Managing a social media page can be difficult. Each site and service uses different vocabulary, etiquette, and functions. Each draws a different audience, although some members may cross-over into different sites. One thing that remains the same between all of them is the idea of voice.
In recent weeks, we have seen a couple of examples of organizations and businesses both sticking to their established voice or not having a strong one in place. Chick-Fil-A has come under fire recently because of comments made discussing their beliefs. The President of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy, stated his (and the company’s) stance of not believing in same sex marriage due to their Christian faith. Regardless of whether you feel the same or not, I have not seen them back down from this thought. They have always been transparent to what their beliefs and values are, right up to their chains being closed on Sundays, and this stance should therefore not be surprising.
Again, I am not addressing the controversial issue, but trying to illustrate the idea of voice. Dan Cathy clearly knew what his company stands for, and his company continued to support him.
Let’s bring this review closer to home and look at the comments posted on the Rutland GOP Facebook page recently. Although the events were unfortunate and the apologies multiple, this is a great example of this idea of voice. It has been reported that the Rutland GOP did not write this post, but shared the thoughts of someone else. This happens all the time in social media, as it is easy to “share,” “retweet,” “repin,” etc. Sometimes, the service does not even allow the user to share their own thoughts or reflections when sharing someone else’s post.
Being aware that mistakes are made, your social media managers and page admins must know what your company stands for and supports. This is done easily by answering some questions, and should also be revisited every time you look at or update your brand.
Let’s discuss the four areas you should look at to establish your brand’s voice.
- Who You Are – Although this may seem like the easiest step, I would argue that it may actually be the hardest. It is difficult to think of an entity that you need to write and present as yourself as having separate thoughts, morals, and ideals than you do. These guidelines should cover sense of humor, sarcasm, professionalism, and even political views. Some of this may seem a bit extreme (why would my ice cream shop need to know its stance on abortion or international relations?), but you do not know what situations you will find your business amidst. You need to address how you view your business, and how you want to be seen, as well. You need to ensure that your social media presence is consistent with all other branding and marketing.
- Who You Audience Is – There are two distinct audience groups – those you want to reach, and those you are actually reaching. How can you present information in a way that your target audience will respond, react, and be engaged? What can you alter about your message (not only the way you are saying things, but what you are saying) that will attract the target audience?
You also need to take into account that online and offline communications are different. Social media communications and audience expectations differ even from email and other digital forms of communication. Be succinct and to the point. Bring your text to life with pictures and video. Frequently alter your cover photo (the long photo on the top of your profile page) to keep up with important events that will encourage audience response.
Do not only self-promote, but share information, articles, pictures, video, and community happenings that your audience will appreciate. In the case of the Rutland GOP, where they were sharing the words someone else wrote which caused them to be caught in some hot water. They may not have considered their audience entirely, or how the message would be absorbed by their audience.
- What Is Your Message – Before you begin typing away, think about how quickly your message and what you are sharing will spread. Depending upon the amount of fans or followers you have, your message virality will differ (This is the potential reach of your post. Not only your fans see your post, but when one of your fans likes or comments on your post or retweets it, for example, the number of people that actually see the information you shared spreads rapidly.) This is great if you are sharing relevant information and could hopefully draw more fans or followers to your social media presence. On the other hand, this backfires when you mistakenly share content that does not stick to your brand or company viewpoints. If you share information that is not relevant to your audience or offends them, you will quickly drive people away.
- How You React To Mistakes – If you make a mistake, don’t panic. Apologize. If a customer complains on your page, respond to it. How you react and the time that it takes you to react can have a positive influence on your brand.
Social media has made marketing a two-way conversation. Customers are observing how you handle difficult and challenging situations. What you do after that mistake is just as important as preventing another one from happening. This can be addressed during brand conversations by making sure someone is assigned to manage these social media relations. This is an important aspect of customer service, and can drastically affect the impact your brand has.
Your brand and voice are ever evolving. Make sure that you regularly address your brand and voice with key members of your team. Keep your brand and voice moving forward, as this will help you with new media and hurdles down the road.
This column originally appeared in the August 6, 2012 issue of the Rutland Herald.