Social media and brands — Tone is key

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It’s a truism that some clients are just easier to work with than others. I have enjoyed the difficult ones just as much as the easier ones although I have arguably learned more from the harder jobs. What I have observed, which defines what category clients fall into is often to do with the way the brand talks and what they consider themselves to be like. Many are realistically aware of the outside perception of the brand, but sing from a hymnbook that just isn’t quite written for the times we live in now… let alone in ten years time.

Brands need to be human (in some form or another) if they want to succeed online — I have yet to find one that doesn’t prove this statement.

Using MySpace as an example we had certain brand guidelines: Key messaging and a really strong brand ethos. We were fun, irreverent and we were cognizant of the fact that there was “a MySpace way’ and we understood when something ‘wasn’t quite MySpace’.

From launches to live events to press releases to promotional items, we set the standard and tone for each — each had a role to play in the larger picture. Say what you will about the platform now (and believe me people do on a daily basis) but the brand had a tone and ‘a way about it’ – most brands cannot say the same.

Yet I don’t see this nearly enough in brands today – from Twitter backgrounds, to Facebook status updates – brands aren’t talking in the right tone, nor are they taking the right tone to communicate and relate to the sizeable and growing audiences. It’s easy for brands to forget consumers know that there are people behind walls and for brands to forget they themselves are people not just ‘the brand’.

Many want to know your name, not to use it but to simply address you — it’s common courtesy. There are clear pros and cons to giving a brand a face (and it’s not right for all brands) but there are simple wins to be had when done correctly.

Three rules I use when thinking about a brands presence and tone on a site/platform:

  • Today: How are people communicating with the brand today? Do they want to hear from us? Are they using slang? Are there passion-points I can pick up on, use in a new way? Do I have a right to be in the space? Should I just listen?
  • Tomorrow: Where do I want the community/brand to be tomorrow? What are the goals for this channel? Are they inline with the way the channel is used? Can I take the channel to a new place? Should I?
  • Forever: What is ‘the brand’? Is it a fun one, a serious one, is it ‘one’ at all? Can I make the brand conversational? Should I? How can I include the community in the process/decision? Is the organisation set up to handle the conversation (technologically and socially)?

There are other questions of course, but once asked and really understand internally what the brand is, only then can it fully be expected to flourish online.

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