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October 20, 2020

Keys to Consistent Brand Voice on Social Media

Image courtesy of (KROMKRATHOG)/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In order for a brand to be a brand, it has to be consistent. That’s kind of the whole point of a brand—it’s the thread that holds together all of the different parts of your public and internal representation. Brand has to be more of a constant than a variable, otherwise it’s not serving any purpose.

The same is true for every part of your marketing ecosystem, including social media. Some brands are extremely intentional about everything they post, others just put a person in charge of their accounts and let them go wild. So the question is this: how does your social media brand fit into your larger brand ecosystem?

What is your audience looking for on social media?

Different people want different things. This is, obviously, a simple truism of life in general, but it definitely applies to your marketing. Depending on the industry, the audience, the message, and the channel, different people are looking for different things, and you need to be ready to provide them if you want to stand out, become and remain a valuable resource.

The first step is knowing who you’re targeting (and, more importantly, who you should be targeting). You can use your own data to figure that out. Dig into who’s interacting with your brand online, and see where they’re coming from and what they’re looking for. You can even build your systems in such a way that you can get better and better data from your audiences as time passes, rather than just getting more of the same.

Once you know who you’re talking to, you need to identify the best way to talk to them. For example, let’s look at millennials in particular. According to data from Sprout Social, only 40% of consumers care whether a brand shows “personality” on Twitter—think Wendy’s or MoonPie—and only 35% of the total population want brands to show personality on Instagram.

But when you limit your attention to the millennial segment that number jumps up to 50% for both platforms. Millennials are also 25% more likely to react positively to a brand using slang on social media, and 20% more likely to react positively when a brand makes fun of its competitors online (because who doesn’t like a good roast? Well…non-millennials, evidently).

It’s important to make sure that you’re tailoring your social message to the audience you’re trying to attract. If you want to sell to millennials and Gen Z, you can mess around a bit on social, post memes, joke about the competition. If you’re selling to boomers and Gen X, they’re probably not going to buy into that personality.

What message is best for each social channel?

You probably guessed this earlier, when I mentioned that the overall audience is less likely to be engaged by personality on Instagram than on Twitter, but the effectiveness of brand messaging is not only affected by the audience you’re talking to, but also the channel you’re using to present it. A brand that really resonates with the community on Twitter might not be as effective on Facebook, and the way you show up on Instagram might fall flat on Snapchat.

Again, let’s go to Sprout Social for some data—in fact, it’s a deeper dive into the numbers we were talking about a moment ago. Like I said, 35% of respondents said they were looking for brands to show some personality on Instagram, and 40% wanted to see personality on a brand’s Twitter account. For the rest of the most popular social channels, opinions varied wildly.

On LinkedIn, brand personality is only favored by 33% of consumers, while that number somewhat surprisingly falls to 30% for Pinterest and only 27% on Snapchat. Meanwhile 48% are looking for personality on YouTube, and—again, perhaps somewhat surprisingly—83% prefer brands to show their personality on Facebook.

To put it another way, different people are definitely looking for different things from brands, but not only that, the same person might be looking for different things depending on whether they opened their Facebook app or Instagram. So you need to make that a part of your calculus when you’re crafting messaging for social media—a different spin might be necessary for each channel.

Wait a minute, isn’t this supposed to be about consistency?

You might be a little confused right now. Scroll up and re-read the headline of this blog about consistency in your brand voice on social media, then take a second look at the two sections you’ve read so far that are both about the ways your brand voice needs to be different for different people and different channels. I would forgive you if you were a little annoyed.

But it’s important first to be realistic about what cannot stay the same before we can talk about the overall picture. Because, as we’ll see now, every single channel you can use to communicate with your audience is critical to your business’ success.

The multi-channel shopper

In case you haven’t checked a calendar lately, it’s 2020 as I’m writing this. And in today’s marketing landscape, people are not buying on a whim. They aren’t simply watching one television ad or seeing one billboard and making an instantaneous purchasing decision. If that was ever the case, those days are over.

Today’s consumer is doing more research than ever before. According to a study put together by Harvard Business Review, the majority of consumers today are “multi-channel shoppers,” meaning that when they’re shopping, they’re investigating two or more marketing channels before, during, and after the purchase. In fact, HBR reports that 73% of customers are using multiple channels during their buying process.

“Not only did they use smartphone apps to compare prices or download a coupon, but they were also avid users of in-store digital tools such as an interactive catalog, a price-checker, or a tablet. They bought online and picked-up in store, or bought in the store and got their purchases shipped.”

And that 73% isn’t just window shopping. They spent an average of 4% more in-store and a whopping 10% more online than customers who were only experiencing the seller’s brand through a single channel. And the more channels the customer used, the more they spent—customers who used four or more channels spent 9% more in-store than those who used only one.

The cherry on top? Multi-channel shoppers come back. Within six months of a multi-channel shopping experience, customers made 23% more repeat shopping trips and were more likely to recommend the brand than customers who only used a single channel.

This actually echoes the findings of an older study done by The Verde Group and the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. In 2011, they found that a third of customers alternated between two channels to purchase, and another third regularly used three or more channels. That means that over the past decade, the number of multi-channel shoppers is only growing.

Are you still you on every social channel?

As time passes, it only becomes more and more important that your brand is present and accounted for on multiple channels, and with social media use growing year after year—over three billion users, now—it’s only becoming more critical to be intelligently present on as many channels as possible.

As we’ve already covered, each channel is different, and the audience for each one expects something a little different when you show up. But if you’re doing something completely different on each channel—if your Twitter account’s using a different logo than the one you use for your display ads, and you’re working with drastically different visual styles on Instagram and Pinterest, for example—it’s easy to get lost. When someone bounces from channel to channel, like the 73% of shoppers we just talked about, they might not even associate your different channels with each other.

In order for the multi-channel shopper to be able to follow you from app to social media to store, they have to have a consistent path to follow. Part of that is building out a robust buyer journey—knowing where customers are coming in, knowing where to guide them next, and keeping them moving on down the funnel. But without a consistent brand across all touchpoints, you don’t stand a chance.

As my compatriot Theresa says in that linked blog, “If you’re doing something different all the time, you’re not giving people the chance to really know you.” And when they’re trying to compile a picture of who you are—and, more importantly, whether or not they want to buy from you—over a plethora of touchpoints, there needs to be some anchor to keep them steady through the process. Even if there has to be some variance to account for the needs of the individual channel.

What’s the key to a strong social media brand?

All in all, there really isn’t that much that separates what makes your social brand strong from the principles of good branding in general. It needs to promise something to your audience, to show them what they’re absolutely guaranteed to get from you. It needs to show them why you exist, why you get up in the morning and go to work every day. And, yes, it needs to be consistent, with the same beats showing up no matter where you look.

But it also needs to meet the needs of each individual channel, rather than trying to force a square peg into a round hole. So what do we do? We search for balance.

Build your brand in such a way that it can adapt to the needs of the channels it inhabits without losing what inherently makes it yours. Build it in a way that allows for subtle shifts to meet the needs of one segment or another of your audience and the needs of a specific channel, while still obviously being part of the larger whole.

Consistency has to be balanced against the requirements of your audiences and channels. But consistency is critical. After all, a brand is only a brand if it’s consistent.


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Thomas Wachtel is an editor and writer for Element Three, a marketing consultancy based in Indianapolis. Whether it’s a blog post, comprehensive brand plan, or a print ad, Thomas is the one who makes sure all content is on brand and on point.

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