathered all of this valuable information about your company’s culture, goals, and audience, it’s time you create clear guidelines (or rules) to fall back on. Include all the practical stuff like when and how to reply, how to deal with angry customers, and so on. Make sure these guidelines compliment your overall social media strategy when deciding upon the ideal tone and voice you will use.

5. Evaluate Your Guidelines & Adopt

There isn’t just a single strategy that doesn’t require improvements along the way. Finding a suitable tone of voice is a work in progress. Evaluate your guidelines on a regular basis and identify and alter the elements that need to be changed. Whether it’s from your customers or your employees, keep track of all the feedback you get both positive and negative.

Settled on a tone of voice to use, and now looking to organise your team with it? Download our social media case study of public transport company De Lijn to see more considerations on the whys and hows of internal social media guidelines.