The New Strategist, Changing Your Tone

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. For many, many years, the marketing and advertising teams out in the world had a very distinctive way of ‘talking’ in the materials they produced. This way of talking even has a name: “Ad-speak”. I’m sure that you don’t even need me to describe it to you, but it was always loaded with punchy, trendy words, phrases like ‘never before seen!’ and ‘for a limited time!’, and gave you the impression that the people who wrote it thought they were doing you a favour by telling you how lucky you were to now know about this amazing product. The thing is, every product had that kind of pitch. Sure, some were more eloquently written than others, but ultimately their goal was to convince you that whatever it was that you were looking at was a better choice than all the others. Here’s an example: Do you know how many different ads for pickup trucks claim that they have the ‘most horsepower’, ‘most torque’, ‘biggest towing capacity’? All of them. And for some reason, they all seem to have won a ‘Truck of the Year’ award. Not sure how that works, but maybe ‘Truck of the Year’ awards are like the ‘participant’ ribbons you used to get at your public school science fairs. Everybody gets one just for showing up. But does this really make a difference anymore? We see study after study being done that reveals the lessening effects of print and television advertising in swaying opinions. People just don’t give those types of messages any kind of credibility anymore, because they all sound exactly the same. So how do you turn off decades of habitual ‘ad-speak’ and switch it to something that doesn’t make people tune out? Start working in Social Media, that’s how. Take a look at some of the companies that are successful in Social Media, and look at the way they write their content. When they tweet, when they update on Facebook, or post on their blog. How does it sound? Does it read like an ad? Or does it read like someone talking to you in a casual setting? I’d be willing to wager something marginally valuable that they aren’t shouting slogans at you, are they? Social Media is all about starting conversations that go both ways. An ad on TV is one-way communication. An ad in a magazine is one-way communication. But a piece of content put out in Social Media is ∞-way communication. Anyone can post on your Facebook wall, anyone can reply, and anyone can reply to anyone’s reply. A single tweet can spread to hundreds of thousands of people, if it’s something that your followers care about. A blog post can generate insightful comments and valuable feedback, if people care about what you wrote. The key is to keep your readers/followers comfortable. Keep them at ease when they’re connecting with you. Make them feel like you’re not just shouting at them, but actually talking as if they were sitting next to you in a coffee shop, or over a beer at the end of a long day. Here’s two ways of talking about an upcoming trade show. You tell me which one you think would get people replying to you: 1) “Come on down to the Trade Show! Product X is now on sale!” 2) “Hey, will anyone be heading down to the Trade Show? What kinds of things will you be looking for?” Post #1 is entirely one-way. It doesn’t elicit any kind of response from your community. Someone reads that, and they think “Ok, that’s nice.”. Now, post #2 on the other hand is flat-out asking your community for input. In one short post, you’ve asked two different questions that they can answer, and get them talking. If they’re going to the show, they can see that others might be, too. If they’re not going, maybe you can ask why and get some info from them on why not. Maybe they’ll tell you what they’re looking for. Seeing what other people are looking for might encourage them to check out stuff they might not otherwise know about. If your special price on Product X isn’t something they’re even interested in, maybe you adjust your promotion to be more in tune with what people are going to see. Both posts let people know where you are going to be, but only one lets them know that you care what they think about it, and want to hear it. That’s really the key point here: Let them know that you really care what they think. Asking someone for their opinion makes them feel important. It lets them know that they have knowledge that you need. It changes their relationship with you from ‘customer’ to ‘partner’. They are important to your success, and you need to let them know that. How do you do this? By involving them in the conversation. “Why do we market to people the way we hate to be marketed to?” Makes you say ‘Yeah, no kidding.”, and it’s a message that is ignored all too often. How do we like to be spoken to? Like a real person. Like the other party cares about what we have to say, and isn’t just preaching at us from the pulpit. If we can all keep this in mind, not only will our customers become our partners, but they will provide the ∞-way communication that we all need to be better at everything we do. You just need to start by changing your tone. Do you have examples of companies that have changed their tone for Social Media? Let’s hear about your own success in getting people talking!
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