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It’s How You Say It: Tone Matters

Picture of Kyle Sacks, Social Media Coordinator

Kyle Sacks, Social Media Coordinator

Forgetting that the tone you use in your posts is as vitally important as what you’re saying = big social media mistake. This is especially true with company or corporate accounts. Tone can make a legitimate post completely turn off your followers. Let’s look at an example from an indoor playspace in Columbia, MD. They have strict rules about outside food to protect kids with allergies from being exposed to peanuts and other allergens. A few weeks ago there was an incident that involved a peanut sandwich and the business posted this status on their Facebook:

To the mom who left a 3 or 4 year old kid in the cafe by himself today for 10 minutes with a peanut butter sandwich… C’MON! You broke almost every rule we have – it’s why we don’t make exceptions for others! Neglecting a kid, outside food, & peanuts! We’re trying to keep all kids safe & happy – please help! It’s no fun confiscating food & then walking a child around crying because he can’t find mom & is hungry!

Questionable punctuation aside, this status is perfect example of inappropriate tone. To begin, this post is a perfect example of a break in “character.” We work with our clients to a create a unique tone so users feel as if they are interacting with the brand itself, not some online ambassador. In this case, it is obvious that someone is sitting behind a computer and giving their take on the subject. It feels childish, like a frustrated rant. Granted, the writer’s frustration seems warranted. The rules were broken and there was real concern for allergic children. It is also reminder of why they have the strict rules that they do. The tone however, makes it sound like the person behind the Facebook page is berating the mother and any other parents that have ever questioned their policies. Yeah, that’s how you build customer loyalty, shout at them!

If you look at the comments, they are surprisingly positive and in agreement with the writer. However, there are only about eight different people that responded. How many of the businesses 1000+ followers could have been offended and chosen not to respond? The person who pointed this post out to me was very turned off and instead of responding, shared it with others. That’s certainly not the kid of word of mouth anyone wants, especially in the “mommy” community where peer recommendation is such a huge influencer.

Let’s see how the post could have sounded if you changed the tone a bit:

We had an incident today where an unsupervised child was wandering around the cafe with a peanut butter sandwich. Sadly, it is incidents like these that result in our strict policies about outside food and child supervision. No one meant any harm, but if the child had come in contact with a child that was allergic to peanut butter, it could have led to a negative outcome. Please help us keep everyone safe by following our guidelines. Thanks!

See? It says the same thing without being a personal vent. It not only maintains a consistency on the page, it also reinforces the values of the company. The tone you use in your social media updates is the closest the internet gets to non-verbal cues. I can tell you how much I just loooooove your new walrus-skin purse, but if I roll my eyes when I say it you’re going to take my words differently than if I smiled sincerely. The tone of your updates will have the same affect when people see them go through their feed. In my experience, occurrences like these can cause even the happiest of customers to unfollow your online activity. You don’t want to risk losing your existing or potential consumers because you aren’t conscious enough of how you are saying things, do you?

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