Why Do So Many Brands Sound Exactly The Same On Social Media?

Gretchen Fox

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Why Do So Many Brands Sound Like A High School Cheerleader On Social Media?

Gretchen Fox

I write about social and emerging media & technology.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Seriously though, why does every company sound the same? If your company's social channels don't sound like a teenage cheerleader is writing them, I am willing to bet that it sounds like a sarcastic Gawker writer instead. Those are pretty much the only two personas brands have adopted for their online presence and it's created an awful wash of indistinguishable, repetitive noise. It's no wonder your "fans" are tuning out.

So, why does everyone sound the same? I'll tell you exactly: because you jumped right into "doing social media" without the proper process. I can even tell you how this unfolded: somebody (hopefully, someone within your organization) told you or another leader within your organization that the company HAS to be on social (hopefully, this happened in 2006 and not 2015) and after a lot of convincing they were finally given the approval to "just go". And they did. They set up your company profiles and started posting content and answering questions.

Since then, (hopefully) your company's social efforts have grown, you might even have a full social media team covering everything from customer service to community management to content marketing to social ad buying and even full-time social data scientists. And you guys might be really great at all of the above. But -- if every single blog post, Facebook status update, tweet and snap does not sound unique to your brand -- you missed a step. Don't sweat it, it's easy to resolve.

Your company needs to take some time and add a new layer to your Brand Identity work. You need to add the "Social Identity" layer. The Social Identity answers:

  • What is the personality of the brand when it talks online?

  • What does it say, what does it not say?

  • How does it say it? (tone and voice)




  • As I stated in my last post outlining The Social System,
    Historically, branding and creative teams defined a company's Identity, or who they are, by focusing on market positioning, a color palette, a logo, etc. All examples of the Identity necessary for one-way communication. The message goes out and there is no requirement to respond or react either publicly or immediately.

    In the social age, traditional brand identities are not enough. They do not provide the robust personality nuances social professionals need to do their jobs. The age-old marketing question of Who Are You needs to broaden its view for a two-way conversation. Not just what goes out, but how it goes out and who the brand is when in dialogue with your audience. Social requires a fluid and engaging persona - a Social Identity - that mirrors the brand's values and speaks the brand message, with personality.

    I mean, take a second and imagine what it would be like if every single brand had a unique voice. We could free the Internet of the two-note tone and fill the newsfeeds of the world with a concert of voices that represents our organizations as varied as the voices of the world. I want to hear companies in the arts sound more like the distant voice of an aloof sketch artist, and craft stores sound like the eccentric old lady with the crazy bumblebee hat she made at home, and a teen-app to sound more like a laid-back skater kid or a super nerdy know-it-all.

    Give us personality! Give us flavor! Just please, don't give us the same intonation as everyone else, and FTLOG don't say Bae (unless your brand really is authentically all about teen girls). We want unique and authentic.

    Gretchen Fox is the CEO & Founder of MTO Agency, [made to order], a full-service social media agency that prepares businesses for success in the Digital Age.

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