In any business setting social media provides a new(ish) context for investigating customer engagement. This article explores one of the ways to tell a brand’s story through tone of voice.
The role social media plays
In a recent blog post, In focus: social media marketing – 5 rules to create by, I talked about different tactics to help social media marketing strategies keep current and up-to-date. The last point briefly explored the idea of a business’s ‘tone of voice’, and how it can humanise what can be a robotic experience.
Social media is still a relatively new thing, especially for investigating customer engagement. However, it is a marketing strategy that can be unpredictable at best, and volatile at worst. This may be due to a limited understanding of the type of content to be published, and how customers may react to their posts.
In some marketing situations I have found that an ‘off-the-cuff’, spontaneous post does better in terms of engagement than a more crafted post. In other situations, the opposite has happened – and I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this. The unpredictability of social media makes for a potentially hard time for many marketing professionals. As much as we can predict future trends, nothing is ever set in stone, and becoming viral might not be down to skill but pure luck.
(Internet) ‘Meme Theory’
Richard Dawkins coined the term ‘meme’ in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Meme theory, at its most simple level, suggests that ideas, behaviours, or skills are transferred between people through the process of replication.
In terms of modern culture, meme theory operates mainly in social media. While many memes are humorous, and often nonsensical in the first instance unless you’re privy to what they refer to, memes can also bring about big cultural changes.
For example, there have been huge environmental movements such as the plastic bag ban and, more recently, the ban on plastic straws.
If you do want to market your company through memes, it’s important to understand that they are fleeting and, chances are, an attempt at virality will fall flat due to the lack of spontaneity. A corporate entity trying to jump on the bandwagon potentially doesn’t sit well with users looking for a genuine experience. This is why tone of voice is crucial.
Creating a voice
What is a brand voice? Simply put it is the distinct personality a brand takes on in its communications. The aim is not only to create a great customer experience but something memorable in a sea of competitors, where the flow of words and the language used adds to the journey a consumer is taking. It’s a common misconception that branding only refers to the visuals a consumer is shown, which means it could often be overlooked. The visual component(s) and the written content should complement each other and not be disjointed.
What was once a more predictable customer purchasing path has been transformed by the digital revolution. Those working in a market that targets customers/ decision makers must engage the consumer throughout their buying journey due to the newer circular pattern of touch-points, as customers research, evaluate, select, and share experiences about products and services in online networks.
A circular buyer’s journey refers to a digital era customer who follows a purchase-consumption circular loop. With the proliferation of information in the digital space, the customer is more informed, enabling businesses to start with a narrower consideration set (source: Vieira et al., 2019, p. 1100). Circular patterns occur when consumers are exploring, researching or discovering, but they are not limited to one channel of information. This means that they do not need to complete specific steps as they jump between media platforms/content with no specific aim.
The fundamentals of how to create a voice are largely the same as when it was first talked about, while it may have been subject to updates and changes due to new platforms (i.e. TikTok), new social algorithms and the advent of Meta.
Consistency in a brand’s voice is key for consumers to understand more about what you offer. If you rely heavily on a corporate tone of voice, a random conversational post will potentially contradict what your brand stands for. This could mean a loss of trust in your brand from customers.
Knowing who is likely to buy your product/ service should be at the top of your priorities for your content. Creating a few buyer personas and investigating what your ideal client interacts with will put you in good stead for your strategy.
The foundation of your voice should also be how you want your brand to be perceived – do you want to be a unique player on the field or do you want to emulate your competitors?
The bottom line should certainly be creating an authentic experience for those who already engage, and those who you want to engage with your brand.
Brands can’t buy authenticity so more emphasis is placed on the credibility of what you write and disseminate. The following points are important to raise the levels of your authentic brand:
Therefore, though you can’t buy authenticity, you can offer it – and here’s how:
- Define what makes your brand special – let your content flow from that.
- Let your product dictate your voice – if you sell aspirational products, talk aspirations.
- Know your audience – even if you are talking in the right way to your audience, it is still important to be talking about the right things.
- Be consistent – though style or type of content changes depending on platform, your tone should not.
- Identify gaps – if your brand competes in a crowded marketplace, ask yourself ‘what is the competition not offering’.
- Coordinate your content – if your market operates seasonally, or your marketing calendar prioritises different services at different points in the year, tailor content to match.
The evolution of a brand story
What was once a storytelling strategy is now storytelling and then some. It links back to a brand’s authenticity – consumers are looking for real-life and relevant experiences. They are no longer looking for what a brand is saying, but what a brand is doing – actions speak louder than words.
Being able to start a conversation is more important than a one dimensional approach. Forrester reported that:
77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalised service or experience.
A recent blog post by Ana Cvetkovic from Shopify states that “story is important to more than just yourself. It resonates with your employees and with customers, cultivating a community of brand advocates who stand behind and support it.”
Creativity fuels a brand’s story, and being able to tap into the minds of your potential customers and influence their decisions based on your imaginative content is impressive.
Lee Kavanagh said in a post on brandyou.ie “stories humanise us and no amount of marketing, however clever, can replace our need to feel connected”, and I for one certainly agree.
How we’ve used our expertise
One of our clients, Kandoo, came to us with the main aim of growing their brand awareness across 8 different countries they sold products in – UK, Ireland, UAE, Malta, Spain, Switzerland, France and Germany. This was to be primarily done through social media.
They wanted their target audience to engage with them by creating posts in a variety of creative ways, while keeping to the Kandoo tone-of-voice and using recognisable visuals.
The initial challenge was the fact that different countries had stipulated that the copy would be translated to their native languages. Our bespoke social strategies were sent to community managers for translation. We wanted to keep the light tone of voice consistent throughout the strategies and have been able to use the community managers in a unique way as they know slang, local dialects and popular hashtags doing the rounds, ensuring the client’s messaging is 100% correct.
To read the results from our campaign with Kandoo, you can find it here.
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