In my last post, I wrote about compartmentalizing your online lives (personally owned and employer or client owned channels) so you don’t screw up and get in trouble. The more I thought about it, the more I came back to a higher-level view of the voices we assign to social platforms and different accounts. Compartmentalizing gets a lot more complicated when you think about it- or perhaps if you think about it too much.
Should Different Platforms Have Different Voices?
One thing we get hung up on are the tools. A lot of companies and people have “Twitter voice” and “Facebook voice,” for example, but ideally you have “you voice” disseminated consistently across the different channels. There are factors, but in general I don’t think they should change things:
- Format is different. Yeah, I know Twitter is 140 characters. Get an editor and make peace with emoticons and lol-nguage. Some media are more visual, and that’s a more legitimate difference; but a visual and verbal expression does not have to convey differently if an experienced, or simply confident messenger arranges them
- Channel X is for “Personal,” Channel “Y” is for Professional. For individuals, this often comes down to Twitter being the former and Facebook the latter. However, with Twitter getting more popular over the years, and professional groups (and apps, like my client Monster.com’s BeKnown) sprouting easily on Facebook, those distinctions melt away. Sometimes a platform is made specifically for professional connections (LinkedIn, of course), but that doesn’t mean you can’t count friends and family as professional connections. It’s all one you, right? Your thoughts may differ, as I elaborate below.
Different Voices Within an Organization; Rigid Rules or Flexibility?
I love flexibility. While we need rigid rules and processes to run a complex social media publishing program for a client (or for yourself, if you have your own personal social media empire, you guru you), we also need to be able to turn on a dime when circumstances demand it. Sometimes, a company or individual will have distinct audiences. A company might have, for example, consumers that use its public-facing services, but a particular group of professionals for its core set of revenue-producing products. Or perhaps you represent a huge packaged goods company that has a corporate voice but several distinct brands with their own audiences, communities and conversations. Channel makes no difference of course- it’s more likely that you will have distinct Twitter, blog, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, etc, for each set of constituents. But sometimes there is crossover– perhaps one brand (I’ll call all these distinctions “brands” for convenience) has a particularly busy day dealing with a crisis or event, but there is other applicable content that should get out, but would get lost. Can another brand channel handle it appropriately? Often there is a lot of crossover in that case. Being flexible is important.
Example: a college normally dispenses back to school advice for students and parents via its main school blog, but one August a public crisis involving faculty members hits the news. The college responsibly deals with the issues on their site, and official blog, but does that content belong side-by-side with lighter “how-to” fare? Perhaps there is a portal, a separate blog for student life, or an email newsletter, that would still reach that audience without jumbling the message.
Your “Personal” Channels: Personal vs Professional Voice
I have long maintained that people see “you” and not separate personal and professional entities. That said, there are many differing approaches to dividing personal and professional lives. As I stated above, I don’t think keeping a strict line between, say, “professional” Twitter and “personal” Facebook is all that easy. The context is what is important, and it is the actual conversations and the people involved that dictate which mode you are in, not the channel.
And don’t get me started about the debate over “personal brand.” Calling it that is awkward, but essentially representing who you are – as whole, because that is what people can find online – is the true focus. Agonizing over whether “personal brand” is proper is even more awkward. You’ll be surprised how those worlds intersect if you let them.
Do we think about voice too much- or not enough? We all have our ways of keeping things straight. What’s yours?