top-tips-for-twitter-toneThere’s an awful lot of talk at the moment about what tone of voice a brand should use on Twitter. Countless blogs and articles claim to offer ‘the answer’. In my opinion, however, I don’t believe there is necessarily a concrete solution or set formula for setting your tone in your social media marketing, particularly on Twitter.

There are certain brands that catch your eye across social media, not due to some epic campaign (though Paddy Power does spring to mind), but because their tone alone gets them noticed. Tone doesn’t require months of planning; in fact tone can’t be planned.

Tone is a reactive concept

I’ve always believed that tone is a very reactive concept. In everyday life, you make an immediate judgment of someone’s attitude and, more often than not (unless there is particular conflict), you mirror their sentiment. Why isn’t this the same on social media? After all, it is social media. Too many brands are putting on a voice; forced, contrived and unnatural.

There are no scripts

Certain brands however have really considered how they want to engage with prospective and existing customers. One brand above all stands out, and that’s O2.

CEO of O2 Telefonica UK, Ronan Dunne explains their social media engagement perfectly as “real people who are responding in a natural way to a real situation”. If you think about it, this is exactly what a real life conversation is. He summarises, “there are no scripts”. Bingo!

Too many brands are treating Twitter as an extension to an email facility, and thus duplicating their language and tone. Phrases such as ‘thank you in advance for your assistance’ and ‘we apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused’ are far too familiar on social media. Of course, there needs to remain a level of professionalism, but this does not mean creating a robotic-like voice on Twitter. Every conversation is unique; the response should be as far from automation as possible.

How O2 get it right

Here’s an example from last year of how O2 read their customer’s tone and mirrored their sentiment during a full network outage:

Direct response

Customer: “@O2 We’re still waiting for that apology.. or maybe they texted me and I can’t see the message because my phone DIDN’T WORK”

O2 response: “Firstly, here are our deepest apologies. Networks should be back up and running for you. How’s your service”.

Nothing groundbreaking to see here, just a nice direct response addressing the issue. No groveling, no defense, just a well-balanced response.

Compare that to the personalisation of this interaction:

Customer: “Oi! @O2! Because of you I missed a call from my dear old mum. For that I think I owe you a pint. Ta! J”

O2 response: “Um… you’re welcome, we think. But if your mum asks, we totally deny this tweet”.

I’ll reinforce my point, this doesn’t require a marketing team sat around a table thrashing out ideas for days on end. It’s just a natural, personalised message. A real conversation, in real time. Beautiful.

The extreme

Customer: “@O2 F**K You! Suck d**k in hell”

O2 Response: “Maybe later, got tweets to send”

I can guarantee that 99% of brands out there would have ignored such profanity on Twitter. Not O2 – they took it in their stride.

Check out Ronan Dunne talking…

Here is Ronan Dunne talking about the importance of social media to his company:

No matter what size business you have, you can always learn from others.

What about you?

I’d love to hear how you approach tone in your company? How would you have responded to the ‘extreme’ example above?