Search
  • Ishbel Macleod

Creating a tone of voice for social media


Think about the brands you love on social media. No matter what they are selling, or who to, they will have at least one thing in common: a great tone of voice.

Tone of voice is something that is often overlooked when it comes to social media, taking a backseat to the actual copy and design, but it is a key building block to make sure that your brand stands out on social and is consistent throughout posts.

What is tone of voice – and why does it matter on social media?

Tone of voice (TOV) is how your brand ‘speaks’ when you are communicating with customers, reflecting your personality and your values. Most companies will have a tone of voice in mind which they will use to help guide copy for the website, as well as other marketing channels such as email. However, when it comes to social media, your TOV can be slightly different, potentially slightly lighter, depending on the audience you’re looking to communicate with.

It is important to have a TOV when it comes to social media to make sure you have consistency across your posts. This is particularly crucial for big brands who may have separate pages for different regions, or who have various people handling their social media. While, again, there can be some fluidity across TOV in general on social (your LinkedIn will probably have a touch more formality than your Instagram, for example) it is good to nail down some guidelines and rules to help team members to know what they can say – and when. This also means that as your team grows and moves on, whoever takes over the responsibility for managing your social channels can do so almost seamlessly.

Here at Hydrogen, we find it best to have document that outlines our tone of voice, so that people can easily refer to it and change it if needed.

Five things to consider when creating your tone of voice

  • Who is your target audience? Brands should communicate with their audience in a way that will feel familiar to them. You may have already conducted a social audit and created social media personas (if so, great!), but if not, try to think about who you want to speak to and how they communicate with one another. If you are looking to communicate to a mid-40s business owner to sell life insurance your TOV will be probably be a lot more serious than if you were trying to speak to the exact same person but to sell shoes.

  • Imagine your brand as a person. It sounds silly, but it works – how would they talk? What words would they use? Do they use emojis? Are they enthusiastic, or more matter of fact?

  • First person or third person? Do you write ‘We are excited to announce…’ or ‘Company Name is excited to announce’? The majority of companies will speak in first person, as this helps to create a personality in posts.

  • Different tones for different circumstances. Even the companies with the quirkiest tone of voice will have a secondary TOV for dealing with difficult situations, such as sharing bad news or dealing with complaints. It’s a good idea to have these tones set in advance so you know what to use when.

  • What not to do. Just as important as what you can do is what not to do. Is there a certain word or phrase that shouldn’t be used at all? This is something that can be useful for new team members to know and can help to bring the brand to life.

Example tone of voice document

Different companies will have their tone of voice document saved in a variety of formats. There is no right or wrong way, but at Hydrogen we like a table to show the traits, what they mean, and give a bit more detail.

Our own TOV document includes a written document followed by a table with columns for: the tone of voice trait, a description, dos and don'ts, and an example of what a post or copy should look like. Check out an example below of what yours could look like.

Want to create your own social media tone of voice but need some help? Drop us a line.