Finding Your Social Media Voice


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This course teaches the importance of a strong organizational voice and how to communicate your organizationʼs value through social media.

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Finding Your Social Media Voice

  1. 1. 1! Finding Your Social Media Voice! Presented by Jed Sundwall! December 2, 2009! Captura Group!
  2. 2. 2! Agenda! This course teaches the importance of a strong organizational voice and how to communicate your organizationʼs value through social media.! Topics covered:! •  Voice fundamentals! •  Identifying your mission and audience! •  Identifying your voice! •  Social media voice best practices! •  Examples of social media voices! •  Managing your voice!
  3. 3. 3! Voice fundamentals! Your voice is a major component of your brand identity!
  4. 4. 4! What is an organizational voice?! Your organizationʼs voice underlies all of its communication—it is what constituents hear or read wherever they encounter you! Your organizationʼs voice is found in:! •  News releases! •  Brochures! •  FAQs! •  Web content! •  Customer service! Telephone girls on Stock Quotation Service •  Emails! © Time Inc. •  Interviews with representatives! •  Tweets?!
  5. 5. 5! Why voice matters! Your voice is a major component of your brand identity! A consistent voice can:! •  Communicate value, authority, energy, professionalism, and personality! •  Underscore organizational values and objectives! •  Make your organization more memorable! Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower at the Voice of America © Time Inc.
  6. 6. 6! Why social media voice matters! Social media requires organizations to communicate more rapidly in conversational contexts! Challenges of social media:! •  Rapid communication! •  Constant changes require new processes and training! •  Multiple formats feature unique benefits and challenges! •  Blogs! •  Twitter! •  Facebook! •  YouTube! Barack Obama communicating on Facebook
  7. 7. 7! Your voice self! A clear organizational voice requires a deep understanding of your mission and audience!
  8. 8. 8! Who are you?! Your voice must accurately reflect your organization and its mission! Answer these questions to ensure that your voice is authentic and deliberate:! •  Are you representing an agency or program?! •  What is your mission?! •  What unique information do you have to offer?! •  Why are you speaking?! •  Why do you want people to subscribe to your updates?! •  How long will your organization exist?! Know thyself! Japanese woman with mirrors from George Eastman House on Flickr
  9. 9. 9! Who are you talking to?! Your language, content and tone should be informed by knowledge of your audience! Answer these questions to ensure that your voice is appropriate to your audience:! •  Who do you want to reach?! •  Who wants to hear from you?! •  What are your audienceʼs top tasks?! •  How does your audience prefer to communicate?! •  What do people expect from you?! •  Why do people subscribe to your updates?! 3-D Film Audience © Time Inc.
  10. 10. 10! Research! Perform research to gain a better understanding of your organization and audience! Internal research methods! Audience research methods! Stakeholder interviews! Site traffic analysis! Online surveys! Online surveys! Competitive analysis! Focus groups! Content audits! Ethnographies!
  11. 11. 11! Your voice! Your voice is characterized by context, language, content, tone, and frequency !
  12. 12. 12! How do you communicate?! Analyze your current media to inform your social media strategy! Some “traditional” means of communication:! •  News releases! •  FAQs! •  Press kits! •  Annual reports! •  Brochures! •  Presentations! Newspaper founder Robert S. Abbott (R) © Time Inc. •  PSAs (print, TV, and radio)! •  Web content! •  Emails!
  13. 13. 13! What language do you speak?! Your language depends upon your audience and mission ! Consider the following: ! •  Does your mission require you to speak a particular language?! •  Does a significant portion of your audience speak a particular language?! •  Is your audience diverse and large enough to The White House has a widely varied audience and communicates in a variety of languages mix languages?! •  Would you benefit from creating a new communication channel in a particular language?! exists specifically to serve a Spanish speaking population
  14. 14. 14! Plain language or jargon?! Use jargon if your audience will benefit from it, but always write clearly! •  Use language and terminology that is meaningful to your audience! •  Clear and direct language is always good, but jargon is not inherently bad! What? This message is not intended for me. That’s OK. The Argonne National Lab communicates in plain language about technical topics
  15. 15. 15! What do you talk about?! Communicate value by providing useful information to your audience! Common types of content:! •  News updates! •  Research findings! •  Public service announcements! •  Emergency notifications! This was the best I could come up with Ostrich reads newspaper of caretaker From Nationaal Archief on Flickr
  16. 16. 16! How often do you talk?! Most large organizations are used to issuing a few official communications per year! •  Which activities merit official communications?! •  How long does it take to create an official communication?! •  How many people have to edit and approve official communications?! Phyllis Diller using three telephones © Time Inc.
  17. 17. 17! Your social media voice! Adopting social media requires you to communicate faster, more personably, and more directly with your audience!
  18. 18. 18! Be authentic! Stay true to your mission and audience! •  Your audience has certain expectations of you. Meet them. ! •  Using social media should not change your objectives or core content! •  Do not confuse your audience by sounding like a different organization on different channels! Honest Abe Abraham Lincoln, January 8, 1864 From The Library of Congress on Flickr
  19. 19. 19! Be timely and relevant! Social media operates in real time! •  People use social media to find out whatʼs happening now. Tell them.! •  It is ok to post links to old materials as long as there is a clear connection to current events affecting your audience! •  There is no firm rule on how often you should communicate through social media, but remember that users are commonly annoyed by too frequent posting! Wrist Watch © Time Inc.
