social media how toWhat message does your brand convey to socially engaged customers?

As we enter the golden age of social media, companies can no longer afford the luxury of tightly scripted, top-down messaging (e.g., “We’re the best! Take our word for it.”).

Nor can a company simply opt out and remain silent (as epitomized in Northwestern Mutual’s “The Quiet Company” ad campaign of years past).

As social media channels have increased, so has the need to communicate effortlessly and simultaneously. Just as presidential candidates now face the constant scrutiny of a 24-hour news cycle, companies are being called on to respond in real time across multiple media platforms. This is not a time for hesitation.

To market effectively, companies need a consistent, compelling brand voice—one that doesn’t pause, mumble or clam up. Here are five ways to share your message comfortably and confidently.

#1: Determine your brand personality

The majority of small businesses grow organically, adding clients and services over time. As they evolve, they gain a reputation for how they conduct business. Taking the time to identify your company’s personality traits, the reasons customers come to you, is pivotal to determining your brand voice. Are you serious and professional? Edgy and innovative? Funny and informal?

Need a good exercise? Compare your company brand to a type of car, a hotel chain, a CEO, etc., to see which one best represents you. Are you more Richard Branson or Bill Gates? Are you a Land Rover or a Prius? Ritz Carlton or Motel 6? Define your character and you’ll speak with greater conviction.

#2: Identify your true audience

As any comedian will tell you, the same material plays differently to different rooms. Make sure you know your audience, one that’s receptive to your message and congruent with your brand.

For example, if you are a B2B company, LinkedIn and Google+ will prove a more fertile ground than tweeting out your professional service offerings to random followers. Rather than a shotgun approach, align your brand and commit your resources to those communities that will respond to your message.

Join industry-specific subgroups and forums. Participate by offering thoughtful responses in your area of expertise. And while it’s important to measure your brand’s Klout score, it means little if you’re speaking to the wrong crowd. To find out more about your tribe, check out valuable demographic information available through Facebook Insights.


Klout offers one way to measure your brand's reach and impact.

#3: Develop a consistent tone

With branding, consistency is king, so be sure to convey a familiar style of messaging when you communicate. There’s no single right or wrong way to speak, as long as it’s congruent.

The online e-newsletter company, MailChimp, has a fun, campy feel no matter what they write. From tweets such as, “You’re most welcome, human friend. Eep eep!” to a tongue-in-cheek “Pioneers in banana technology,” they are comfortable with their informal tone.


MailChimp's home page features their playful mascot demonstrating their fun style of communication.

Woot! offers witty commentary about their deal of the day, rather than stale product information. So no matter what style of communication you choose, stay with it.

woot tongue in cheek

Woot!'s tongue-in-cheek product descriptions keep consumers amused (and shopping!).

Don’t speak authoritatively on your company Facebook page, post Gandhi quotes on Twitter and then upload hilarious office pranks on YouTube. Multi-personality disorder will not sit well with potential customers.

If several staff members contribute to your social media, make sure they understand your brand personality (see step #1) and write from that point of view.


Woot!'s snarky voice speaks to their brand of humor.

#4: Timing is everything

Knowing when to speak is often crucial to establishing a credible brand voice in the market. Jumping in too soon or waiting too long can make you appear hasty or out-of-touch.

Set Google alerts on key subject matter in your industry so that you can remain informed, knowledgeable and ready to offer insights and commentary when appropriate.

google alerts

Google Alerts takes seconds to set up and can be customized for weekly or daily delivery, straight to your email.

google alert for today

Google Alerts provide easy, top-line reading to keep you informed and up-to-date on industry trends and developments.

Having material will also allow you to participate regularly, while avoiding the pitfall of under- or overcommunication. (Nothing like a torrent of tweets to turn off followers.)

Timely contributions demonstrate that the proverbial “lights are on” and someone is at home in your business. If your last blog post or update is six months old, that speaks volumes.


If your only post looks like this, you'll give the impression that you have stage fright.

