Why Doesn’t Your Company Have a Social Media Voice Document?

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Well, why not? A few years ago, I think you could have gotten away with keeping the company ‘voice’ safely locked away in a few choice individuals’ minds at your company. This is no longer the case. Pretend I’ve just waxed bombastically about the ubiquity of social media and the importance of getting everybody in the company on board. Good. Now let’s get to the meat of the post.

People in your organization are going to be connected to social media somehow. It’s inevitable. You can either ban them from speaking on behalf of the company, or teach them that should they be in that position – that there is a right way.

How can we expect uniform education across the company? A Social Media ‘Voice’ document. Or is it a tone document? Let’s look at this distinction, by Gather Content:

Voice: Your brand personality described in an adjective. For instance, brands can be lively, positive, cynical, or professional.

Tone: A subset of your brand’s voice. Tone adds specific flavor to your voice based on factors like audience, situation, and channel.

Got it? For organization’s sake – let’s say that your Voice document should include Tone. We’ll get to that. What should be included in your company’s ‘Voice’ document?

1. ) Define the Voice

You should start your Voice document off with the elevator pitch: “At the Marshmallow Pants Society we are warm and personal, we use whimsical language to inform our audience about the dangers of marshmallow pants attire in camping situations.” 

Then talk about the voice as if it were a person, this helps to provide relatable context for someone who isn’t used to marketing-speak: “The Marshmallow Pants Society is your bubblycautious friend that likes to have fun, but is responsible enough to get home by 10pm.” 

It is also important to provide a counter-point, “The Marshmallow Pants Society’s competitors advocate for flippant campfire activity, regardless of the inherent dangers. We watch out for our customers!”

2. )Provide a Style Guide

Providing a style guide for social media platforms is a good way to tell everyone, regardless of degree of familiarity, what is and isn’t appropriate on different social platforms. For example, Quora (a question and answer social platform) decorum is different than Facebook decorum. Going through a list of social platforms that your company is active on is a good way to keep everyone on the same page.


General: Don’t use emojis, and use exclamation points sparingly. Use ‘literally’ correctly.
: Use 1 appropriate hashtag for events, or topic. Tag no more than 2 people. Use 120 Characters to allow for Retweets.
Facebook: Tag all relevant company mentions. We don’t use Facebook hashtags. No more than 4 sentences of information. Always use a picture.
Quora: Make sure you specify your connection to the company. Always provide links to documentation, and include email for help.

Make sure to address unique elements per platform, that way you don’t have someone filling a Tweet with 9 event hashtags.

3. ) Identify Specific Goals for Communication

There should be a set of goals that people should keep in mind when engaging using the company Voice. These goals can be fairly broad, or more specific. Having goals allows for people wielding he Voice to self-adjudicate easier – as there is an expected outcome. Let’s look at some examples:

  • We want our customers to feel informed
  • We want to drive people to our product page
  • We want to encourage people to do their own research
  • We want to instill a sense of approachability in our audience

We have a mix of broad and specific, but all of these goals will endow the Voice user with purpose.

4. ) Anticipate Situations that Require Social Media Activity, and the Appropriate Voice for that Activity:

This is simple, map out situations that require social media activity and discuss the Tone for each of those activities (remember, see the difference between Tone and Voice up top). Here are some examples of different situations that you might want to address in your Voice document:

Crisis Communications: When there is a crisis situation, we want our tone to be directhonest and informative. The language should be simple, and we want to assure our audience that a communication channel is open for them to reach out to us.

New Product Launch: We want to be friendly, yet authoritative – remind our customers that this new product is going to be a benefit to them, and let’s stay away from jargon or salesy talk – we want to sellthe experience.

Community Twitter Chat/AMA/Crowdsourcing etc: Our tone here is warminspiring and our language is inclusive. We want the audience to feel like they are insiders. We want to enable our audience to feel comfortable providing feedback or engaging.

And remember, tone is just a subset of your Voice.

5. ) Provide Examples

For some people, hypothetical situations are just too nebulous. You’ll want to include “in-the-wild” examples. We’re talking screenshots of actual interaction so people can get an idea of the action and reaction that occurs and how the Voice is used to accommodate the situation. You should also include bad examples – hopefully you won’t have to pull from your own company!

The purpose of this post was to give you an idea of how to structure a Voice document and to give you an idea of why one might be useful. I recommend reading this excellent guide by Kevan Lee of Buffer on ‘finding your voice’ – you’ll see a lot of the language I use in describing Tone and Voice comes directly from this post.

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