Creating a voice for your social media

Standard

img_1646It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that the difference between a good social media channel and a superlative one is having a strong and consistent voice. No matter how much strategic planning, executive buy-in and resources you throw at your social media presence, nothing will endear you to your clients and stakeholders as much as creating a unique and memorable voice.

Your social media voice encompasses all the words, terms and expressions that flow across your social media channel. Their purpose should be to foster and reinforce engagement between your company and your clients. The voice should depict how you want your clients to see you.

That’s all a rather dry way of explaining something that needs to come off as organic and spontaneous. Do you want your company image to be hip or helpful, sophisticated or irreverent. With so many options to choose from, and with humans being as they are, it’s all too easy for your social media content to have an inconsistent and erratic voice, something that no business in their right mind would want. When your voice differs across your channels it can be almost impossible to achieve an authentic identity that is so essential to fostering trust between you and your clients.

Strategies that you can employ to improve and clarify your social media voice don’t have to cost the world or take a long time. But they are a valuable exercise to assist you with connecting your social media content with the image you want to portray. The following are some pointers on how to clarify what you want your organisations social media character to be.

Culture and community

Your social media voice should stem from the culture of your organisation. If you decide to adopt a whimsical, sprightly voice for an organisation that is serious and no-nonsense, then this will become obvious pretty quickly. At the same time it’s also important to think about your community of stakeholders. They will be gauging how to interact with you through your social media voice. You can do this by making sure you’re speaking their language and projecting a clear and consistent image.

Storyboarding

Think of the social media voice as they great narrator of the story of your venture. As such, techniques like storyboarding are a great method to develop character and story, just as you would when writing a script. Figure out everything your organisation likes, dislikes, your goals and who you want to be. Through this you’ll be able to define your voice with even more precision.

Develop your feedback loop

It’s important that you have a consistent approach to how you respond to those who engage with you on your social media channels. Do you know what to say when you receive an adversarial or negative comment on Twitter? Are you making an effort to strengthen your relationships or just providing glib and shallow responses? Ensure all your interactions have the same goal, to reinforce your desired voice.

ShouldntShouldnot

Watch your language

Are you trying to connect with an audience that has a niche sensibility and knowledge-base. Is jargon appropriate? Will speaking frankly on certain subjects alienate people or stimulate conversation? Do you have an appropriate balance of colloquial and professional language across all you channels? Asking yourself these questions can help you make sure you don’t confuse, or even upset, your audience.

Once you have a good idea of what you want your voice to be, it’s time to start thinking about how you can highlight this across different social media channels. You might think about creating a social media style guide. Hitting the right tone can be tricky and guiding your social media authors can help them, and you, avoid heartache. It’s no use going to the effort to define all the elements you see as essential to creating your ideal social media voice, and then the intern retweets the latest inappropriate meme.

Hootsuite have a very handy list of what your social media style guide should include. Even if you don’t need a formal style guide, it’s still a great checklist for everything you need to be thinking about when strategising for your social media voice.

Hootsuite’s suggested template for a social media style guide

  1. A list of active accounts and contacts
  2. Your social media goals
  3. Audience breakdown
  4. Tone of voice
  5. Terminology
  6. Publishing
    1. Ownership (i.e. should individual authors sign-off on their posts)
    2. Cross-platform publishing
    3. Where to source content
    4. Punctuation guidelines
    5. Hashtags
    6. Emoji
    7. How to give credit
    8. Using links
    9. Platform-specific guidelines
  7. Scheduling
  8. Content calendar
  9. Image and design guidelines
  10. Legal considerations

Happy tweeting, facebooking, insta-ring …. etc!

Cheers, Jack and the c word crew

Advertisements

Jackie French in the #CommsCorner

Standard

Low res 1This week we chat with Australian author Jackie French AM in the #CommsCorner.  As well as being the author of more than 200 books, Jackie is the patron of literacy programmes across Australia. When she’s not writing, she’s cooking for friends and family in her kitchen at the top of the gorge in the Araluen Valley.

Your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

Author, honorary wombat (part time), passionate advocate for the power of story and the right of every child to read; Australian Children’s Laureate 2014-2015; Senior Australian of the Year 2015.

Tell us about your typical day as an author?

  • Have coffee.
  • Procrastinate.
  • Answer emails. Mutter at too many emails.
  • Procrastinate
  • Begin to write.  Return to reality five hours later when husband yells ‘dinner time.’
  • Feed wombats.
  • Feed husband.
  • Answer emails. Mutter.
  • Speak sternly to wombats.
  • Bed.
  • Possibly wake at 4am and jot down note for next chapter.

