Backbone Media B2B Marketing Blog
For those of you in the dark, the Content Marketing World Conference & Expo is a yearly event put on by the Content Marketing Institute (my favorite source for content marketing info on the web). To support this event, they hold a #CMWorld Twitter chat every Tuesday from 12pm-1pm EST.
This week, the chat focused on “Tone & Personality of Content” and was run by Ann Handley (@annhandley), noted author, speaker, and chief content officer at MarketingProfs. Like most Twitter chats, the moderator asks a series of questions, and the audience responds with the appropriate hashtags. But I bet you already knew that.
Without further ado, here is the recap of this week’s chat (luckily it wasn’t about clichés):
Q1: Should your tone or personality vary depending on the medium?
I thought this was an interesting question. For me, consistency is key. Once your organization establishes brand guidelines (including the tone and personality of your various copy), stick with it. If you want to use humor, use it. If you want to be serious and direct, be serious and direct. But I do think this changes slightly depending on the medium.
Site copy and long-form content (eBooks, whitepapers, etc.) should always stay true to your branding guidelines. Shorter-form content (blogging, social statuses, etc.) will differ based on the platform. When it comes to social media, I suggest personal accounts to use their own personality (with clearly defined “dos and don’ts”) while branded social channels should be strictly monitored to fall in line with your brand and guidelines.
Here were some of my favorite responses:
Ann Handley (@annhandley)
I think your personality or voice is consistent. But your tone changes depending on the platform/customer mindset.
Brandie McCallum (@lttlewys)
A1: Personality and tone shouldn’t vary, the delivery of the message will be differ based on the platform
Q2: How do tone and point of view relate? How are they different?
Tone is how something is said, and point of view is what is being said. Different examples of tone in content writing include; serious, informative, lighthearted, comical, or sometimes a hybrid of all of these. Point of view is an opinion. The point of view of Backbone Media is that content marketing is essential for B2B marketing success. The tone of this blog article is informative but not too dry or serious (dare I say lighthearted?).
These were some good points that came up during the chat:
Ben Heyman (@heyheyman)
A2: Tone is your voice. Point of view is your opinion. Know your audience. Be consistent. Be authentic.
Mike Myers (@mikemyers614)
A2: POV is what you say, tone is how you say it.
Q3: What if you don’t consider yourself a funny person? Should you attempt humor in your work?
If you aren’t a funny person, I’d stay away from humor in content marketing. While I certainly think humor can be used in marketing (yes, even for B2B companies), it can backfire just as easily as it can work.
I also don’t think you shouldn’t try. If you aren’t a naturally funny person but still want to make an attempt at humor, have one of your colleagues read it over. Perhaps use a significant other or relative as a sounding board and solicit feedback. But if it doesn’t work, don’t force it. Stick to what you’re good at.
I liked these responses from the chat:
John Bonini (@Bonini84)
A3: Humor is a means for connecting with your audience. There are many other ways to draw empathy and connect. Play on strengths.
Carmella Lanni (@vegecomgirl)
Don’t force the funny. I think folks can see when someone is trying too hard.
Q4: Are there ever times when humor is not appropriate?
I took this question a little differently than the responses I liked and pasted below. Both Traci Brown and Ben Heyman bring up good points; don’t use humor at the expense of the customer or during times of tragedy. I couldn’t agree more.
However, the first thought that crossed my mind after reading this question is that humor shouldn’t be used 100% of the time in content marketing. A dash of seriousness works too. I believe that content should be well-balanced and pull from both buckets. Humor all the time comes off as unprofessional. Seriousness all the time comes off as stuffy and robotic. Choose wisely.
These are the two tweets referenced above:
Traci Brown (@tracibrowne)
A4 Never use humor at the expense of the customer
Ben Heyman (@heyheyman)
A4: Do not use humor to promote your brand during times of tragedy. Ever. Ever.
Q5: How do you handle your professional social media presence with your own personality, especially when part of a team?
My answer to this question is something I alluded to above in the first question — it depends on whether it’s a personal or company account. When using a company account, any and all users MUST follow (strictly, I may add) corporate brand guidelines. There is absolutely no leeway here. If the company logo and name is attached to the page, it must be in line with the rest of the company’s content.
