Finding Your Social Media Voice

Jed Sundwall

jed@measuredvoice.com

@measuredvoice
Social media is a critical interface to government.
Government organizations must now communicate in new
ways: briefly, fre...
Agenda
Why voice matters
Why governmentese exists
Finding your voice
Social media voice best practices
Your voice through ...
Why Voice Matters
How you communicate – the words you use and
the ways you organize them – brands your
organization as much as that little l...
People hear your voice in:
Press releases
Brochures
Web content (FAQs)
Customer service calls and chats
Emails
Interviews ...
Christina is a customer.
Victoria represents AT&T.
Christina is a customer.
Victoria represents AT&T.
Your voice is the basis of all your
communication.
It is what people hear wherever they encounter
you and it’s how they re...
Your voice sets the tone.
Your voice communicates authority, energy,
professionalism, and personality.
Your voice sets the tone. Yikes.
Invest in your organization’s voice.
Pays off over the long term.
When new social media platforms arise, you
bring your voi...
Why Governmentese Exists
Communicating is governing.
Governmentese gets in the way.
Governments are ostentatious.
For example: government buildings are
intentionally set apart from other
buildings and they ...
From an email I received from an unnamed federal agency:

“Hi Jed: I hereby confirm that Oct. 9-10
would work just fine.”
Misunderstandings can be fatal.
“A typical poor citizen comes to you poor in
money and poor in mental bandwidth. When you
give them a 30-page application ...
Use jargon carefully.
Being understood is paramount.
As guardians of the public, governments have a
duty to communicate in language that people
...
Finding Your Voice
A clear voice comes from a deep
understanding of your organization.
Why do you exist?
What gets your staff out of bed in th...
Your voice should reflect an
understanding of your audience.
Who wants to hear from you?
What does your audience need?
How ...
We want people to go outside and look up.
– @VeronicaMcG / NASA-JPL

Photo (cc) Dave Dugdale– http://www.flickr.com/photos/...
“[The federal government] is just using
[social media] as an announcement
system, like you used to listen to in
class: ‘Th...
“[The federal government] is just using
[social media] as an announcement
system, like you used to listen to in
class: ‘Th...
Social Media Voice Best Practices
Social media voice best practices:
Write in first person.
Talk to people, not about them.
Be authentic.
Be relevant.
Be cle...
Write in first person.
It saves characters and makes more sense on social media.
Talk to people, not about them.
It saves characters and it’s polite.
Be authentic.
Be authentic.
Your audience has certain expectations of you. Meet them.
Be authentic.
It’s ok if people don’t want you to be their friend.
Be relevant.
Honor your audience by sharing things that matter to them.
Be direct.
There’s no need to wait for traditional media to get your news out.
Be direct.
There’s no need to wait for traditional media to get your news out.
Be clear.
Hard writing makes easy reading. Speak clearly and make sense.
Understand your medium.
The strengths of social media services should shape your content.
For instance: images are very eff...
Be cool.
Everyone, everyone, is still figuring this out. 😎
Use guidelines…
…but not rules. Your voice should be like a river, steady but adaptable.
Your voice through images
Over one million nerve fibers send signals from
the eye to the brain, and an estimated 20 billion
neurons are devoted to an...
Good images are good content:
Timely
Relevant
On brand
Interesting (avoid stock photography)
Timely and educational
Source: @NASAKennedy
Informational
Source: @FullMoonDriveIn on Instagram
Educational
Source: @NOAA on Instagram
Metaphorical
Source: @WWF on Twitter
Documentary
Source: @NTSB on Twitter
Evocative
Source: USA.gov on Facebook
Novel
Source: http://tumblr.austinkleon.com/post/35679224723
Aspirational
Source: http://topodesigns.tumblr.com
Strategic
The Department of Interior
shares great photos to
attract a teachable
audience.

Source: @interior on Twitter
Massive image on Twitter, can only scale as tall as the
browser window.
Massive image on Facebook, can only scale as tall as the
browser window.
Massive image on Tumblr, scales down to 750 pixels tall.
Stick with common aspect ratios.	
  