  20. 20. 20! Be more social! Social contexts require that you sound more…! •  Casual – Your social media communications will be mingled with personal messages from usersʼ friends and family. Try to fit in.! •  Human – Social media are designed primarily to allow people to socialize with people. ! •  Concise – Your content on social media outlets is forced to compete with countless personal messages, jokes, and games. Get to the point. ! The White House competes with baby pictures on Facebook
  21. 21. 21! Speak directly to your audience! Use social media to speak directly to your audience in their language! •  Social media allows you to communicate directly with your audience, without going through traditional media organizations! •  Traditional media may gather leads from your social media communications, but always cater to your primary audience! •  Posting too many press releases and other self serving updates may alienate some users and A librarian's assistant telling a story damage your reputation! from New York Public Library on Flickr
  22. 22. 22! Be consistent but flexible! A consistent voice allows your followers and fans to build a relationship with you over time! •  People typically subscribe to your social media updates through an RSS feed or by “following” or becoming a “fan.” Maintaining a consistent voice over time will foster loyalty from your subscribers.! •  You cannot anticipate or control the makeup of your audience. Be prepared to adapt your voice to your followersʼ needs as you learn more Be like a river, steady but adaptable Deschutes River horseshoe about them.! From Oregon State University Archives on Flickr
  23. 23. 23! Avoid social media jargon! Social media may require some abbreviations and new syntax, but being understood is paramount! •  Always aspire to write clearly within restraints ! •  Do not assume that your audience is as savvy as you are! •  Being understood is paramount!! Found via Kathy Sierra This was ironic and embarrassing
  24. 24. 24! Social media voice best practices! •  Be authentic! •  Be timely and relevant! •  Be more social! •  Speak directly to your audience! •  Be consistent but flexible! •  Being understood is paramount!!
  25. 25. 25! Examples! Your voice will vary across different forms of social media!
  26. 26. 26! Blogs! Blog posts allow for long, rich communication! •  Long prose provides plenty of room to demonstrate personality and provide rich information! •  Conversational prose can lead to inflated and rambling paragraphs. Avoid this because your readers are likely distracted by other tasks, emails, and browser windows.! •  Remember William Strunk, Jr.ʼs axiom: “Vigorous writing is concise.”! TSA’s Blogger Bob has a great voice
  27. 27. 27! 
 Blog example The Globe Program!
  28. 28. 28! 
 Blog example Gov Gab!
  29. 29. 29! 
 Blog example The Justice Blog!
  30. 30. 30! Updates & tweets! Facebook and Twitter updates require vigorous writing! •  Character restraints on Twitter and Facebook require careful editing and precise word choice ! •  Each update should be focused on a single topic! •  Social media updates are forced to compete with a lot of other information, make yours clear and valuable! •  Short form communication is here to stay! •  Remember that users are commonly annoyed by too frequent posting! Tweets have a hard time standing out
  31. 31. 31! 
 Facebook example FCC!
  32. 32. 32! 
 Facebook example U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs!
  33. 33. 33! 
 Twitter example on Twitter!
  34. 34. 34! 
 Twitter example on Twitter!
  35. 35. 35! Video, photos & podcasts! Language used to describe multimedia content should match your voice! •  Strengthen your multimedia content with clear and explanatory titles and descriptions! •  Remember your audience when writing titles and descriptions! •  What do they need to know about your content?! •  Why does your content matter to them?! •  Seek to use keywords in titles and descriptions to facilitate discovery through search! Content titles and descriptions and video scripts are opportunities to reinforce your voice
  36. 36. 36! 
 Podcast example NOAAʼs Making Waves!
  37. 37. 37! 
 Podcast example Inside the FBI!
  38. 38. 38! Managing your voice! Use styleguides to ensure a consistent organizational voice!
  39. 39. 39! Styleguides! Styleguides and editorial guidelines help maintain a consistent voice by training and The best journalists appreciate that unifying staff! writing well is not a tiresome duty but a necessity. This guide is intended as a •  Styleguides need executive support to be small contribution to achieving that end. effective! It is, though, just what is says it is – a •  Create styleguides that address issues unique guide. It is not a collection of rules and to your organization! regulations. It is not a dictionary and it •  Styleguides should not be rule books! is not a list of what is acceptable and •  It is ok to leverage existing 3rd party what is not. The aim is to stimulate styleguides! thought and to highlight areas of • and have created potential difficulty. guidelines specifically for social media From Why does the BBC need a style guide? outreach!
  40. 40. 40! Practice, practice, practice! Your voice will develop over time with practice! Clear writing leads to clear thinking. You don't know what you know until you try •  The relatively high volume of communication to express it. Good writing is partly a required by social media provides many matter of character. Instead of doing opportunities to develop your voice! what's easy for you, do what's easy for •  Stay focused on your mission and your your reader. audience! — Michael A. Covington, Professor of Computer •  Good writing is good social media writing, so Science at The University of Georgia practice writing!!
  41. 41. 41! Styleguide resources! Free styleguides available online! Email me at •  The Economist Style Guide! for a copy of the latest and! social media editorial •  The BBC News Style Guide! guidelines.!! •  Wikipedia Manual of Style!!
  42. 42. 42! Writing resources! Some of my favorite writing resources! • – Writing for the Web! writing_and_editing.shtml! •!! •  The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White, 1918 ! •  Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples, 1932! •  Politics and the English Language by George Orwell, 1946! •  Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy, 1985! •  Copyblogger ! Good writing is timeless!