Companies, brands and local government having a presence in the social world is, on the face of it, like inviting your Granny to a rave. It’s two separate worlds where collars meet chatters, daytime intrudes on playtime and the well-spoken face the outspoken.
We now know that, despite this apparent oxymoron, there’s room for us on Twitter, Facebook and so on – but only if we get the language just right… it needs to be personal but with a decent tinge of professional remaining. It needs to be Personfessional – the new social media language for businesses.
For example, in the online social world – even if you’re speaking to the very same person – a letter to them saying: “Dear Mr Simpson, thank you for your recent correspondence…” becomes “Hi there @SimmoRocks, just picked up your Tweet…”.
People want to talk to people on social media, personality to personality, relaxed language to relaxed language.
However, can you as a brand take that too far? Of course. People still need to respect your business and have the impression that it’s run by competent individuals. Social media provides the incredible opportunity of making a better connection with your customers by showing that you’re down to earth and have a human face, but if you overdo it you could be losing credibility.
If someone sends you a message along the lines of “What a bloody crap service, you *$%*s kept me waiting over an hour yesterday ”, would you reply likewise with “Holy shit dude, we proper f*cked up there, didn’t we? ” Would you casually send out a random link to some entirely unrelated website that you’ve “spent the morning browsing and thought you’d like to see”, giving the impression you’re not getting on with the day job? Would you tell your customers how drunk you got last night and that you’re therefore running the business with a hangover today?
You can still do ‘personality’ without losing professional structure to your messages. Take this example from a local authority Highways department. The first is what the road engineers might naturally say if they were being professional. The second is the Communications Team running it through their Personfessional Social Translator.
"Site audits following significant variations in RSTs mean work is being rolled out across structures on the primary carriageway network to cost-effectively conduct culvert rehabilitation and abutment realignment. Each shall commence at 0900 hours under full road closures. Despite moterist’s complaints, 2-way lights would slow the job up againt the target framwork."
"Keeping you safe out there on the roads is our top priority, so we’ve been busy bees checking out the condition of our bridges and water channels. After that tough winter which sent half of us into hibernation, we’ve found quite a few in need of repair. To keep you and the workers safe, we’ll need to close each road as we go, but we’ll wait until 9am when the rush hour’s passed. Do let us know if you have any questions though – and post pics to us of any you think we’ve missed!"
It’s error-free, jargon-free, interactive, upbeat and friendly but still gets all the key messages across in a trustworthy way.
It finds the right balance – but take it too far and it might say: "We’ve found some buggered bridges and we know what we’re doing, despite some idiots moaning about it. The road will be closed until they’re fixed and it’s just tough! FFS, knackered, can’t be doing with this today ;-p"
So it’s simply about getting the tone and content’s balance just right.
Do you speak Personfessionally?
This Personfessional Graphic illustrates the language balance we need to find as brands or businesses on social media.
Jonathan Fitzgerald is strategic communications officer at Lincolnshire County Council.
First posted on http://jayeffjots.wordpress.com and reproduced under a creative commons licence.