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How to Develop a Voice on Social Media

 

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“Authoritative.” “Accessible.” “Professional.” “Witty.” “Humble.” “Interesting.”

Those are just a few of the many words past clients have used to describe the voice they want (runners up include “intelligent,” “confident, but not too confident,” and “unique”). And that’s all well and good. The trouble is, when it comes time to actually execute on the voice a client wants, those describing words don’t do a whole heck of a lot of good.

My “authoritative” may be different from your “authoritative,” and what “professional” means to me may not mean the same thing to you. Even so, having a unique voice on social media is important, and developing a voice is something that everyone has to do. So how do you get from a few words describing what you want to sound like to actual written tweets that fulfill those goals?

It’s easy (well, almost): use concrete examples in addition to the words that describe what you want your voice to be.

Here’s how that works. If your three most important traits are “accessible,” “professional,” and “witty” set up a sliding scale for each of those traits. On the left side of that scale, you have an example that’s the nearest to perfect you can find. And on the right side of the scale, you have an example or two that’s as far away from what you want as possible.

For “professional,” for example, you might have McKinsey, The White House, and charity: water as examples on Twitter of accounts that stand out to you as extremely professional. On the far right end, you could set your boundary with Lil Wayne (sorry, Weezy) and Perez Hilton. Somewhere in between, you’ll have accounts that split the road 50/50–accounts that aren’t completely stuck up but aren’t going on rants every other day, like Nutella and Chipotle.

You now have your scale for reference. Do you want to be more like McKinsey, or Nutella? Somewhere in between? While you figure this out, think about specific traits you like about McKinsey and Nutella, and traits you want to avoid. Knowing where you want to lie on this scale will help you in the next step.

After you’ve determined where you want to be, pull anywhere from 10 to 20 tweets (or more, if you have time) that you and your team feel accurately represent the voice you’re going after (and maybe even the voice you don’t want). Knowing where you are on the scale sets your North Star, and the concrete examples help guide you on the way there. By finding 10 or 20 tweets that you love, you now have something to imitate. You’ve moved from saying “I want to sound professional” to “I know what professional sounds like, and now I can replicate it.”

Which brings us to the final segment: writing. That exercise you just did with 10 or 20 tweets? Find 10 or 20 sources that you love as much as the tweets you just found. With these sources you’ve curated to fit your strategy, sit down with your team and practice writing tweets that fit the voice you want. Use your umbrella terms (“professional,” accessible,” and “witty”) as well as your sliding scale and examples of tweets you love, and brainstorm some tweets that fit.

This is a tough exercise–developing a voice from scratch is difficult. But as you practice the art of imitation more and more, you should find that writing gets easier, and your voice becomes more organic. Once you actually execute and start tweeting with this voice, don’t expect it to change–what you want and what actually gets written will very likely be different. If you need to revise, you can, but organic growth is good. It means that the voice you’re developing is unique.

The hardest part about any strategy is moving from ideation to execution. But with some guiding examples, an idea of where you want to be, and other people to imitate while you start, you should be well on your way to devising a voice that works, and more importantly, is unique to your brand.

 


 

Reprinted by permission.

Image Credit: CC by Social Media Contractors

About the author: John Darwin

John is a recent college graduate from Creighton University. He earned his B.A. in English, specializing in British Literature, and is currently working as an editor at Social Media Contractors.

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