Socially Speaking: All about that tone
In a branding class at university we learnt about how something as subtle as a font choice says something very specific about a brand. Marlboro and Coca Cola were used as examples – just think of the clean, straight, serious lines of Marlboro and the twirly, fun, happy lines of Coke. I was utterly fascinated of the almost subconscious way of communicating. I mean these guys were clearly saying something to a very specific target market, without saying a word!
Five years on and subtle communication, specifically tone of voice, has become an absolute passion of mine, and I have found often to be the most under-appreciated aspect of a brand's development.
More often than not writers or social media managers tend to use their own, industry-approved friendly yet professional tone of voice. By all means this hits all the marks, but there is so much more you could be saying with a voice unique to the brand.
The most clean cut example is Moon Pie – a 70s marshmallow relic now turned pop culture it-brand. A few years ago the company was struggling to be relevant with their glory days firmly behind them. Then they gave a very courageous social media manager all the reigns and today more young people love and follow Moon Pie than ever before. The fact that I know and love Moon Pies even though they are not available in South Africa just shows the value of using social media to speak to your audience in a language they understand. There are copious one-word answers, unfinished sentences, and a use of grammar that would make a copy-editor flinch. But it works. And not in one of their social media posts do you find they link to their website or promote sales. They simply talk in a unique and engaging way, automatically making me believe they are a unique and creative company!
If you're interested to learn more about Moon Pie's incredible social media presence, read this article by Forbes Magazine on "How MoonPie Became The Unexpected Top Social Media Brand Of 2017"
Another great example is any government-affiliated agency. These guys usually have giant websites and all the required social media channels. Normally they also have A LOT of information. Every event, notice, speech, anything is paired with a press release, hashtag, unique artwork. But now let's be serious, the only people who read this and follow stories are journalists, and only because they have to. I am more than confident that this is purely because of their tone and writing style. Most likely the biggest, most fancy words are used and synonyms of those words are scattered throughout each piece of content. It's difficult to understand. I would much rather have an online news retailer decimate the info for me than plough through it myself.
But just imagine if we could read that al information in small, bite-size, understandable and relatable chunks without needing to go through a third-party? Government is boring, but it could also be incredibly empowering if it had a voice we could understand. Now think of that statement for any other brand.
The era of communication being high-brow is over, understanding your customer, your reader is key to any successful digital content strategy. So, what's your unique tone of voice?