Be a Brand with Personality

By David Burda  |  February 10, 2017

Emojis with different reactions

A healthcare economist I follow on Twitter recently proclaimed to me and other followers that he’s really not as cranky in person as he appears to be on social media. I seriously doubt I’ll meet him in person any time soon, so I’ll take his word for it.

But he is pretty snarky online, and that’s OK with me. The tone of his social posts tells me something about him. And his Twitter mea culpa tells me he thinks about what people think of him. Or that he wants people to think that he thinks about what people think of him.

What does your audience think your brand is like in real life based on your public persona over social media channels? If you’re like most corporate brands, your audience doesn’t know the real you because your voice and tone guidelines don’t let your personality—or any personality—come through.

Most voice and tone guidelines, especially for publicly traded companies, deliberately repress any personality to avoid the risk of offending customers and shareholders. What you get in most cases are bland and impersonal statements of facts that link to something no one is going to click on.

On the other side of the spectrum: too much personality. It’s the voice and tone equivalent of too much information at work. For brands, too much personality comes across as forced or faked. It’s phony, not honest.

For corporate brands, finding the sweet spot between zero personality and over-the-top personality is critical to engaging their audience through their social media channels. Let me suggest three places to look for the voice and tone that best represents your brand and that attracts new and existing customers because they just can’t get enough of your personality.

Would you hang out with your president and CEO?

The first and most obvious place to look is in the office of the president and CEO. Is the person sitting behind the big desk smart, witty, insightful, kind, warm, engaging, patient and personal? Does he or she light up the room when they walk into a staff meeting?

If so, and if that’s the personality you want to express to your audience, then those personality traits should be embedded in your voice and tone guidelines and tailored to your individual social media channels.

I’m going out on a limb here and say more than a few brands don’t have presidents and CEOs that share those personality traits. They’re cold, stiff, formal and never remember your name. It’s all about making the numbers. Staffers sit up straight and stop smiling when he or she walks into the room. They talk, you listen. If that’s the case, you need to go looking for your brand personality somewhere else.

Take a clue from your customer service department

Another place to find your personality is your customer service department. Assuming your brand has a great reputation for superior customer service, talk to your best customer service representative.

What makes him or her effective? Is the person on the phone or behind a screen friendly, responsive, helpful, approachable, knowledgeable, unflappable, generous or personable?

If so, then bake those personality traits into your voice and tone guidelines to mold your social media presence. If your brand’s customer service stinks and causes people to be exasperated battling through a phone tree to reach a real person who possesses none of those traits, stop there a press zero—as in zero personality.

Learn a lesson from your best customers

A third place to find your brand personality is your best customer. That could be singular, as in your one best customer. It could be multiple, as in the multiple need-based personas in your collective customer base.

What are your customers like? Or, better yet, what do you like about your customers? Are your best customers passionate, excited, inquisitive, loyal, trusting or engaging?

Again, if that’s what you’re looking for in your brand personality, then liberally borrow those traits from your best customers to create your social media persona. No secret here: An audience will connect with a brand that’s most like them or most like who they think they are.

If that makes me a cranky wannabe healthcare economist, that’s OK with me. That’s my personality. What’s yours?

Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?

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