Category : marketing

Social media: the must-have 21st century marketing tool

EUROWORD-2014-aug-twitter-mug

As we tweet and blog our way through the second decade of the 21st century, social media is all the rage – indeed if companies aren’t using at least one form or other of social media to market their products or services, they almost certainly have a sneaking guilty feeling that they probably should be (and what’s more, they’re right!).

However, as with most things in life, moderation is a good thing. In other words, it’s wise not to throw yourself headlong into the world of (re)tweets and “likes” and “favourites” or you risk neglecting other aspects of your business in your endeavour to keep feeding the rapacious, time-gobbling beastie that social media can quickly become.

So here are three tips to bear in mind if your business is embarking on a social media campaign from scratch:

1. Identify which is/are the most important form(s) of social media for your business. At the outset, it can be bewildering as you hear people bandying around names such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Pinterest…

For my business, for example, Twitter, Facebook and blogging make most sense, as copywriting revolves around words. However, if your products are bespoke cakes, tailor-made kilts or handmade jewellery, Pinterest would almost certainly be a good choice for you, as you can pin up photos of your gorgeous creations for all to admire!

2. If you’re just starting out on Facebook and Twitter, here’s another tip for you. By all means set up your Facebook account so that it publishes all your FB posts on Twitter; however, it’s not such a good idea to have all your tweets posted automatically to your Facebook page.

Why is this? Well, simply because Twitter is a different type of forum, in that it’s more like an ongoing chat/conversation (albeit between thousands of people!) and is generally full of random thoughts, snippets of news, comments about miscellany, retweets, #FF (Friday follows) or comments on other people’s tweets, etc.

If you clutter your clients’ Facebook pages with these frequent tweets, they may well not appreciate it and promptly “unlike” your page – which is, of course, the last thing you want to happen when you’re busily trying to build up your “likes”.

3. One of the aspects of social media that often puts companies off is that it can be time-consuming. Granted, devising and finding fresh material for posts on Facebook pages and thinking up pithy 140-character tweets can begin to eat into the working day. However, there’s one way to cut down the time you spend doing this – and that’s to pre-schedule some of your posts/tweets for the week ahead.

Thanks to the Facebook scheduling facility (the small clock icon in the bottom left of your Facebook status box) and Twitter’s wonderful https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/ system, you can spend anything from 20 minutes to a couple of hours (depending on how much social media activity you wish to engage in) once a week and pre-schedule the majority of your content.

You’ll notice that I said “the majority of your content”, and there’s a reason for that: one of the main points of being involved in social media is to interact with others and to respond to news/events that are happening – either in your industry in general or within your specific business – as they happen.

Consequently, you do need to be prepared to respond most days to people who leave comments or send you direct messages, and to post/tweet information that has just become available and which you know might interest your customers. That means setting aside 10 minutes or so once or twice a day to “be social”. After all, that’s what social media is all about – as the name suggests!

No ducking out of it: your business needs a consistent tone of voice

 

Do you sometimes judge people by their looks? A recent article on a BBC website suggests that most of us do.

However, when it comes to making a good impression in business, there are other factors to consider, too. One of these is the corporate identity that your business or organisation creates through its communications, which means you need to choose your words extremely carefully when “speaking” in your corporate guise, e.g. on your website, on Twitter or on Facebook – or indeed in your printed promotional materials.

One aspect to bear in mind when writing about your business – and its products or services – is that it’s important to be consistent in tone and style, which means maintaining a consistent “tone of voice”. You’ve no doubt heard that expression before many times, but what does it really mean in an everyday copywriting situation? It means, quite simply, how you say what you say.

Here are three handy tips to help you establish (and then maintain!) a corporate tone of voice:

1. Decide whether your company is going to “speak” in the:

  • Informal first person plural voice (“We supply first-class widgets…”).
  • Informal first person singular voice (“I am the world’s leading expert in… “).
  • Formal third person plural voice (“Brown Brothers produce….”).
  • Formal third person singular voice (“Our company believes that…” or “Jason Smithers is a master plumber with 30 years’ experience…”).

You should also decide whether you are going to refer to your customer in the third person (e.g. “Our customers know they can rely on us to…”) or whether you prefer to take a more direct, informal approach and address customers directly in the second person (e.g. “When you commission us to design your home, you can count on receiving impeccable customer service from us at every stage of the design process…”).

