Finding Your Brand’s Voice – A Lesson I Learned the Hard Way

One of the least talked about, but most important things a community manager is responsible for is the brand’s tone.  It’s a huge responsibility, as the community manager helps shape the perception of a brand with it’s online audience. In fact, for that very reason, some companies’ social media team is part of the PR department.

I’ve worked for both small and large companies, B2B and B2C, and the brand voice for all was completely different.  When I first moved from the B2B world to my job at Sony, making the voice transition was difficult. I sounded like a corporate robot in a hip, cool environment. My manager was kind enough to school me on voice — she’d help me turn:

We’re so pleased that you found our product useful

to

Awesome to hear you liked your new camera!  Make sure you tweet us with some of the pics.

The latter fit the Sony brand, the former was a typical B2B customer service response.  Guess which one performed better?

Fast forward to my current job at BlueHornet. Back to B2B, but a bit hipper that my previous B2B gig.  I mean we have bumper stickers that say “Keep BlueHornet Weird”, after all.

After a month or so at the company, I was ready to take the Twitter/Facebook reigns. One of my first tweets was something to the effect of:

OMG, we’re loving this article – (link to article)

I had a few more tweets like that, and then asked my manager how I was doing on the brand voice.  “Well…” she said “…you’re getting a little cheesy.”

So…what worked for Sony does not work for BlueHornet.  Point taken — and the numbers proved it.  After I toned down the cheese (while still keeping a personality) we got more retweets, followers and engagement.

Key takeaways:

  • Know Your Audience:  You can’t speak to a gamer the same way you speak to a marketing manager.
  • You Will Fail: It’s almost impossible to jump right into a new company and understand the nuances and voice of that brand.  Test out a few things, see what works, and recalibrate as needed.
  • Ask for Feedback: Does it suck to hear your baby is ugly (aka your tone doesn’t work for the brand)? Yes. But in the long run, you and your boss will be a happier team if you assure him/her that you’re open to feedback. Writing and tone is a very creative thing, and a lot of people won’t feel comfortable bringing up their concerns. The solution? Just ask.
  • Be a Real Person: Even though I tweet from @BlueHornetEmail and post to our Facebook page, I like to think that there’s a little bit of me in every post.  Not only does it make for a more engaged audience, but I personally feel a since of accomplishment when I’m able to use my expertise and wacky sense of humor to positively impact the company.

What are you thoughts?  Have you had similar challenges with community management?

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