On the flip side, with pressure mounting to “get out there” and participate in social media, it’s easy to feel compelled to say something… anything… just to prove you are using all the tools available. Avoid appearing inept by gaining a sense of the conversation and reading through comments and feedback before rushing in.

#5: Practice makes perfect

Hesitation stems from lack of confidence. And nothing builds confidence faster and better than practice. Fortunately, the web provides ample opportunity to perfect your brand voice. Start with your company blog (You have one, right?) and build a library of helpful articles showcasing your expertise.

These gems can be repurposed and submitted to various article directories to further amplify your message. Reach out to online publications and blog sites as a contributing author. Pepper in a few good tweets, Facebook updates and LinkedIn contributions, and you have the makings of a recognized voice in your industry.

Knowing your brand personality and audience, speaking consistently at the right time and honing your message will improve your brand voice and strengthen your identity. By following these five simple guidelines, you’ll feel more at ease communicating to a growing audience. In the end, you’ll be writing your own words, while speaking your customers’ language.

What do you think? How steady is your brand voice? Has social media affected what you say and how you say it? If so, share your experiences in the comments box below.

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  • Same principles, different medium, good article nevertheless

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  • Sarah

    Great, cohesive article. Thanks! 

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  • I agree to the principle, though working for several clients I’ve had to face some kind of “multiple personnalities” coming from the different services: marketing, commercial… Each time you have to deal with people not having the same approach and not seeing the same uses of social networks, not expecting the same results, hence not tlaking in the same voice. Having to find a balanced tone is therefore pretty hard.

  • This is the challenge a number of brands are facing… speaking consistently and coherently across all these media channels. It really boils down to management/leadership instilling a sense of the brand’s overarching principles and values vs. micro-managing each communication. If the entire team has a sense of the overall goals and vision of the organization, they will most likely speak with a unified voice. If not, it might be an indication that things are not all that clear at the top. 

  • In the end, the real goal is to convince all the different contacts, each with their own (non-)culture of the social media that keeping the same voice is a sine qua non condition to an efficient approach of the social media. Any tips on how to explain this to “dinosaurs” who consider the web as something where you can basically say anything in any way at any time and for a “made in China” price?

  • Typically the thing that speaks loudest to “dinosaurs” is dollars. Highlighting costly marketing faux pas can underscore the need (and value) of brand consistency. Netflix’s recent Qwikster fiasco is one good example.

  • Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way in France: lots of companies still underestimate the value of a good online communication even with examples. They’re still deeply attached to traditional media and will never give up TV for even the most pertinent web campaign. But thank you for that tip on Qwikster and Netflix, I’ll probably use it as a case study next time I need to convince a client.

  • Great article Phillip. I think branding is extremely important for businesses and your article clearly illustrated the steps that every business should take to increase their visibility and increase their reputation. I will definitely be sharing this article with my followers. Thanks!

  • #5: Practice makes perfect

    Most important anyway… I think

  • I’m quite interested to see why Google+ was recommended over Twitter for B2B in #2. I haven’t seen that much B2B interaction on Google+ yet, and I think it is probably too early for most brands to suggest that Google+ has made a significant impact on their business. Would love to be shown different if you have any examples though?

  • Keith

    “Perfect” practice makes perfect, as one childhood basketball coach used to drill into me. 

  • Great article

  • In our work with clients, Twitter seems better suited for B2C businesses than B2B. (think retail, e-commerce) As a business service provider, I’ve yet to see much come directly from Twitter. (Jump in if you’ve experienced otherwise.) Google+ is more of a “hedge your bets” play, since so much of their algorithm and ranking seems based on their own internal data. So as a B2B company, I would focus on LinkedIN, YouTube, (look for video to expand) Facebook and Google+, probably in that order. If you are a speaker, consultant or solopreneur, Twitter can prove useful in positioning your personal brand as a thought leader/influencer.

  • PhilMershon

    In fact, practice makes permanent. So practice well!

