Have you ever scrolled across a branded tweet or Facebook post and fondly thought, “This is something I’d say to my friend” before you liked or starred the post?
If you have, you experienced brand voice doing what it does best: getting people involved.
Today, more than ever before, companies and organizations need to consider the time it takes to develop and manage the brand’s voice on social media. For most, social media sites are the first and only interaction that passersby will have with your nonprofit. What you say and the tone with which you say it will leave a lasting impression on the feeds of many.
So what exactly is a brand voice?
Brand voice, as defined on Contently, is prioritizing a set of traits that comprise an identity, and then communicating in a way that expresses and prioritizes those traits.
In short, a well-defined brand voice shows the world the true spirit of an organization and the values that it stands for. Brand voice can run the gamut from authoritative, insular, relatable and funny.
Whether you’ve thought about it or not, every person and enterprise has a brand voice because you have to communicate what it is that your organization does. Even presidential hopefuls have a brand voice.
But what does it take to make your nonprofit’s voice stand out above the thousands of witty social media handles that reign supreme? Should you give more than a passing glance to something so intangible?
Yes, your brand voice should not be left solely to the discretion of the social media manager du jour. Together with its communications team, nonprofits need to map out the following steps to ensure that amongst everything else, the organization’s values are upheld in written, digital and print communications through brand voice.
Here are 5 questions that will help your nonprofit identify its authentic voice in the digital world.
1. Who do you want to reach?
This is the first consideration you’ll have when outlining the brand voice of your nonprofit. The profiles of stakeholders that frequently post on Twitter are very much different than those of LinkedIn users.
So knowing the audience that you’re speaking to will greatly inform the things that you say, even if you’re sharing the same content.
For example, TED (the technology, education, and design speaker series) runs a very active social media program. But their posts are never the same. On LinkedIn, TED posted the following:
But on Facebook, TED not only changed the status text, they also changed the article description to better speak to the audience that interacts with the brand on Facebook.
The posts point to the same article with different messages; however, both posts elicit the same voice.
2. How does your brand speak?
What’s in a word, anyway? It turns out, a lot. The words we use and how we arrange them convey different meanings to different people. Depending on your nonprofit’s style guide and general storytelling formulas, what you say on social media may be heavy-hitting facts or punny sayings that speak to a younger generation of social conscious supporters.
For instance, take the nonprofit, Movember Foundation that takes a wacky approach to highlighting the seriousness of and funding the advancement of treatments for mental health, prostate and testicular cancer. With the help of socially savvy consumer brands and a more than eager constituent base of mustache-wielding gentlemen around the world, Movember Foundation talks like your favorite work-study group member.
Think about the unique identifiers in sentence structure and storytelling that your nonprofit possesses. These traits and idioms can make or break the links of engaged stakeholders. Whatever your organization’s style, make sure that what you say speaks to the values of your organization.
3. How do you want your audience to feel about your nonprofit?
In order to strike social media gold, nonprofits have to find a balance of relatable, informative content. No one wants to be preached at or spoken to — not even by preachers, period.
For many, social media is a part of their everyday lives, and the content we consistently turn to seamless fits into the everyday minutiae.
Here, the National Park Trust, a nonprofit that is dedicated to preserving parks today and creating park stewards of tomorrow talks to its constituents in a fun, hip way. This best-friend/mentor vibe allows for its constituents to be more open to learning about the role they play in ensuring that our future generations get to see the natural wonders of parks and the wildlife that thrives within them.
4. What do you want constituents to remember about you?
If your social media feed is the only touchpoint a stakeholder has with your nonprofit, what do you want them to know about your organization?
Goodwill, an organization that helps people reach their full potential through education, skills training and the power of work, is a feel-good nonprofit, enjoys a mix of progressive updates and DIY news. Grounded in the fundamentals of hard work and equality, many Americans can relate to the organization known for its thrift stores.
From the post to the comment that Goodwill put after stakeholders commented, Goodwill appears to be a very active and appreciative organization. The two-way conversation proves to its followers that if they write to the nonprofit, they’ll get a response.
Creating a brand voice is not easy, but it is well worthwhile. There will be a period of “getting to know your voice” where your stakeholders may or may not engage with you. But fret not, keep trying, and optimizing as you go along.
Once you find a rhythm of speak that works for your brand, the best practice is to keep at it. The more you post, tweet, and update, the stronger your voice will grow, and the more people will be open to hearing what your organization has to say.