How to Develop the Right Tone of Voice

By: Sofie De Beule

May 28, 2015

If you want to stand out on social media, you need to make sure you can find a way to communicate with your customers that resonates.

How do you achieve this? By talking to them in their own language while still remaining true to your brand. In short, by using the right tone of voice.

Tone of voice is key. But why?

  • It delivers consistency. A powerful tone of voice never goes unnoticed.
  • It makes your brand more trustworthy. If a brand’s tone of voice on social media has a familiar/personal touch, people are more likely to trust the brand.
  • It embodies a brand’s personality. It’s the people replying to customers’ questions on social media that make the brand.
  • It makes your brand stand out. Tone of voice is something unique about your brand.

Here are 4 helpful steps to define your tone of voice on social media:

1. Review Existing Brand Communication

Take a look at what you already have, and review emails, newsletters, ads, and contests you have created in the past. Determine which elements in your communication keep coming back, and try to identify those recurring elements that define your brand.

When developing your tone of voice, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Stay true to what you already have, and work outward from there.

There are millions of ways to express your apologies. Here are 3 examples of how a brand can express their regret and empathy after a customer has had a bad experience. Which response best fits your brand’s personality?

A. That’s no good! Sorry you’re having troubles. Rest assured we’re on the case!

B. We apologize for this inconvenience. Our colleagues are already working on it.

C. Sorry for your bad experience. We will fix this ASAP!

2. Make Visuals Part of Your Tone of Voice

When you think about tone of voice, what immediately comes to mind is text, real copy — the magic of written word. When defining your tone of voice, don’t just limit it to textual elements. Visuals are not only a representation of your brand but also account for an important part of how your brand is perceived.

Unlike text, visuals can uncover your brand’s tone of voice without having to say a single word.

Imagine you wanted to share an article about family life on Twitter with your audience. Which picture would you choose to go with that article?

Here are two examples of a family picture. When you look at each picture, you can see that they individually communicate something different.

A. The picture perfect family. A classical representation of a family that would work well, for example, for an insurance company because it gives a sense of sustainability, safeness, and stability.

B. The picture of this family has a more natural feel, and the people in the picture are more spontaneous. The company that would opt to use this picture is probably a lot more outgoing and clearly has slightly different objectives than the company that would use the visual above. This would be an ideal picture for a sports brand, travel organization, etc.

3. Host a Brainstorming Session With the Entire Team

Rely on the people within your company to determine which tone of voice you’re going to create. After all, a brand is all about its people which includes both the people working for the company as well as its customers. Customers really want to see the human side of a brand. Take all recurring style elements and think about how you can translate them into social media.

Perhaps it should also be said that it’s also important not to overthink the process of creating your tone of voice. On social media, it’s crucial to be able to reply quickly. If you come up with too many guidelines, your employees will easily lose their creativity. When it takes too long to come up with an appropriate reply or publish a post on your social media channels, you’re wasting time.

Who should you involve in the team brainstorm?

  • Any department! HR, Customer Service, Legal, Marketing, PR, Sales, R&D — everyone has something valuable to contribute.
  • Don’t forget your frontline employees! The people working in the shops, the reception desk assistant, those are the people who actually interact, in real life, with your customers.

4. Organize a Social Media Test Run

If you’re not actively publishing and replying yet on social media, set aside some time for a test run with the tone of voice you just created during your brainstorming session. This testing phase will allow you to really dot the i’s and cross the t’s. However, never forget social media is about real-time communication. Always be adept to change.