Imagine this scene:
You’re walking onto an auditorium stage for a big presentation. The audience is packed wall-to-wall with potential investors, customers, and future employees for your company.
You are about to make the presentation of your life. Your slides are cued up. You’ve been practicing for weeks. And you look sharper than a double-edged sword.
Then you grab the microphone and babble in baby talk to the audience.
“Who’s a good little investor. Yes, you are. You are, aren’t you?”
Everyone in the audience looks at each other with a mix of confusion and disbelief.
Someone whispers, “Does this guy have any idea who he’s talking to?”
The answer, of course, is no.
In that scenario, there’s no consideration for the audience––you’re speaking to a professional group the same way you’d speak to your toddler daughter, and it comes off as confusing. The same way your daughter would be confused if you started telling her about the latest stock market trends in a dry voice.
This same idea rings true for the tone of your business’s content. There’s no way your content will get the impact you want it to if you don’t frame it for the audience you’re targeting and the medium you’re using.
While you want to stay true to who you are (and who your company is), you also need to adapt your communication style to fit the needs of your audience. You don’t want to write in the same tone for social media, blogs, and ads because your audience experiences your content differently on each one.
So how do you change your brand tone for each medium without compromising who your brand is?
Well, let’s quickly distinguish between voice and tone, because it’s very important.
The Difference Between Voice And Tone In Copywriting
It might sound like semantics to distinguish between voice and tone (and you might hear them used interchangeably elsewhere) but it’s valuable to make a distinction here between the two:
Your brand’s voice never truly changes, because it’s based on the expression of your core principles and values. In short, your voice is your brand’s character.
Voice is evergreen because it’s not something you have to force. It is embodied by who you are as the founder or CEO, who you hire, and how your principles manifest in your daily operations—not just in your social media copy.
When people talk about “finding their voice,” they’re often trying to force their content to become something it’s not. Your brand voice is already there, it’s just a matter of stripping away the pretense and effort and letting it naturally shine through.
Here's a simple exercise to uncover your brand voice if you feel you haven’t already:
How do you naturally talk about your company and why you do what you do when you’re relaxed and not trying to prove anything to anyone?
No defenses, no insecurities, and no forced jargon. Just you speaking honestly and clearly.
That’s your brand voice.
How that voice manifests may change depending on the goals of the content and what medium the content is being written for.
That is what we call tone.
Simply put, tone is how you express your brand’s character depending on the audience.
For example, you are most likely the same person today that you were yesterday, and the same person you’ll be tomorrow––your character, principles, and values are the same.
But you have a wild two days ahead. Tomorrow you have to give the best man’s speech for your buddy’s wedding. And the next day, you’re giving the eulogy for your grandma’s funeral.
You’ll be the same person on both days, but the tone of each speech will be completely different to fit the occasion, the audience, and your intentions.
In one scenario, your tone will be funny and light-hearted as you talk about drunken nights together and years of unbridled buffoonery. And the other scenario is your best man speech!
Seriously though, folks…The point is: although your tone may change depending on your venue, if you’re true to your brand’s voice, you’ll never be incongruent.
The same goes for your brand’s written content.
Now, having said that, there are still some tone considerations you have to make depending on the medium you’re posting your content.
The Best Tone To Use In Social Media Posts
Give Them Time To Fit In.
Social media posts have to be catchy. More than any other type of writing, you must hook the reader with the first sentence on all social media posts.
Even so, the effectiveness of your content will depend on how well you accommodate the unique user experience on each site. Although many people bunch social media into the same category for copywriting, you’ll want to alter your message a little bit for each one.
Think about the Facebook user experience. Your prospect is scrolling through pictures of their cousin’s new baby, photos of their coworker's egg salad sandwich from lunch, and travel pictures from ex-boyfriends they haven’t spoken to in decades.
Then bam! Your post comes across their feed.