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I was three years old when I realised that books were created by humans, not picked from trees. (Though I am still hoping to find that Book Tree).

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

Socrates, executed for encouraging the youth of ancient Athens to question everything.

Which tools can’t you live without?

My favourite cooking knife and wooden spoon; laptop; chainsaw (the road out of our place is long and tree strewn), iPad.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Sleep, and getting time for same. Answering 94 requests a day, most of which are heartbreaking.

Which communication campaign do you most admire?

The 1972 ‘It’s Time’ campaign. It sold a dream with no specifics whatsoever; yet the specifics were radical, utopian and thought out.

What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?

I am extremely old, ie pre television. Also I gave up watching TV entirely 46 years ago. I am not the best person to ask about communication changes in the past 50 years. Extremely good however if you want to talk about communication changes in the past  five millenia.

 

What quality do you look for in your writing collaborators?

Integrity, perfectionist, imagination.

What’s your favourite brand?

Home grown.

What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

The one that moves you most. Being honest about what you want to read tends to lead to honesty in your work.

What tips do you wish you’d known starting out as a writer?

Speak only the truth, and with passion or with laughter. Otherwise shut up.

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’

The best communication is a story. Each physics breakthrough began with a story. Women were killed and no one listened, then Rosie Batty told a story. Find the story and you can twist the world.

What Twitter can learn from that time Coca Cola changed its formula

Standard

We thought we’d share this great article from The Conversation – a few more characters than 280 though… thanks Collette Snowden, University of South Australia

File 20170928 1440 13uv8c6
Twitter is experimenting with 280 characters.
Shutterstock

 

The 140-character message limit has defined Twitter. But the company is now experimenting with its format, doubling the length of some users’ tweets to 280 characters. Why are they taking such an enormous risk, playing with the characteristic that defines and differentiates the service?

The reason is that Twitter’s user base has been stuck at about 320 million for some time. If this doesn’t change, entropy will set in and Twitter could collapse.

We can learn a lot about what Twitter is going through by looking at the time Coca Cola decided to change its recipe, and unveiled “New Coke”. The change was rejected by customers, and the company had to backtrack.

Another thing pushing Twitter’s move is that it reported a slight decline in users and a loss of US$116 million in the most recent quarter. It was punished by investors and put on notice, so increasing users and ad revenue are important corporate objectives.

 

Users still don’t want to pay

Twitter’s problem, like all social media and news platforms, comes down to the unwillingness of online users to pay. Older forms of media – newspapers and the like – are just holding on despite declining advertising revenue, but that’s becoming increasingly difficult as traditional consumers die and younger consumers expect all media to be accessible online.

By experimenting with longer messages, Twitter will be hoping to solve some of the problems faced by advertisers. At present, advertisers prefer to spend their money on other platforms because they have many more active users who are more attentive, and provide better data on how to both target consumers and evaluate impact.

The capacity to reach audiences and provide content on Twitter is severely limited by the 140-character restriction. While Twitter belatedly tackled some of the limitations of its format by allowing the addition of images, videos, and weblinks, the short message format remains restrictive for promotional communication.

Longer tweets will keep users on a screen for longer, and allow advertisers to “push” messages to users. But the risk for Twitter is that this is precisely what its most loyal users want to avoid.

Twitter urgently needs to find a way to meet the demands of its advertisers, but by doing so it risks alienating users – the people who create the network that makes Twitter valuable.

Remember Friendster? Remember MySpace? The latter’s former head of online marketing, Sean Percival, once noted that among the many mistakes made by MySpace, disrespecting users was a key one.

Most social media users treat the online space as a public service without much awareness that the vast technological enterprise that delivers it must be paid for.

Lessons from business history

Twitter might ponder what happened when Coca Cola changed the formula of its signature product in 1985.

At the time it was believed that the change was a reaction to the increased market share that Pepsi enjoyed after its hugely successful marketing campaign featuring artists such as Michael Jackson.

The New Coke formula also tested well against Pepsi in focus group studies that included 200,000 taste tests. But an account of this episode, written by Constance L. Hays, argued the real motivation behind the change was US$50 million in annual savings by reducing the use of more expensive ingredients.

In interviews with Pepsi chemists, Hays was told: “Coke turned its back on the very thing that made it great.”

While the company recovered well from the public relations crisis, and now tells a positive story about it, for a time Coca Cola was in grave danger. Tellingly, it was saved by the people who loved the product enough to pressure the company to reverse its decision. These customers organised a boycott and other public campaigns that saw the old formula restored after three months.

