Finding The Right Tone Of Voice On Social

Isabel Sandercock-Brown

January 11, 2020

Isabel Sandercock-Brown

January 11, 2020

‘It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.’ 

Oh, how true those words are! It’s why the same joke can be hilarious when told by one person, and completely fall flat from the mouth of another. The way you say things is important. Your voice and your tone are vital in not only communicating your message, but getting people to engage with it. 

But voice and tone are not synonyms, particularly when it comes to your brand. 

Voice is your consistent personality – it’s adjectives like playful, positive, or professional. While tone is your expression that adds flavour to your voice, it’s the emotional inflection that changes based on the audience, situation or context. 

Your ‘tone of voice’ is the application of your voice in a particular campaign, message, or channel. How much your tone of voice changes is dependant on your brand and your goals. 

In this guide, we’ll show you how to find yours.

 

So, Why Is Tone Of Voice Important?

Your tone of voice is how you relate to a situation, and get your audience to listen to your message. It’s how you demonstrate the feeling and emotion behind your brand, and how you spark feelings in your audience. 

For instance, your brand may have a quirky and playful voice but there may be a serious situation, in which your tone needs to be formal or sympathetic. Your personality (aka your voice) should still be evident, but your tone may need to change.  

On social media, where you are fighting for attention and trying to elicit an emotional response, your tone of voice is paramount and it should be consistent. 

By identifying and documenting your brand’s tone of voice, you’ll help your team understand and represent your brand more effectively. It also helps establish trust between Brand Managers and Content Producers – both internally and externally, with agencies like us. When there is trust and understanding, people are empowered to deliver the best and most effective content. 

 

Finding Your Tone Of Voice

If you know your brand, goals and values, finding your voice and your tone of voice is easy.

 

Step 1: Look at your brand guidelines 

Your voice should be evident in your brand guidelines. By looking at your brand’s tone, values, style, look and feel, do and don’ts, you should be able to describe your voice. 

For instance, are your brand colours black and white? That would suggest you’re a no-nonsense brand, and that your voice would be direct and simple. Or are your brand guidelines filled with colour and vibrancy, suggesting that your voice is quirky and playful? Get a feel for what your voice might be. 

If you don’t have brand guidelines, look at your company’s mission statement, then ask yourself:

  • What colours, fonts, and styles represent my brand?

  • If my brand was a celebrity, who would it be? 

  • Describe your ideal customer, including what they do and don’t like.

 

Step 2: Describe your voice

Once you’ve looked at your brand guidelines, or answered the above questions, pick 3-5 adjectives that describe your brand’s voice: 

Friendly  Playful Warm  Authoritative Inspiring  Professional Quirky Authentic  Helpful Practical Simple Confident  Smart Informal Formal Expert Serious Funny  Passionate Relatable Witty

Now, ask yourself why did you pick that word? Get specific about what it means to your brand and how it should be evident in your voice. 

For example: 

Playful – We like to connect to our audience through humour, and not take life too seriously. We’re playful, but not silly.  

Do use light-hearted humour, pop references and jokes. Don’t take too long to get to the point, or force the humour. 

 

Step 3: Decide on your overall tone

Who are you communicating to, how do you want them to feel and what do you want them to takeaway? 

Once you’re clear on your audience and the response you’re trying to elicit, identify the tone needed to spark the right emotion. 

Decide whether you want them to feel like they are talking to a friend or an expert. Should there be emotion in your tone of voice, or should it be scientific? Are you direct or humble? Personal or impersonal? Short and sharp, or soft and soothing? 

Decide what tone of voice you want for each of your key marketing channels. You may have a consistent tone across all your marketing channels, or you may want it to be slightly different based on the channel and its audience. For instance, your Facebook tone of voice may be more personal than your professional LinkedIn tone of voice. 

 

Using Your Tone Of Voice

Now that you’ve found your tone, you need to get clear on how to use it. 

Your tone of voice should be applied to all your content as well as your copy. Consistency is key, and the best way to deliver is to create rules and guidelines about the language and phrases you use for all your content creators follow.

Include things like:

  • Do you write in third or first person – third creates distance, while first is more personal.

  • Slang and jargon – if you’ve decided your tone of voice is playful and personal, use relevant slang and jargon. If you’ve decided your tone of voice is formal, direct and scientific, then avoid slang and jargon altogether.

  • Do you use cliches and idioms? 

  • Always using an active voice lead by strong verbs, as it has more of an impact – passive language doesn’t read or engage as well. 

Be clear about the do and don’ts and ensure everyone in the team understands your tone of voice – a clear written guideline goes a long way.

With every piece of content you create, you should ask: does this reflect our brand’s tone of voice and elicit the right emotion or response in our customers?

 

Examples 

Go-To Skincare

Playful. Funny. Helpful. 

Go-To have taken the voice of their founder, and turned it into a voice for their entire brand. Every piece of communication is oozing with fun and humour, and they remain consistent through everything they do (down to their email signatures and T&C’s). Their tone is personal and warm. But even when their tone shifts slightly, they adapt it to their voice so that you understand the emotion of what they’re telling you, but it sounds like Go-To. 

 

 

 

Apple

Simple. Confident. Smart. Inspiring.  

You could remove the Apple logo from every piece of marketing, and nearly every person would still know it’s Apple. Why? Because they’re always true to their brand. Their direct, simple, and no-fluff and to-the-point tone of voice remains the same, even when discussing serious issues. 

Netflix 

Humourous. Relatable. Witty. 

Netflix knows how to engage their audience. They have a distinguished voice and even when making announcements that warrant a slightly sombre tone, their voice is still clear and engaging. Their tone is always personal, and always makes the audience feel as though they are talking one-on-one just to them, like their best friend.  

 

 

 

 

Actions 

  1. Identify your voice and your tone of voice using the steps under ‘Finding Your Tone of Voice’.

  2. Create a tone of voice guideline, with ‘Using Your Tone of Voice’ as a reference.

  3. Organise a workshop for your team to come together and discuss the guideline, ensuring that everyone understands and feels comfortable with it.

  4. Implement your tone of voice into all your brand’s content creation – the more consistent you are, the better.

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