2. Having decided whether to use the formal third person voice or the less formal first and second person voices, you then have to ensure that all text emanating from your organisation reflects this same “tone”.  For example, if you have opted for the formal register, here are three things to avoid:

  • Contractions (e.g. can’t, won’t, doesn’t) – instead use the full version (e.g. cannot, will not, does not).
  • Starting sentences with “but” or “and”. This used to be tantamount to sacrilege in written English and is still frowned upon in formal English texts. However, these days you’ll often see “and” or “but” at the start of sentences in informal texts, as this reflects more accurately the way we actually speak.
  • Colloquialisms and idioms. Let’s look at this in practice… Colloquial version: “Our customers always rave about our fab work.” Formal version: “Our customers are always extremely impressed by our exemplary workmanship.”

If you’ve decided you’re more comfortable with an informal tone of voice then feel free to use abbreviated words. And to start sentences with conjunctions (as we just did) or to use expressions such as “OK” and “Our company is the cat’s pyjamas” (unless you happen to manufacture feline nightwear, in which case you’d say “Our company supplies cats’ pyjamas…).

3. Ensure that everything you or your colleagues say (on Twitter, on Facebook, on your website, in your printed promotional materials and documents) reflects your brand values. To get you started, it can be helpful to spend some time choosing three or four words or phrases that encapsulate what your organisation is all about. Here are some well-known examples to get you started:

  • Apple: inspiration, dream, innovation.
  • Innocent: humorous, unpretentious, upbeat.
  • Red Bull: daring, adventurous, energetic.
  • Euroword: creative, professional, word gurus (admittedly, this brand isn’t quite as well known as the others… yet!)

Then remind anyone in your organisation who is writing text on behalf of the company to reflect these “distilled down” tenets in everything they write – or, indeed, say (e.g. in public presentations or press interviews). That way, your communications will remain consistent and on message, making the right impression on anyone who encounters your company online or in person for the first time.

If you’re interested in seeing more of the BBC article referred to above, have a look for yourself – it makes fascinating reading. In a subsequent Euroword blog post, we’ll look at why having a style guide for your company or organisation is helpful, and how to go about compiling one. Meanwhile, enjoy developing your company’s individual tone of voice, and once you’ve decided on the three words that characterise your organisation, feel free to post them on our EurowordUK Facebook page.

Can of soup with tomatoes

Manage expectations and avoid disappointed clients

My mum’s home-made potato soup is exceedingly tasty – she calls it “Mother’s Brew” and we, her now-very-grown-up children, have been fans of this tattie-based treasure since even before we could hold a spoon. However, one memorable day, when I was eight or nine, mother informed my brother and me (yes, “me” is correct   – see why here) that we would be having tomato soup for lunch. I should explain that, until that point, tomato soup in our house had always meant the familiar Heinz Cream of Tomato: smooth in texture, vibrant orange in colour, and tasting… well, tasting the way I expected tomato soup to taste.

On the fateful day in question, however, our busy mother had valiantly decided to turn her hand to home-made tomato soup. With the benefit of hindsight (and personal experience of cooking for myriad ungrateful offspring!), I now appreciate her taking the time to make the soup from first principles and how authentically “tomatoey” her homemade version was. I also realise she was probably endeavouring to protect  her offspring from any nasty preservatives that might have been lurking in old-fashioned canned soups.

However, on being presented with her lovingly prepared concoction, my brother and I were… unimpressed. Indeed our reaction went well beyond childish disappointment – we were aghast, and we didn’t hesitate to make our displeasure known, bemoaning the unfamiliar lumpy texture and substantially less sweet taste of this imposter, masquerading under the name “tomato soup”.

Why our seemingly unreasonable and hyperbolic reaction? Well, essentially, because it wasn’t what we’d expected.

And, of course, it’s the same with marketing products and services. Your customers’ expectations have to be managed, and one way of doing that is by ensuring that your website and printed promotional materials convey an honest, no-surprises (unless they’re good ones!) account of what your customers can realistically expect. The truth, packaged in an engaging, interesting way, is far more wholesome than unrealistic promises that are destined to disappoint.

Had my mother warned us in advance what to expect from her homemade tomato soup –  for example, that it would have a different texture and flavour from what we’d experienced before, and that it boasted the benefit of being healthier for us – my brother and I would have been better prepared for, and more receptive to, the alien, tart-flavoured, ruby-coloured, chunky broth that appeared in our plates.

So when you’re pondering the wording for your new website or printed promotional materials, make sure your copy does two things:

  • prepare your customers for precisely what your organisation will supply, using unambiguous, engaging language.
  • tell them why it’ll be beneficial to them by giving clear examples of the advantages of using your product/service.

That way your customers will know exactly what to expect – and there will be no unwelcome surprises.  After all, Yours Truly is the living proof that unwelcome surprises can be remembered for a very long time…