An important lesson for marketers from the New Coke experiment was that in spite of the rigorous market testing, other factors had to be considered. Marketers learned about the importance of habit, tradition, brand loyalty and affinity, or more simply, the truth of the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

While Twitter is not selling a much loved soft drink, the tech world is also littered with cautionary tales of failure like TiVo, or the Microsoft Zune, and “tweaks” to successful products and applications that have damaged companies and brands, like Vegemite iSnack 2.0 (now rebadged as Cheeseybite).

Are they solving a problem for users?

One of the common features of both human and computer networks is that weak connections lead to network instability and breakdown. Yet this is precisely the risk Twitter is taking by changing its format. Longer messages may drive away loyal users who love the current format without attracting new users to satisfy and reassure investors and advertisers.

Many people are asking serious questions about the value of their time spent on social media and various studies show use of social media sites is starting to decline.

Creating longer messages won’t solve this problem, especially as it threatens to make Twitter even more time consuming. People will have less time to follow other users as they spend more time writing, and less time reading and sharing posts.

Twitter might be seizing the day – Carpe Diem – to change its primary product or test the waters to gauge public reaction, but it’s worth remembering that those two powerful Latin words are from a longer phrase by the poet Horace.

Dum loquimur, fugerit invida
Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero

which translates as:

While we’re talking, envious time is fleeing: seize the day, put no trust in the future

The ConversationTwitter might consider Horace’s longer message before it commits to the introduction of 280-character posts. Its future may be at stake.

Collette Snowden, Senior Lecturer, School of Communication, International Studies and Languages, University of South Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The art of naming a company

Standard
Cambridge

The Duke of Cambridge with his son Prince George on his first day of school (Image: @KensingtonRoyal)

We’re a little clucky at the c word with the recent joyous news from Kensington Palace that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a third child. And with the punters racing to choose a name for the future prince or princess, it has got us thinking about the challenges and opportunities involved in naming a new enterprise … such as a child or a company.

It’s a question that I’m often asked – how did you come up with your company name? the c word? I wish I could say it happened over night, but in fact it took months and months of contemplating ideas … some downright dreadful … until one morning I was walking back from a Friday office coffee run … staring at the C= coffee in my hands and thinking about how it fuels so many communicators … and it struck me… C= communicatin, coffee, champagne … I have to call my company the c word!

Most outside the professional world of communications might consider naming a company a somewhat arbitrary task. But those of us with an appreciation of branding know that the name of your business not only needs to encapsulate the essence of your corporate entity, but convey this information in a clear and catchy way that people will remember. A name should express the entire image you want your business to have. It also has the power to influence the behaviour of your customers and clients. Just think of how the word Nike, as a synonym of victory, has played into that company’s astonishing success.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Generally there are three approaches to naming your company. You can choose a name that has nothing to do with the services or products you actually provide (think McDonalds, or Apple).  Or you could choose something that directly conveys this, a la ‘Toys R Us’. The third option is to make up an entirely new word that you’re hoping will come to mean what you want it to mean, such as Skype or Google.

So how can you be confident that you’re picking the right name? The first and primary thing to keep in mind is the people and groups you want to reach out to. For example, something trendy and edgy won’t suit a business wanting to appeal to a conservative corporate crowd. On the other hand, being too bland won’t help you stand out from the crowd.

Cognitive fluency

An essential concept to wrap your head around before you undertake the task of naming a new business is the idea of cognitive fluency.  Essentially this is a term used to indicate the ease with which information is processed by the brain. It is a measure of how easy it is to think about something and the difference between simplicity and complexity.

circle

Image above: Which is easier to understand? A description of a circle, or a picture of a circle?

Without wading too far into the neuroscientific weeds, the main point to take away from this idea is that cognitive fluency affects decision-making. For example, psychologists have found that companies with easier to pronounce names have significantly more investors than those with harder to pronounce names.

The other aspect to remember is that one person’s attribution of cognitive fluency can be totally different from another’s attribution. In a nutshell, past experience and current context play heavily into how people will interpret your business name. So it’s best to stay away from controversial terms, and again to think about your desired client/customer group.

So with all that in mind there are some general tips to follow:

  • DON’T use initials (especially strings of initials).
  • DON’T use words that are foreign to your target audience.
  • DON’T use words that can be pronounced in several different ways, or that are difficult to pronounce.

If you are going with an entirely new word (think of the skype example from above), it’s important to remember a few things. You can use word segments that imply something that you wish to convey. For example, you can combine ‘Rapid’ or ‘Express’ with other words to imply speed. Or combine two words that describe what it is your business does (e.g. Kwikcopy, or Travelodge). You can also attempt to create an image that will influence how customers see your business.