  • Bridget Lelarge

    Thanks.  Easy to follow direction.  I think our brand will be better suited to LinkedIn & Google+ with tweets & FB updates to back it up.  Can’t wait to get this project off the ground 🙂

  • Andrew Smith

    A comprehensive exposition. Thank you for the information.  I want to suggest and recommend a course I had completed which proved to be very useful: Mentoring & Coaching which advocate the welfare of the worker. Would you be so kind to explore the above course and provide possible feedback? When I toured Buenos Aires the hotel I stayed in advertised the above course. 

  • Nice article with some great advice. One thing I would say is that, while I agree traditional ‘top-down messaging’ – or preaching your brand to employees – doesn’t work in a social media environment that requires a much more fluid, multi-disciplined approach, the need for direction on brand messaging and voice is essential.

    Communicating the essence of your brand effectively internally is where this can and should start. This doesn’t have to be preached through a brand manifesto or style guide. In fact, it will resonate more effectively if it is simply demonstrated through internal or employee comms.

    You could also argue that it all really starts with your recruitment communications, ensuring you attract and then retain people who are a good cultural or brand personality fit. Communicating consistently and effectively as a business, across myriad channels, then becomes much easier and more authentic.

    Thanks for the insights.

  • Very strong advice, you clearly know what you’re talking about. I think a consistent tone is key, especially to make sure your employees know what the “tone” is like you said.

  • Aniekan Okono

    Let me recommend to you a startup B2B social network, this is the article I wrote about it
    Who are the people who use the site?
    C.E.O’s of SME’sSales ManagersPurchasing mangersInternational and country representatives or assistants of companiesIndividuals (interested in business opportunities)International investors/Corporations looking to invest in emerging markets or do business in Abroad

  • Great tips! You are right in saying marketers have to connect and communicate much more than before to reach out to their audience effectively. Go Social!

  • Varticaanand2020

    good article…must say…

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  • consistency with brand tone is huge and this is the first time I’ve seen it written as a tip. I love it! 

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  • He who has most money will have most dominance in social media. At the end of the day you are all employed by a company to what you do on the web.

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  • Dear Phillip, I agree with Nate on the main theme of consistency. Providing reliable information, interaction and consistent updates and visibility on social networks. Very helpful article. Blessings, Debby

  • Hi Phillip, thanks for these very valuable tips. 

    I’m reading Positioning (by Al Ries and Jack Trout) for the 3rd time and here’s my 2 cents to add: “Know how words affect people”. 

    As Al & Jack clarify in easy to understand words: “Words are triggers. They trigger the meanings which are buried in the mind (of your audience).” So, be sure you know which words trigger your audience problems or expectations. Use these words to position yourself as the solution. 

    With the right words you’ll be able to show your audience the gap they have to cross to go from sheer frustration to pure happiness. Make sure you position your social brand as the bridge they need to cross this gap.

  • Thanks Phillip. Yes, that’s why I’m a big fan of SocialMediaExaminer. I love the little guy with the helmet. And above all you’ve proven again with your article that SocialMediaExaminer is -IMO- the best guide in the social media jungle. One of the best examples of a strong social brand!

  • Good article.. Branding is important to ensure you get a good reputation…
    I need to work on it.. Thanks for the article

  • Wilsonleews

    clear and simple principle for every one to follow,

  • Hi Philip! Awesome tips have been posted. As mentioned here, it is very important to make our brand more social for getting good results. These tips are very helpful to me. Thanks for sharing.

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  • My favorite is #5 – Practice makes perfect.  It’s great to be informed and prepared before you start, but nothing will help you get your tone and message polished than actually using them. 

  • Interesting as I find twitter is my number one source of leads as far a social media is concerned, and I’m a B2B business. I agree that it’s not for everyone, but I’m a firm believer in trying everything, measuring what’s working and concentrating on that.

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  • Does
    anyone else see the irony in this statement? 

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