Rebranding using social media: Changing your company’s voice

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By Alexandra Reid

This is the last installment of my three-part series on tactical methods companies can use to carry out rebranding across multiple social media accounts. In the last two weeks, I have discussed common pitfalls companies face during the process of changing their names and images on a variety of social channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and blogs and how to overcome them. Today, I’ll focus on how to change your company’s social media voice during the rebranding process, and how to know if changing your voice is even necessary.

A strong social media company voice

In our every day social interactions, many of us naturally seek out others who are centered and grounded. These qualities are expressed through consistency and stability of personality and are integral to maintaining healthy, long-term relationships, whether they are personal or business.

As social media enables us to extend and expand real life relationships, these qualities are virtuous while engaging on these channels, too. A consistent social media voice helps companies establish authority and a distinctive personality, which expresses the stability and long-term “health” of the organization and attracts positive relationships and business.

A strong company voice on social media should emphasize the company’s values, objectives and key differentiators that set it apart from its competitors. These can be expressed in the tone of the communication and the content that is shared with community members and the target audience.

The best social media voices are communal, grammatical, dialectical, authentic, original, contextual, relevant, timely, persistent, responsive, helpful, generous and more informal.

A company’s social media voice should only be changed if absolutely necessary and should maintain all of these qualities. Any change should be preceded by lots of information explaining the change to community members to ensure they know it is deliberate and that the company isn’t suffering from some form of instability, which jeopardizes relationships.

During a rebranding, companies often want to update their image to reflect an evolution of their brand. A company should only consider changing its social media voice if it plans to target new audiences, distinguish itself from competitors or change its business goals or mission in its rebranding efforts.

Targeting new audiences

If your target audience has expanded or changed during your rebranding, you may need to change your voice to reach them. This could mean changing the tone of your voice to reach a new demographic, or even setting up new accounts to communicate with other language groups.

For example, if you are rebranding to reach more young people, you may need to adopt a more conversational tone and share different content that appeals to them, such as magazine articles instead of business reports. If a significant portion of your new audience speaks a different language, you may also benefit by adding a new social media channel that offers communications in the other language.

In making any transition, you must have a deep understanding of your new target audience. Who are you speaking to? Or better yet, who wants to hear from you? How does your audience communicate? To answer these questions, you must listen to your new audience members to uncover their interests and how they communicate with each other. This is how you will be able to offer content that interests them and build a loyal base of new followers.

Distinguishing your company from competitors

Distinguishing your voice from the competition is a great way to earn loyal followers. Like learning to communicate with new community members, the key to developing a distinct new voice is by listening to how your competition is communicating through social media.

Important here is the fact that communication varies across social media channels. For instance, the long prose of blogs allows businesses to provide in-depth information and demonstrate a clear position on a topic. Research what your competition is writing about and get a clear understanding of their positions to determine how your company could offer a fresh perspective on its own blog.

As Twitter restricts communications to short updates, a business’s voice is built up over time and potentially across multiple subject areas. Are there areas left unaddressed by your competition? How could you fill those gaps? You should ask yourself similar questions about all of the channels where your competition may hold a presence.

Changing business goals or mission

If your business is changing its goals or mission statement, social media provides a great opportunity to explain the changes to community members. Your goals and mission form the core of your business and are therefore the most important to communicate. These new messages need to be shared across all company social media accounts to best reflect a rebranding and prepare community members for a change in content and overall voice.

According to Social Media Today, in determining your social media voice, it is best to first define what you stand for and write it down. “This could be a tagline or a two-sentence statement of what you want your blog or Facebook page to represent to readers, or what type of information source you want your Twitter followers to see you as. You can call it your Mission or your Soapbox or your Position; the important thing is to write it down and look at it often as you decide how you represent yourself and shape what you write down for ‘social’ consumption.”