1:1

16:9

4:3
They’ll look good and won’t use a lot of bandwidth.
Learn from Nancy.
© Fantagraphics Books Inc.
Learn from Nancy – embrace constraints.
© Fantagraphics Books Inc.
A Guide to Creating Guidelines
Guidelines are…
not rules
short
unifying
research-based
leader-supported
Guidelines are not rules.
Guidelines provide guidance. They shouldn’t
prescribe and should allow for experimentation.
Guidelines are short.
You want your team to know your guidelines by
heart – distill them to the bare essentials.
Guidelines are unifying.
Guidelines should reflect the expertise of your
team and their passion to serve the public. Your
e...
Guidelines are research-based.
Do internal and external research to create
unifying guidelines.
Survey your audience to fin...
Guidelines are leader-supported.
Get the bosses to sign off on the guidelines.
Someone should be able to make executive
dec...
Visit measuredvoice.com/usagov to
see USA.gov’s social media
guidelines.
“They are a thing of beauty.”
— Actual quote. Rea...
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
jed@measuredvoice.com
@measuredvoice
Finding Your Social Media Voice
Finding Your Social Media Voice
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Finding Your Social Media Voice

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Learn how to create a strong, appropriate, and memorable voice for your organization. Developing a strong brand voice is an essential first step to developing a social media strategy.

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Finding Your Social Media Voice

