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Losing your voice in social media

The challenge for B2B marketers of maintaining a common brand voice

Handling the control of brand identity, messaging and tone of voice is one perceived problem of social media that troubles many in B2B marketing. Marketers, driven by the wisdom of sound traditional marketing practices, are rightly concerned to ensure consistency across all their communications.

But there are practical difficulties involved in this when using social media – especially if you’re enlisting numbers of people outside Marketing in your engagement activities.

  • Social media conversation generally uses highly colloquial language and grammar. And frankly there’s a lot out there that remains untarnished by even a cursory spell-check.
  • This relaxed approach is multiplied across languages and cultures, where different markets have different perceptions, practices and conventions
  • Audiences frequently use terms and abbreviations that are at odds with company jargon for the same things and if you don’t, they may not spot you in their search results
  • Most employees – even in customer-facing roles – are not media-trained for sales and marketing purposes, which can make communications people twitchy
  • The vast majority of conversation is spontaneously generated by the market, not the company
  • There is a need for speed in responding, which means the foot-soldiers of engagement have to deal with the situation on the ground as it’s happening – there’s no time to get an official statement ready

In the end, the main practical conclusion you have to draw is this: that to be effective means accepting that traditional ideas of control over messaging are illusory when it comes to social media.

Even so, the same principles of good business communication still apply: know your audience, tailor the message to the medium, be clear what you want people to do.

It is perfectly possible to know your audience by identifying influencers and conversations through automated social media monitoring techniques. Likewise, guidelines can be drawn up around key messages and tone-of-voice – again based on the lingua franca of your selected networks.

And in social networking, the predominant calls-to-action are simple link-sharing in a variety of guises – which aims to draw traffic to a specific website or resource – or the posing of questions, to engender discussion around a topic of commercial interest to all participants.

A good approach for achieving this is to set up a framework of guidance and support that is communicated internally through the organisation, so that people feel empowered, liberated and trusted to engage ‘on their own’.

If marketers take responsibility for setting those foundations in place – and for making sure they are constructively distributed throughout the business – you will achieve a significant milestone in enabling the organisation as a whole to ‘join the conversation’ and sing off the same hymn-sheet.