If it’s a personal account that references the user’s employment, there should be a defined “dos and don’ts” list; but not as strict as the company page. The point here is to have individuals post and offer their own insight (read: thought leadership) on behalf of the company, but not under the company brand. In this case, unique personality and perspective are welcome (within reason).
When managing a social media presence as part of a team, open communication of what’s acceptable and what isn’t is crucial.
Here are some interesting insights from the chat:
Ann Handley (@annhandley)
The key is adopting a mindset toward social media of Personable not Personal. Convey personality, but don’t get too personal/weird.
Erika Heald (@SFerika)
A5 It’s good to have your own personality shining through, but try not to contradict brand
Erin Palmer (@Erin_E_Palmer)
A5: Filtering is the key. You can be you, but maybe not ALL of you. Be the best version of yourself.
Q6: How much can brands imbibe personality into their content? What are some good examples?
Mike Myers mentions Apple, GE, and Chipotle below (I think Taco Bell’s marketing has great personality too) and he’s right. These companies have a specific, defined personality and use it in every facet of their content marketing strategies.
I don’t think there is a limit to how much personality can or should be used in a content marketing strategy. I think Mike Myers is spot-on in his assessment. A good brand weaves their specific personality into EVERYTHING they do. This is part of what makes them successful.
These answers really drove home this point:
Jamie Wallace (@suddenlyjamie)
A6: Injecting personality makes a brand more human. I am more likely to be loyal to a human than a corporation.
Q7: What are good ways to cultivate personality in your writing?
For me, this answer is simple: don’t over-think it. Write what comes naturally. Edit, but don’t over-edit. In other words (warning: I’m going to use another cliché), be yourself.
Is that easier said than done? Probably. But no one said content marketing was easy. Remember, your audience is unique but most certainly human (yes, even in B2B marketing), and having a clear personality in your writing will be more appealing to your audience. Personality makes it seem like you’re speak with your audience and not at them.
I really enjoyed this take on this question:
Linda Dessau (@lindadessau)
A7: Write how you speak instead of how you *think* you should write.
Q8: Does content from one brand need to have a singular tone, personality or voice?
For me, this depends on a few things. For your website and evergreen content (including whitepapers, case studies, etc.), personality and voice should be consistent. Tone may change slightly depending on your target audience. For example, a C-level audience may want more direct, matter-of-fact type text; a technical audience would want to know (surprise, surprise) technical specs; and marketers may respond to a benefits-focused story.
The wild card here in my mind is corporate blogging. If you have different thought leaders from your company contributing their own take on company-related issues, the last thing you want to do is have them over edit their work to conform with a specific tone, personality, or voice. After all, their personality and personal perspective is what you’re looking for.
I liked this answer to the question:
Stephen Abbott (@SJAbbott)
A8 Just because you have one story doesn’t mean you can’t tell it in different ways. Rich stories are deep stories.
Q9: We assume that social automation is a no-no since tone may change by channel. Is there a way to make this work?
My response to this question is that social automation is great to be used for scheduling, but B2B marketers should NOT solely rely on this. After all, the whole point of social media is to engage and interact with your target audience — and if the point is to appear human and approachable, social automation has the opposite effect.
That said, platforms like Hootsuite and Buffer App are GREAT tools for social media promotion. They are not, however, great tools for social media engagement. This is the big difference here: use these tools to supplement your social strategy — but not for all of it.
This was my favorite tweet to this question:
Scott Lum (@ScottLum)
A9: Marketing automation is just the tool. It’s up to us to bring out our brand personality in engagements.
Q10: How can you handle tone if you are writing for a global audience, so as to not be unintentionally offensive?
The first step in creating any piece of content is to know your audience. If you are writing for a global audience, it’s important to do your research first. It goes without saying that different cultures appreciate different tones, find different things funny, and will react differently to your content.
The best plan of attack here is to have someone from the target culture/nationality read over your content. However, if this is impossible, you may need to conduct your own research. But you can’t always trust everything you read online. If no one in your office fits the bill, try conducting a customer survey or searching for freelance editing help to ensure you aren’t unintentionally offensive and that your content will be effective.
These two responses are good takeaways:
Ben Heyman (@heyheyman)
A10: Humor and language is not universal. When talking to a global audience rely more on visual content.
Erin Palmer (@Erin_E_Palmer)
A10: RESEARCH! Know who is reading and learn about their cultural differences.
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