Finally…

Before you make this important decision it is essential to ensure your proposed name goes through some standard user testing. Focus groups, user-surveys and graphical interface testing are all useful exercises. Not only will these allow you to pick a name that clients will react positively to, but it will also help you to avoid embarrassing or unintentional meanings.

Cheers, Jack and the c word crew

Podcasts: The Netflix of Radio

Standard
126EC5B0-25EC-480D-89A2-B38185A426E3.JPG

We can all be podcasters – even Jack!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’re probably aware that a new audio medium has mutated from the ashes of traditional broadcasting. For those who missed the memo, podcasting is a DIY narrowcast form of audio publishing that has democratised the once elite realm of radio broadcasting. Its rise was enabled by the emergence of portable mp3 players and then the ubiquity of smartphones (the ‘pod’ nomenclature coming, of course, from the original Apple iPod). Anyone with the inclination can hit record then publish their no doubt profound and insightful thoughts on whatever topic they choose to wax lyrical.

While podcasting really is as simple as all that, there are some key ingredients that go into creating a good quality podcast that listeners will seek out and return to.

Create an intimate and rich connection with your audience

The obvious benefits of podcasting both correlate and diverge from traditional radio broadcasting. The ability to capture an audiences’ attention and convey a rich and detailed narrative around a subject is unparalleled in other low cost media forms. Podcasting can be an extremely effective way to reach the people you would most like to engage with and influence.

So what are some of the basic elements that can help you achieve this goal.

Podcastpromo

Our new podcast with Journeys to Come

First of all, remember that we are all social creatures and we seek out human connection.  The best and most interesting podcast are often ones that allow experts to talk about what they do, why they do it and why it matters, in their own words. What a podcast does better than any other media is imbed that human element in information/knowledge transmission. Listeners won’t be interested in thinly veiled, brand-centric messaging. But they will seek out passionately delivered expert and novel information. They’ll listen to hours of an engaging conversation about a topic they’re interested in.

Which brings us to the second essential element: Subject expertise. Don’t be afraid to approach a subject that is likely to have a deep insight or interesting insight into the topic you are podcasting on. Most people are happy to have an opportunity to express themselves, especially in an informal manner. The logistics of setting up studio interviews is not longer an issue as technology allows us to sidestep these limitations. You can conduct an interview via Skype with an expert on the other side of the world, or even across the same city. Take every opportunity … grab five minutes of dialogue with that guest speaker at the conference you’re attending, then store the recording for a podcast to be compiled at a later date.

In fact the technology of podcasting is almost so simple and widely available that it barely warrants a mention. If you’re serious about having high-quality sound then you might consider investing in a microphone. But other than that all the tools are available using devices you probably already possess and software you can freely and cheaply download.

Attract and retain your audience

Podcast listeners get hooked. And they listen, on average, to over 5 hours of podcasts per week. This is an unsurprising stat when you consider the importance of storytelling and narrative to human culture from time immemorial. NPR’s Serial podcastNPR’s Serial podcast in 2015 had masses of people parked in their driveways so they could finish each episode after arriving home. Serial was essentially a long story about a murder that proved how addictive narrative storytelling in this format can be.

We all know the benefits of using narrative to build empathy in listeners. Research shows that audio media is particularly effective in fostering an intimate connection with audiences. Inherent in listening is the activity of imagining, which in turn leads to empathy and an emotional response to the ‘story’ you are telling.  Sound effects and sound shots can also increase the level of mental imagery and lead listeners to pay closer attention to your message.

Even if you know you have a quality podcast that listeners will respond to, it can still be tricky to promote your product. There are a few basic steps you can take that will enhance your profile. Make sure you get those 5 star iTunes reviews. Consider cross promotion with other publications and podcasts.  Pitch your podcast to bloggers who compile top 10 lists.

The problem with monetising

If you’ve managed to build a substantial audience you may be tempted to leverage that popularity by introducing paid advertisements to your format. This is especially tempting when you consider the high engagement cultivated in podcast listeners.

According to one study: two-thirds of podcast listeners have engaged in various research and/or purchase related behaviors as a result of advertising exposure from podcasts. Among all forms of advertising on mobile devices, podcasts create the highest improvement in perception. And among all forms of digital advertising, podcast ads are considered the least intrusive.

Those are impressive stats, but don’t be enticed into stuffing your podcast with paid advertisements and sponsored content.  Any experienced podcast listeners will warn you against going down that road.