Next, you need to establish new social media goals that reflect your new company goals. Do your new goals require you to address customer concerns and feedback through social media? Establish more influential online thought leadership? These new social media goals should all be set out in your social media strategy. For more information, I suggest you read this post on how to create a social media content strategy.

As mentioned previously, use this opportunity to explain the rebranding to audience members. Create blog posts that explain your new mission, goals, who you want to reach and what you are doing differently. Update your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn statuses with this information and address questions and concerns from your community.

Was this post helpful? Did I miss any key social media rebranding areas that should be addressed? Is anyone currently going through this process with lessons to share?

Photo: Web.2.0

/// COMMENTS

8 Comments »
  • Nick Stamoulis

    August 10, 2011 9:28 am

    Choosing the right social media voice is an important decision. Should it be the company as a whole or should each department have their own account and their own following? Or should it be the President or CEO of the company? Sometimes it’s best to have that personal connection, but it can pose a challenge if that person leaves.

  • Cory Carlick

    August 10, 2011 3:40 pm

    I’ll bite on this.

    The simple answer, in my view, is that it depends on three factors: the size of the company, the culture of the company, (does Ed’s Furniture Store really need to have his 10 employees have a blog?), and of course the product the company sells (service or otherwise).

    Like anything else, social media is going to be a better fit for some types of businesses rather than others. An obvious case in point here is marketers like ourselves, and service based companies. In Ottawa, it goes without saying that tech is a big one. Not just the obvious reasons being the platform is the business model itself (tech companies of course WOULD use tech to promote) but also from a PR standpoint.

    Smaller tech firm startups, between 5-10 employees, make up a huge chunk of Ottawa’s private economy. A good social media platform is going to have a few practical purposes for business beyond direct marketing to potential clients. It allows the company to appear bigger (VISUAL IDENTITY PEOPLE!!) and keep stakeholders (VCs, investors, etc) well informed and apprised. Freedom of Information Act, private redux, if you will.

    For larger firms where this would be taken into account, I’d say the purpose of social media would be more for general brand maintenance, as opposed to a central tool for sales. Coke, Pepsi, Ford and the like would be examples of companies whose business model would not (and could not) be driven primarily by the actions of SM, but it’s a great way to maintain the brand and a very cost effective, real world “focus group”.

    It depends on the situation, but you know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen.

  • Alexandra Reid

    August 10, 2011 4:10 pm

    Nick: You raise a lot of important concerns. In my experience, it has a lot to do with the size of a company and the availability of its leaders. I think it is extremely valuable if the leaders of a company, whether CEO, CMO, CTO etc., can make time to participate on social media on behalf of their companies. Not only does this show their communities that they care, they can also provide a wealth of knowledge that can boost their thought leadership in their respective industries. I find that on LinkedIn especially, where answers and discussion participation must be done through individual accounts, company leaders shine. However, if a company is large and still operates with a silo mentality, and its leaders are too busy or not well versed in social media, it can be difficult to pinpoint a social media representative. It usually becomes a battle between marketing and sales, as I’m sure you know. In these circumstances, I think that it should be the individual who has the strongest voice, which I define in this post, or the largest existing online community, who should run the company’s social media accounts. In the event that an organization can’t find someone to do this, I think outside assistance is required to help manage the account.

    Cory: Welcome back. As I discussed with Nick, I agree with you that it depends on the size of the company. You raise an interesting point that a company’s decision to participate on social media should depend somewhat on the product(s) it intends to promote through these online channels. We specialize in the B2B high tech space, and I can say with confidence that all of our clients that have built communities on social media have benefited. I’m interested in learning what industries or businesses you think would not benefit from social media. Perhaps I’m biased, but I think it has something to offer everyone.

