Archive for March, 2012

Companies, brands and local government having a presence in the social world is, on the face of it, like inviting your Granny to a rave.  It’s two separate worlds where collars meet chatters, daytime intrudes on playtime and the well-spoken face the outspoken.

We now know that, despite this apparent oxymoron, there’s room for us on Twitter, Facebook and so on – but only if we get the language just right… it needs to be personal but with a decent tinge of professional remaining.  It needs to be Personfessional – the new social media language for businesses.

For example, in the online social world – even if you’re speaking to the very same person – a letter to them saying “Dear Mr Simpson, thank you for your recent correspondence…” becomes “Hi there @SimmoRocks, just picked up your Tweet…”.  People want to talk to people on social media, personality to personality, relaxed language to relaxed language.

However, can you as a brand take that too far?  Of course.  People still need to respect your business and have the impression that it’s run by competent individuals.  Social media provides the incredible opportunity of making a better connection with your customers by showing that you’re down to earth and have a human face, but if you overdo it you could be losing credibility.

If someone sends you a message along the lines of “What a bloody crap service, you *$%*s kept me waiting over an hour yesterday 😦 ”, would you reply likewise with “Holy shit dude, we proper f*cked up there, didn’t we? :-D”  Would you casually send out a random link to some entirely unrelated website that you’ve “spent the morning browsing and thought you’d like to see”, giving the impression you’re not getting on with the day job? Would you tell your customers how drunk you got last night and that you’re therefore running the business with a hangover today?

You can still do ‘personality’ without losing professional structure to your messages.  Take this example from a local authority Highways department. The first is what the road engineers might naturally say if they were being professional.  The second is the Communications Team running it through their Personfessional Social Translator.

Site audits following significant variations in RSTs mean work is being rolled out across structures on the primary carriageway network to cost-effectively conduct culvert rehabilitation and abutment realignment. Each shall commence at 0900 hours under full road closures. Despite moterist’s complaints, 2-way lights would slow the job up againt the target framwork.

Keeping you safe out there on the roads is our top priority, so we’ve been busy bees checking out the condition of our bridges and water channels. After that tough winter which sent half of us into hibernation, we’ve found quite a few in need of repair. To keep you and the workers safe, we’ll need to close each road as we go, but we’ll wait until 9am when the rush hour’s passed. Do let us know if you have any questions though – and post pics to us of any you think we’ve missed!

It’s error-free, jargon-free, interactive, upbeat and friendly but still gets all the key messages across in a trustworthy way.  It finds the right balance – but take it too far and it might say:

We’ve found some buggered bridges and we know what we’re doing, despite some idiots moaning about it. The road will be closed until they’re fixed and it’s just tough! FFS, knackered, can’t be doing with this today ;-p

So it’s simply about getting the tone and content’s balance just right.

Do you speak Personfessionally?

If you’ve got any examples, either good or bad, of social conversation language, it would be great to see them!  Seen any that were way too professional? How personal have you managed to go?

This Personfessional Graphic illustrates the language balance we need to find as brands or businesses on social media.


It can’t be every day that Paddy McGuinness and his lightbulbs are used to illustrate how to experiment on social media whilst keeping your audience. In fact this may be a weird world-first.

On the one side – whilst there’s little in the online social world which can be classed as ‘old’ quite yet – it is soon to become an old, established fact that your sheer number of friends, followers or likes aren’t necessarily representative of success. I could have an account with hundreds of fans, regularly amassing loads of HotCrystalXXXs, Ben Dovers and my mate’s Mum who has 2 Followers, whilst a rival feed has far fewer, but they are all people in the target audience who are influential and with many Followers of their own to spread your word to.

However, what Paddy’s dating gameshow Take Me Out demonstrates is that, although you should of course still keep an eye on who and how many people are interested in you, it’s the numbers who UNfriend or UNfollow you which require close strategic scrutiny.

Imagine your current fanbase are the contestants on the show, each giving you a chance to show who you are and what you can do, each watching – each with their light on. In time, you perhaps lose one or two after they realise you aren’t quite as they’d thought, but things tick along nicely.

Or perhaps you’re not doing as well as you’d hoped and want to improve the connection between you and your prospective partners.

Either way, experimenting with your feed is good – try new things, show new sides to yourself, express your brand’s social media personality in a more personal and creative way, fluff your feathers, keep the romance alive.

What do your audience think about you on each day that you try your new tactic or launch a new product in a certain way? Do you really monitor your numbers that closely to know what might have turned certain groups off and what might be keeping them turned on with every post?

On Facebook, try the native Xtrackerapp to keep a close eye on those who choose to pack their bags and leave you – and exactly when they did so. You can also monitor Unlikes and Unsubscribes via Facebook Insights.  Perform keyword searches using variations of your company name within SocialMention or columns on TweetDeck – seeing what people are saying about you out there could give you some really useful clues.

On Twitter, TweetEffect really breaks things down to help you pin down where you’re going wrong; it displays your most recent 200 tweets and notes next to them how your follower numbers changed after each (just make sure you’re logged in to your Twitter account in another window). Tools such as the excellent TwittaQuitta will email you daily updates of who followed you in the last 24 hours and – more crucially – who stopped following you. You can use it to establish an average base rate of how many you to tend to lose and gain each day.

Then, on the big date when you chose to run an attempted humourous competition, participated in a public argument with someone, upped your Tweet-rate or didn’t Tweet at all, did that base-rate change? Did many more people than usual turn off their lights because they no-likey what they saw of you that day or week? Or did they keep their lights on, showing you their love?

If some lights were turned off, were they the people you admire as potential suitors for your business or some also-rans whose presence added no real value to your account anyway?

Either way, you now know whether to repeat the experiment, change your message-rate, tone or pulling tactics etc.

Sorted – you’re off to Fernandos. Let the Face see the Book, let the Twitter see the bird!

In next Tuesday’s post, I invent a name for the evolving social language we should all be using now…