With the surprisingly emotionally taxing endeavor of scrolling through their feed, the last thing your potential customers want to see is some dry ad copy that doesn’t move the needle on their dopamine meter one iota.
That’s why you have to grab their attention immediately with a catchy (but not salesy) opening line.
A few opening line tips:
- Use the words imagine and you. This helps paint a scene in the reader’s mind where they are the main character.
- Shock them by flipping their expectations on their head.
- For example, “Nobody ever told me that every copywriting secret was right there on an ordinary box of cereal.” (Who knows what the rest of that article would be, but it sure sounds interesting, doesn’t it?)
After your opening hook, the rest of the Facebook post can take a longer form, but you want to make sure a long post has:
- An emotionally-charged tone (preferably told as a story).
- A high-quality image (not a stock photo).
If your Facebook copy is shorter and doesn’t take the form of a story, consider asking a thought-provoking question to encourage engagement.
This professional network allows posts that can be longer than on Facebook, but you want to make some considerations before copying the exact same content from Facebook to LinkedIn.
Because LinkedIn is exclusively for business-related content, you may want to change the tone to be slightly more professional
That doesn’t mean you create boring or sanitized content. It simply means you focus on highlighting actionable tips in your copy, or that you tailor a case study to include a business-related example.
Twitter’s most famous characteristic is its character limit, which is an excellent restriction because it forces you to be concise. As for tone, you may want to focus more on evocative questions that are answered in the link to content you’re sharing.
More so than other social media platforms, Twitter offers a chance to show the “humanness” of your brand.
Why? Because Twitter content is created in real time. If people can see that there’s an authentic person behind your account—and not some collection of Tweet-spitting algorithms—they are more likely to engage and click.
Twitter is an excellent place to interact with customers and solve problems for them as well, and it’s the most likely social media avenue through which people will reach out with customer service requests.
Keep it human, and feel free to keep your tone conversational and personal.
The Best Tone To Use In Advertisements
The best ads don't feel like ads.
Too many companies turn on their “I’m doing an advertisement,” tone when writing ads, as if they’re presenting an idea for their high school debate team.
“If you want to guarantee success, sign up for...”
“And now a message from…”
“Our product is experience-tested...”
They all come off as flaccid and unoriginal. Ineffective ads have a tone that’s dry, presentational, and vague.
The best ads are specific, tell a story with the customer as the main character, and are emotionally evocative.
Once you’ve touched on your prospective customer’s emotions, cut out all unnecessary words. Ad space is too competitive to waste on useless letters.
There’s a reason the best ad campaign of the 20th century had a short, pithy catchphrase:
A diamond is forever.
There’s no wasted space, it's evocative, and it doesn’t feel like an advertisement.
The Best Tone To Use For Blogs
Unlike most social media sites, blogs give you enough writing space to put your feet up, light a log in the fireplace, and regale your reader with a tale they’ve never heard before.
Use that space to your advantage––but be warned...
Many brands are tempted to throw in unnecessary words because there isn’t a strict word count on blogs, and because they erroneously think more words will make their content more search engine friendly (spoiler alert: it won’t).
Only make your content as long as it needs to be to get the information across and to evoke the reader’s imagination––no longer.
You can stretch your writing legs and take more risks in blogs, but for the most part you want to keep them informational.
Don’t Leave Your Content To Chance
There’s nothing worse than a “tone-deaf” brand that doesn’t understand the medium they’re posting on. They’re like the baby-talking executive talking to a crowd of confused stakeholders.
We take that back: the only thing worse is the timid company that strips their content of all life, personality, and character out of fear.
At ROI Online, we understand how hard it is to tailor your content for each medium and still stay true to your message. That’s why we use the proven StoryBrand method to help you reach your audience online while staying true to your brand and true to yourself. Our team includes copywriters skilled in writing story-driven content for every medium, from website pages and blogs to Instagram and Twitter!
Schedule a free Strategy Session and find out if we could be a good fit for your business.