Tips from a Community Manager: Developing a Brand Voice
Jumping into the world of social media can be scary. Establishing and maintaining a brand presence on social channels requires more than just the occasional funny video or cat photo. We hope this series of tips from our Community Management team will ease some of your worries about engaging with your fans on social media, and offer insight into best practices for establishing a brand presence in the social space.
You've heard the buzz, checked out "that Twitter thing," and even briefly considered purchasing Facebook stock. All in all, you're ready to start interacting with your fans on social media, and you're excited about it. But as you stare at your computer screen, you're struck by one daunting question: Now what?
Pause and Do a Self-Evaluation
Before you jump into the fray of social media, you need to do an internal evaluation. I'm not talking about discovering your inner child or buying a book to interpret your dreams. What I'm referring to is an evaluation of your business; asking a series of questions to develop a profile for your brand, and consciously putting together a plan for what you are hoping to get out of engaging in the social space.
Here are a few good starter questions:
- What are the qualities/attributes that I want to be associated with my brand?
- What are my goals for communicating with fans on social channels (forming favorable impressions, providing technical expertise, etc.)?
- What are some of the strengths of my business/why does my product appeal to consumers?
All my firewood is karate-chopped by hand and sanded down with my rugged good looks, because nobody likes splinters.
— Old Spice (@OldSpice) October 12, 2012
Compile Your Brand Lexicon
Once you've done a little "soul-searching," you're ready to start developing a brand voice for your social channels. The first step in this process is to compile a brand lexicon. Put simply, this lexicon is a list of terms or phrases that you (the brand) use to talk about yourself. This list should include:
- Current advertising taglines and trademarked phrases
- Terms you use as a brand to describe your product
- Words you would like the consumer to associate with your product
Research Your Fan Lexicon
After making a brand lexicon, it's important to go out and research how your fans talk about your product or similar products in your industry. Take some time to play "desk chair sociologist" and do some good old-fashioned investigation.
Your time among the natives should be spent taking notes on what fans respond to, what frustrates them, and how they communicate about your product. You may not choose to use any of the terms within your fan lexicon, but hopefully this period of investigation will give you some direction on how your fans are already relating to your product.
Moving From Messaging to Communication
All of the steps up to this point have built up to figuring out the brand messages that you would like to convey in the social space. Now it’s time to translate these messages so they're social. Unlike other forms of advertising, messaging in the social space should promote dialogue; your job as the brand is not just to put your message out there, but also to get your fans to engage with it. This emphasis on two-way communication should underpin all of your efforts on your social channels.
Make Adaptation a Goal
One of the unique features of social media is that consumer feedback is almost instantaneous. Listening to your fans and adapting your communication strategies will be key in the evolution of your brand voice over time. Consumer feedback should be your Geiger counter when it comes to your messaging. If your brand is generating as much interest as an ice cream truck in December, then it's time to change up your approach.
Creative Freedom and When to Use It
Fans will engage with your brand if you can offer them value. This goes beyond simply providing product information. If you can provide your fans with interesting or entertaining content, then they have a reason to converse with your brand. Tactics such as incorporating humor or using compelling images have been successful for many brands in the social space. However, humor should not outweigh brand messaging, and should be used thoughtfully.
Not So Much:
In the end, a successful social brand voice will be one that stays true to your core values and messaging while encouraging dialogue from your fan base. Your brand voice should adapt over time based on feedback from your community, but should always be a reflection of your brand identity.
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