May 26, 2011

Is Your Social Media Voice Oscar-Worthy?

As businesses flock to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and FourSquare, it’s more important than ever to create a distinctive social media voice that stands out from the crowd and reflects your own unique offering.

While most businesses are vigilant about keeping branding and messaging consistent across their websites, business cards, and e-blasts, many still don’t focus on how they speak to their customers via Facebook and Twitter.

If you’re an authoritative financial brand whose target audience is high net worth C-suite investors, for instance, you may not want to use Twitter to urge them to “check out this awesome mashup.” Or, if you’re an edgy fashion retailer whose target market is 20-something fashionistas, you may not want to post: “please connect with us on LinkedIn to see our new SlideShare presentation.” And, as tempting as it may be to turn your Facebook page or Twitter Feed over to an intern, most interns sound like, well… interns… and not necessarily like your brand.

Carefully crafting a social media voice that reflects and expresses who you are (or who you aspire to be) helps ensure that your social media strategy dovetails – instead of clashes — with your overall marketing strategy.

So what is the best way to create a “brand voice” that works across social media platforms to engage your audience or customers in a dialogue about your brand?

Why not take a cue from the masters of great dialogue – screenwriters.

Screenwriters (whether they’re based in Hollywood, Bollywood, or Pinewood) all share a common craft: they create distinctive characters, they place those characters in a context, they give those characters a goal, then they show us how that character pursues that goal.

Creating a great social media voice for you or your company is a similar process: just substitute “character” with “brand.” Businesses that use social media effectively start by creating a distinctive brand identity across social media platforms, they give the brand a context with a clear, consistent positioning, they prioritize their marketing goals, and then they get to work telling their brand’s story as they pursue that goal.

And, just as a good screenwriter would not send a small French mouse to battle the Matrix or send a trench-coated hacker into a restaurant kitchen to create souffle, your brand’s character needs to fit your brand story and marketing goals.

The first step is to identify your goals clearly, both short and long-term, so you can align your social media tactics with those targets in mind. (How to set your goals is a whole other discussion, of course, but it always helps to start with the basics: Are you trying to gain greater brand awareness? Sell products online? Drive foot traffic to a physical store?)

Once you’ve defined your goals, it’s time to analyze your two most important characters: you and your audience. Is your brand young or mature, witty or authoritative, informative or entertaining, provocative or helpful, all business or mixing business with pleasure? Is your audience millennial or boomers, fun-loving or demanding, passionate or critical, skeptical or looking for a reason to believe? The answers will help you choose the language, the tone, even the adjectives your brand should be using to communicate effectively with your target audience.

Now take a look at your brand identity and positioning and create a list of keywords and topics that reflect what makes you distinctive, valuable and unique. Are these keywords appearing frequently in your social media updates? Using a tool like Tweetcloud (which creates a “tag cloud” of your recent tweets) is great way to take a “snapshot” of your overall messaging on Twitter.

Also, make sure you are engaging your audience and giving them something of value. A great rule of thumb in social media is that approximately 60% of your content should create value for your audience, 30% should be engagement and interaction, and 10% should be things that make you “human,” interesting, and unique. That 10% can be a great way to reinforce your brand’s relationship with its target audience as well. If you’re brand is young and hip, feel free to share your passion for extreme sports. If your brand is sophisticated and international, sharing new wines or resorts you’ve discovered could be a great way to share extra value and create personal relationships.

Just like many screenwriters say their best characters often take on lives of their own and tell the screenwriter what should happen next, an expertly-crafted social media personality can reward you by creating unexpected and valuable new relationships for your business or brand.

Craft your social media voice well by creating a distinctive “character” your audience will value interacting with, give your voice context by aligning it with your business’ positioning, give that voice clear goals to achieve, then get ready for its starring role telling your brand story. The award for best social media voice goes to…

This post was commissioned by British Airways. The opinions are my

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