  1. 1. Finding Your Social Media Voice Jed Sundwall jed@measuredvoice.com @measuredvoice
  2. 2. Social media is a critical interface to government. Government organizations must now communicate in new ways: briefly, frequently, and directly. While social media sites are designed for individuals, Measured Voice makes them usable by organizations. Measured Voice helps mission-driven organizations run professional social media operations. Customers include:
  3. 3. Agenda Why voice matters Why governmentese exists Finding your voice Social media voice best practices Your voice through images A guide to creating guidelines
  4. 4. Why Voice Matters
  5. 5. How you communicate – the words you use and the ways you organize them – brands your organization as much as that little logo you use or those razzle dazzle graphics or those expensive ad campaigns. — Candi Harrison candioncontent.blogspot.com
  6. 6. People hear your voice in: Press releases Brochures Web content (FAQs) Customer service calls and chats Emails Interviews with spokespeople Twitter, Facebook, and whatever comes next…
  7. 7. Christina is a customer. Victoria represents AT&T.
  8. 8. Christina is a customer. Victoria represents AT&T.
  9. 9. Your voice is the basis of all your communication. It is what people hear wherever they encounter you and it’s how they remember you. It doesn’t change.* *much
  10. 10. Your voice sets the tone. Your voice communicates authority, energy, professionalism, and personality.
  11. 11. Your voice sets the tone. Yikes.
  12. 12. Invest in your organization’s voice. Pays off over the long term. When new social media platforms arise, you bring your voice with you. Beware of social media experts. Having individuals represent your organization can be useful, but when they leave, their take your audience with them.
  13. 13. Why Governmentese Exists
  14. 14. Communicating is governing. Governmentese gets in the way.
  15. 15. Governments are ostentatious. For example: government buildings are intentionally set apart from other buildings and they usually look historical – even if they’re new. This fosters an impression of authority and stability, that the government has been here for a long time and will be here for a long time to come. Governmentese does the same thing with highfalutin language. Yes, that’s how you spell highfalutin. Louisville City Hall
  16. 16. From an email I received from an unnamed federal agency: “Hi Jed: I hereby confirm that Oct. 9-10 would work just fine.”
  17. 17. Misunderstandings can be fatal.
  18. 18. “A typical poor citizen comes to you poor in money and poor in mental bandwidth. When you give them a 30-page application form for social assistance, you’re putting a pretty massive charge on their bandwidth.” — Eldar Shafir, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University Governmentese creates real costs.
  19. 19. Use jargon carefully.
  20. 20. Being understood is paramount. As guardians of the public, governments have a duty to communicate in language that people understand.
  21. 21. Finding Your Voice
  22. 22. A clear voice comes from a deep understanding of your organization. Why do you exist? What gets your staff out of bed in the morning? Who do you want to reach? What do you do that no one else does? Why do care if people hear from you?
  23. 23. Your voice should reflect an understanding of your audience. Who wants to hear from you? What does your audience need? How does your audience prefer to communicate? What do people expect from you? Why do people subscribe to your updates?
  24. 24. We want people to go outside and look up. – @VeronicaMcG / NASA-JPL Photo (cc) Dave Dugdale– http://www.flickr.com/photos/davedugdale/7767672620/
  25. 25. “[The federal government] is just using [social media] as an announcement system, like you used to listen to in class: ‘The cafeteria will be serving roast beef, and I will be at this place or that place’. But that’s not interaction, that’s not collaboration.” – Cory Booker
  26. 26. “[The federal government] is just using [social media] as an announcement system, like you used to listen to in class: ‘The cafeteria will be serving roast beef, and I will be at this place or that place’. But that’s not interaction, that’s not collaboration.” – Cory Booker Hey! There’s nothing wrong with that! Also, that’s not really true. – Jed Sundwall
  27. 27. Social Media Voice Best Practices
  28. 28. Social media voice best practices: Write in first person. Talk to people, not about them. Be authentic. Be relevant. Be clear. Be direct. Understand your medium. Use guidelines.
  29. 29. Write in first person. It saves characters and makes more sense on social media.
  30. 30. Talk to people, not about them. It saves characters and it’s polite.
  31. 31. Be authentic.
  32. 32. Be authentic. Your audience has certain expectations of you. Meet them.
  33. 33. Be authentic. It’s ok if people don’t want you to be their friend.
  34. 34. Be relevant. Honor your audience by sharing things that matter to them.
  35. 35. Be direct. There’s no need to wait for traditional media to get your news out.
  36. 36. Be direct. There’s no need to wait for traditional media to get your news out.
  37. 37. Be clear. Hard writing makes easy reading. Speak clearly and make sense.
  38. 38. Understand your medium. The strengths of social media services should shape your content. For instance: images are very effective on Facebook.
  39. 39. Be cool. Everyone, everyone, is still figuring this out. 😎
  40. 40. Use guidelines… …but not rules. Your voice should be like a river, steady but adaptable.
  41. 41. Your voice through images
  42. 42. Over one million nerve fibers send signals from the eye to the brain, and an estimated 20 billion neurons are devoted to analyzing and integrating visual information at rapid speed. Source: Visual Language for Designers by Connie Malamed
  43. 43. Good images are good content: Timely Relevant On brand Interesting (avoid stock photography)
  44. 44. Timely and educational Source: @NASAKennedy
  45. 45. Informational Source: @FullMoonDriveIn on Instagram
  46. 46. Educational Source: @NOAA on Instagram
  47. 47. Metaphorical Source: @WWF on Twitter
  48. 48. Documentary Source: @NTSB on Twitter
  49. 49. Evocative Source: USA.gov on Facebook
  50. 50. Novel Source: http://tumblr.austinkleon.com/post/35679224723
  51. 51. Aspirational Source: http://topodesigns.tumblr.com
  52. 52. Strategic The Department of Interior shares great photos to attract a teachable audience. Source: @interior on Twitter
  53. 53. Massive image on Twitter, can only scale as tall as the browser window.
  54. 54. Massive image on Facebook, can only scale as tall as the browser window.
  55. 55. Massive image on Tumblr, scales down to 750 pixels tall.
  56. 56. Stick with common aspect ratios.   1:1 16:9 4:3 They’ll look good and won’t use a lot of bandwidth.
  57. 57. Learn from Nancy. © Fantagraphics Books Inc.
  58. 58. Learn from Nancy – embrace constraints. © Fantagraphics Books Inc.
  59. 59. A Guide to Creating Guidelines
  60. 60. Guidelines are… not rules short unifying research-based leader-supported
  61. 61. Guidelines are not rules. Guidelines provide guidance. They shouldn’t prescribe and should allow for experimentation.
  62. 62. Guidelines are short. You want your team to know your guidelines by heart – distill them to the bare essentials.
  63. 63. Guidelines are unifying. Guidelines should reflect the expertise of your team and their passion to serve the public. Your entire staff should feel proud of your guidelines and what they encourage.
  64. 64. Guidelines are research-based. Do internal and external research to create unifying guidelines. Survey your audience to find out what they expect from your agency, what they think of you, and how they think you can improve. Then survey your own people to find out the same things.
  65. 65. Guidelines are leader-supported. Get the bosses to sign off on the guidelines. Someone should be able to make executive decisions based on your guidelines.
  66. 66. Visit measuredvoice.com/usagov to see USA.gov’s social media guidelines. “They are a thing of beauty.” — Actual quote. Really!
  67. 67. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. jed@measuredvoice.com @measuredvoice

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