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Why is tone of voice important?

An introduction to tone of voice

Some useful expressions
Tone of voice – How your business speaks – the expression of your values and identity through spoken and written language. Shortened to TOV.
Conversational – This is used to describe a personal TOV that speaks to your audience in an informal, genuine and friendly way, which is especially important on social media.
Feed – A list of content relevant to an individual user, that is curated for them by each social platform. It’s often created by gathering a recent selection of social posts from within that platform. Each platform gives it a different name. On Facebook, it is called News Feed.
TOV Guideline Document – A definitive description of what your business’s TOV actually is, and how it should be used. It’s designed to be shared with your employees so all communications from your business are consistent.
Why is tone of voice important?
A unique TOV helps differentiate you from your competitors. It gives your business a distinct identity, and helps build an emotional connection with your audience. Get it right and they’ll feel like they’re developing a one-to-one relationship with a person rather than a business.
Your TOV also lets people know what sort of business you are and what they can expect from you. For example, a bank will often speak with a factual, authoritative and reassuring tone to let you know they are experts you can trust with your money:
“Our secure saver accounts offer steady returns year-on-year.”
On the other hand, a clothes store might take a lighter, more personal and conversational tone to show that they’re a fun, friendly place to shop:
“It’s time to get dressed for summer – and we’ve got the latest looks!”
Top tip: Think about how you speak to your customers through your traditional marketing. You should mirror this through your social media marketing to create a consistent voice across all customer interactions. But remember, social media is an opportunity to really develop a relationship with your audience. Your social media TOV can be slightly more friendly, and conversational, than other contact points.

Be conversational
Social media is conversational by nature. People don’t want long, dull corporate messages filling their feeds – they want engaging, entertaining, informative content from everyone they follow, including businesses. So be professional, but include personality. Be friendly. Invite responses. Stay relevant and be interested in what your audience are into.
A good way to start your thinking is to recall times you’ve delivered great customer service, or had a really fulfilling chat with a customer. What did you do to make that a special, or fun, experience for them? Take this style of verbal conversation and apply it to your written communication.
Top tip: Remember that social media is an opportunity for a casual and fun two-way conversation with your audience. Try and avoid sounding overly formal.
Create a TOV guideline document
It’s time for you to start creating your TOV. Think about what your business does, and the personality that best represents it and you. Start by writing down your business’s values and personality and then think more about what these characteristics actually mean.
Thinking of opposites can help here. For example:
Witty NOT Slapstick
Friendly NOT Stand-offish
Human NOT Corporate
These are the most important elements of your personality to convey when writing social media content.
Once you have those written down, start to think about how you can convey these characteristic’s through your TOV – how can you apply this insight to your business’s personality on social media? Equally, what should you avoid doing?
We have some examples to illustrate this below:
Characteristic (value): Enthusiastic
Description: We’re enthusiastic and passionate about our products, and our customers enjoying them
Do: Show your thought leadership and what makes your product unique. Champion your products, and see yourself as a cheerleader for your industry.
Avoid: Being too formal, or not conveying enough excitement about your product
Characteristic (value): Knowledgeable
Description: We pride ourselves on knowing a lot about our industry, and what we offer
Do: Convey your authority on your subject through your TOV. Be honest and direct. Use clear language to simply explain your offering to your audience.
Avoid: Using overly complicated language – even though you understand it and it’s relevant to your product, it will alienate your audience
Characteristic (value): Fun
Description: For us, business is not “all work and no play”. Enjoyment plays a very big role.
Do: Add elements of fun and entertainment to your visual identity and how you showcase your products.
Avoid: Being too serious, but also, going too far and coming across as slapstick or unprofessional
Top tip: Try and create a short and focused list of a few key characteristics – this will make it easier to apply these insights to your business’s social media content.
Consistency is the key
Shifts in TOV can be incredibly confusing for your audience. Once you’ve defined your voice, use it consistently in all of your communications. People need to know what they’re getting from every interaction with you – it’s reassuring and lets them know you’re a reliable business.
However, while your TOV needs to be consistent, it also needs to be adaptable in certain situations. For example, you might be a fun, chatty brand. But while you might post something humorous to engage people on social media, you wouldn’t respond to a customer complaint with a joke.
Let's recap
  • Your TOV is a key element of your business’s identity, and will help you stand out from your competitors
  • Your TOV should be unique to your business – it’s how you interact with your audience
  • Be consistent, but give yourself room to adapt your TOV depending on the situation
  • Create a TOV Guideline Document to share with other employees

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