The warning stems from the very thing that separates podcasts from commercial radio. That is, the absence of targeted, glutinous pandering to an ideal demographic. Instead, pods are targeting interests, enthusiasms, and the oral tradition of storytelling. A podcast isn’t like a website where you can scroll past advertisements, or a television program in which you change the channel during an ad break. The technology of podcasts does not really allow listeners to easily skip past advertisements. This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it forces listeners to hear the advertisement. On the other, it can be off-putting and result in listeners switching off and unsubscribing entirely.

Finally, don’t be afraid to fail

Podcasts are the ultimate start-up culture. According to the ABC Audience Insights survey, nearly one in three podcast listeners trial a new podcast each week! Discovering podcasts happens by a variety of means. Nearly 1 in 2 discover by word of mouth or listening to radio/TV.

So be daring. Don’t wait to launch that new podcast, test out those novel ideas. Remember, people are willing to give it a go. You’ll never know what exciting new avenue you might end up connecting with listeners through.

Cheers, Jack and the c word crew

Rebel with a cause

Standard

Australian celebrity Rebel Wilson has been awarded an astounding $4.56 million dollars in damages by the Victorian Supreme Court.

In awarding Australia’s largest ever defamation payout, the judge called the defamation enacted by Woman’s Day, Australian Women’s Weekly, New Weekly and OK Magazine “unprecedented in this country” (because of the articles’ global reach).

Wilson sued Bauer for damages, arguing the ‘serial liar’ allegations had ruined her reputation and cost her lucrative movie roles.

With the outcome likely to mark the beginning of a period of reform for defamation law, it’s a good time to take a look at the state of play vis-a-vis defamation law in Australia and how it impacts those working in the media.

According to the Fitzroy Legal Centre: “Anyone who has had damaging material published about them can take legal action against authors, publishers, broadcasters and distributors to defend their reputation.”

In a nutshell…

In common law a person has a right to a good reputation until proven otherwise. The original statute, the Newspaper Libel and Registration Act of 1881, placed the burden on publishers with regards to libel. Since then the law has seesawed between favouring the media and the defendants. Currently Australia exists under a Uniform Defamation Law regime that came into operation in 2005. Many pundits believe that after 12 years of operation these laws are ripe for review. Due to the ease with which plaintiffs can prove that they have suffered damage to their reputations, the balance of power lies squarely in their quarter. There has been a slew of recent case law, the latest being Rebel Wilson’s high profile case, that may prompt some sort of legislative review process. Watch this space!

So what are some of the basic things that media professionals in Australia need to be aware of in regards to defamation law. First of all, at least a basic understanding of the major concepts will hold you in good stead.

Libel vs Slander

In Australia the difference between Libel (published defamation) and Slander (spoken defamation) is, according to the Uniform law, no longer relevant. The distinction originally rose out of the permanency of some forms of published material, as opposed to the relative fleeting nature of the spoken word. Today’s media landscape renders this distinction irrelevant. Potentially everyone has the ability to record and broadcast any spoken words or gestures.

Social Media and Twitter

The wild and unruly nature of Twitter, Facebook and other blogging platforms sees any and all opinions dished up seemingly uninhibited by decorum or moral prejudice. However, this perceived anonymity should not be mistaken with protection from litigation.  In 2014 a young man was ordered to pay a teacher $105,000 for defaming her on Twitter and Facebook.

So, when posting to social media it’s a good idea to think of yourself as the editor of a newspaper. You bear the responsibility for what you publish.

And of course, seek legal advice should you have any more specific questions.

While you’re pondering your next Tweet, here’s some further reading:

Campaign takes the cake

Standard
DI8IgPAVwAAHr_J

A #TSBakeOff entry from @MelissaJensen_ – Gouldian Finches are threatened by altered fire regimes which reduce the availability of seeds & hollows #Wildoz

It’s Thursday … so let’s have some cake!

Like many Australians, my first decade of birthdays were celebrated with a highly artistic cake creations from the Australian Women’s Weekly. Choices, choices, choices!

So it’s not surprising that a cake competition, to bring attention to today’s Threatened Species Day, caught my attention. Mmmm cake!

The cool concept is a freshly baked idea from Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner, Greg Andrews, with all baked goods featuring favourite threatened species.

It’s such a great example of clever content creation and a great way to engage an audience spread across the country. Perhaps it’s a recipe for your next campaign?

Entries have been flying in from ovens around the country and will be judged by the Commissioner, alongside Dr Bec West from UNSW and Annabel Crabb.

We can’t wait to see which cake rises to the top?

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

PS. Pardon all the cake puns!