People regularly tell me they know their business needs to be “doing social media,” but they don’t know what to say on social media.
“I don’t want to make the mistake of making my organization sound silly,” they say, often with a pained look.
They have good reason to be concerned.
An organization’s online voice is what people “hear” from a brand through blogging, tweeting, and community conversations. It’s the online persona with whom people engage that can give a brand a human connection to its audience. But, if handled poorly, it can confuse an audience or, worse, irritate them.
You can avoid this fate by keeping a few important things in mind:
People speak of authenticity often when discussing how brands should represent themselves online. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s more than just being “verified” on Twitter. It’s about being genuine.
Think of the last cocktail party or networking event you attended. Remember the people who came across as trying to be someone they’re not? Don’t do that on social media (or at cocktail parties). Otherwise, people won’t trust your online voice, and trust is essential.
Your online voice should not sound like it came from your legal department, and you certainly should avoid traditional PR and marketing jargon. It should represent the essence of the brand and, to an extent, promote those things that benefit the business. But it must be said in a human way.
Also, don’t forget those little human details like owning your mistakes with dignity and humility, and sharing some of the details of everyday life. But take care you don’t overdo the latter.
Remember, people want to connect with people. They want to have intelligent conversations. They want to know that if they comment or reach out to a brand online they will get a real human representing the organization and responding in a genuine manner—a human manner.
Reflection of culture
Every organization has a unique internal culture. It may include skateboard races with the CEO on Friday afternoons, or perhaps high standards of corporate social responsibilities.
Your culture should be reflected in your online voice. This is your organization’s “personality,” and it goes hand in hand with presenting a human identity online.
Credible sources earn respect. Respect gets you meaningful relationships. So be a source of useful, reliable information, and keep that content flowing on a regular schedule.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be all your own content. Promoting or linking to credible content (with appropriate attribution, of course) from other trusted sources would also gain you credibility.
Finally, don’t forget that part of being credible is being responsive. You can’t just be a megaphone for information; traditional marketing is good for that.
If you want to have a strong voice online you must engage and be responsive to your audience.
Whether you are writing a blog post for your company blog
, commenting on an industry community site, posting a video to YouTube, or tweeting, your brand needs a consistent voice.
This gives your audience a sense of trust and comfort when connecting with you online. If you have an authoritative voice on your organization’s blog but a mostly silly voice on Twitter, it will confuse people and hurt your credibility.
Of course, beyond these five points, there are more details, and you may prioritize things a bit differently, but the five key points above will get you a long way to a strong online voice and a meaningful relationship with your audience.
Victoria Harres is director of audience development for PR Newswire and the lead voice on @PRNewswire. To hear more on the subject of developing an online voice, join Vicky at the Poynter Institute April 11-13 for the Creating Credible Content: How the Values of Journalism Can Increase Your Credibility conference and workshop.