Tone of Voice (TOV) is an old concept for Brands. PR releases, marketing and advertising campaigns follow strict brand and communication guidelines to ensure consistent presentation to the public. Additionally, with social media, TOV has taken on a higher level of importance. The luxury of pre-conceived topics spoon fed to journalists who are expected to reply days, weeks or months later are gone. Fans now voice their opinion on whatever topic they choose and expect Brands to respond in real time. This is an odd concept for me as I have always rejected the diffusion of responsibility within a faceless company in favour of having one person respond. But today’s social media, like Dr. Frankenstein gave to his monster, has given life to the Brand.
Important guidelines for TOV:
- Corporate culture and brand story should be clearly reflected in TOV
- Fans’ and customers’ way of communicating (use of language, education level, local phrasing) must be considered so the TOV “fits in” with the conversation
- Be consistent — TOV must be documented with guidelines. Inconsistent responses make fans uncomfortable, much like having an acquaintance with mood swings is not fun
- Multiple TOV’s for a brand are acceptable provided they follow guidelines and have purpose. Example:
- Daily engagement – follow language use of fans, be friendly and engaging
- Corporate B2B – formal and structured, response is concise using the grown up voice
- Customer service – empathy and informative, provide direction for solutions
Note for SME’s
Most businesses in the world are small businesses. The TOV on social media usually reflects the business owner and is often managed by them. Please note that we all have good days and bad days, but the message that you post on social media must always reflect your “good days”. When you post on social media, all the world can see and there is no taking it back.