  • Cory Carlick

    August 11, 2011 10:11 am

    I probably should have been a bit more specific — I also agree all companies can benefit (and should have — even require) from social media. I didn’t mean to give the impression otherwise! What I meant was that some types of businesses will use social media differently. A large national brand, in my view, would use social media more as a brand embassador — that is, to gauge customer reaction and connect on a personal level. It is a component in a larger fabric. The more traditional advertising makes up most of its sales; the social media serves to tie all the various branding together. It’s a glue of sorts. The Baskin Robbins “Show Us Your Pink”, which we did the creative for, was all digital and social media centric (Twitter, FB, and a mobile component on Metro news app, combined with the existing papers.)

    A tech company, especially the B2B high tech space, can use social media to drive sales and as a primary tool. Since most of the customers will be likely more inclined to want a tech component. A specialized product isn’t going to need (nor would it make sense to have) bricks and mortar stores. QNX isn’t going to set up a chain of stores where people can purchase touch-based displays Radio Shack style, for example. The business model requires B2B. If it were that turnkey, we sure wouldn’t be able to buy Playbooks for 500 bucks. Economy of scale. B2B wants information faster, and because the requirement for purchases are larger, it makes sense to tailor the marketing to the needs of the client. If RIM needs a new component yesterday, and requires 2 million units of touchscreens for RIM’s overseas manufacturing to put in the Playbook, chances are RIM is going to be monitoring the best way to source those needs.

    My position is that content is king. It’s important to have strong social media branding, but to get to that point, you have to have a strong visual identity in the first place. So as a branding/creative shop, we create graphic elements (logos, TV ads, video, web content, radio) that gets filtered through every aspect. So even with digital, the longtime relationship between the creative shops like us, the ad and PR firms like Francis Moran, TAXI, Banfield-Seguin, Mediaplus, BBDO, JWT, et all still remains. In fact the convergence with social media, in my view, makes it all the more important for companies to work together in a much more competitive workspace.

  • Cory Carlick

    August 11, 2011 10:14 am

    As an aside, as a creative house I feel we have a responsibility also to make sure that the creative is tailored for the intended use of the branding/advertising, not just the company name itself. If we know that a company’s marketing efforts are going to concentrate heavily on the social media aspect, we would reflect those needs in approaching the creative.

  • Alexandra Reid

    August 16, 2011 1:40 pm

    Wow, Cory, you go above and beyond!

    Thank you so much for all this information. I coach our B2B clients on how they can use social media directly to drive sales but also indirectly through establishing a thought leadership position. Social media has also been extremely useful for receiving customer feedback and keeping a finger on the pulse of their industries.

    I, too, uphold the (C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley coined) notion that content is king. Customers, prospects, industry leaders, partners, media targets and others expect that businesses have a social media presence, and if they do have a presence, they should be able to connect and engage with them on a personal level.

    Unfortunately, while many businesses are improving on these channels, many others struggle to be social and “authentic,” which defeats the entire purpose of the medium. Instead of learning and preparing themselves, many dive into social media without a plan and, when they haven’t anything good to say, they riddle the web with useless, irrelevant, spammy content.

    It’s up to people like you and me to buck up and teach people the right approach. Thanks again for your input.

    Cheers,
    Alex.

  • Developing your company’s social media voice – Viralheat Social Media Strategy Blog

    June 20, 2012 10:18 pm

    [...] [@TechAlly, Francis Moran & Associates - via Francis Moran & Associates] [...]

  • 5 Ways to Engage With Your Brand Voice - icuc.social

    April 11, 2016 6:33 am

    [...] “A strong company voice on social media should emphasize the company’s values, objectives and key differentiators that set it apart from its competitors. These can be expressed in the tone of the communication and the content that is shared with community members and the target audience.The best social media voices are communal, grammatical, dialectical, authentic, original, contextual, relevant, timely, persistent, responsive, helpful, generous and more informal. A company’s social media voice should only be changed if absolutely necessary and should maintain all of these qualities. Any change should be preceded by lots of information explaining the change to community members to ensure they know it is deliberate and that the company isn’t suffering from some form of instability, which jeopardizes relationships.” [@TechAlly, Francis Moran & Associates – via Francis Moran & Associates] [...]

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