I’ve always felt that the line between social media and traditional media was an artificial one, but it occurs to me now that my perspective is shaped by my being, when it really comes down to it, a writer first.
When your primary goal is to communicate, your audience is always there, in front of you. You’re always trying to tell a story that will connect with your readers.
What’s different, with social media, is that readers can talk back.
I recently added the TaylorMade Facebook page to my FB feed, and I was reading the comments this morning to a new post they’ve put up. It’s a short note about some new irons that are now available (Tour Preferred MB, MC, and CB irons), and one of the things that is immediately obvious is that some peoples’ comments are . . . shall we say, feisty.
How different from the days when a PR or marketing communications person would issue a press release without having to exit his or her comfortable mar-com bubble. If someone’s response to your company’s news was negative– “that’s ugly/too expensive/like someone else’s brand better”–you wouldn’t know. Sure, some inkling of those responses might trickle back to you over time, but it would be long after the release was issued, published, and essentially forgotten.
Now you know immediately.
And that’s a good thing, for a couple of reasons. First, it affords companies the opportunity to gather feedback. No, the comments on a Facebook page don’t reach the standards of bona fide market research, but there is data in there, if you know how to qualify it.
Equally important, the feedback ensures you put communication first.
Communication is not a one-way endeavor. It requires listening as well as talking. It’s reciprocal.
Which gets me to what I think of as “e-voice.”
The risk with traditional marketing communications has always been that the company’s voice sounds out-of-touch. You see it in pieces that are “corporate-y.” They speak with marketing department lingo instead of sounding like real people, by which I mean the folks who actually might buy the product or service. The language is stiff and formal, instead of being conversational. At its worst, the communications devolve into flat descriptions of features-benefits, devoid of any humanity whatsoever. It becomes noise–and people tune it out.
Carry that style into the realm of social media, and you set yourself up for mockery or worse. One local business here in Roch, in a particularly egregious example, has used its Twitter account to repeat the marketing tagline created for its radio and television ads. Sorry, but that is no way to win a social media audience.
E-voice is different. E-voice is genuine. It feels like it’s a real human being, not a marketing slogan bot. It is casual, conversational. And it is always aware of that reciprocity. Even when the person tweeting or facebooking or blogging doesn’t respond to commentors, e-voice always sounds as if it’s addressing actual people. It is always an invitation to converse, rather than a one-sided proclamation of some kind.
There was a time when companies, sensing all this, got a bit nervous. And some probably still are. But an e-voice doesn’t need to be out of control. It doesn’t need to diverge from the parameters set by a company’s brand and reputation.
In fact, e-voice is essentially a kind of fictional character, bound as surely as a fictional character by the constraints of personality, habits, values, even decorum.
You could think of e-voice as the 2D textual version of Old Spice Guy. It’s a creation, a manufactured entity, and yet because it has a personality it suggests a life of its own, and so resonates with its audience.
You almost need to start, with social media, by creating this character–this persona–behind the scenes. The rest just follows naturally, and the conversation begins.