Individual or brand: 5 tips for finding your authentic Twitter “voice” #SMWLDN

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Individualism or conformity, which approach is right when it comes to social media? Two events for London Social Media Week on Tuesday looked at Twitter from two very different angles, but came to similar conclusions: be true to yourself, experiment and don’t let the blighters get you down.

The first event (produced by the very affable Charity Chap) was Your Social Persona: How Your Individual Online Identity Influences And Boosts Your Organisation’s Brand, looking at the value of allowing individual voices to shine through a brand Twitter account. The second event (panel pictured above), hosted by The London Book Fair, focused on Storytellers on Social Media: The Author as Digital Brand.

Here are my top five takeaways from the two sessions:

1. Personality is important and consistency is essential. Whether you’re a brand or an individual (and, let’s face it, the lines between the two are increasingly blurred), experiment with finding your unique voice – then stick to it. Corporate Twitter profiles like Waterstones Oxford Street, MoonPig and Arena Flowers and individual profiles like 50Cent and (author) Sarah Pinborough succeed because they have unique voices, and oodles of character and personality.

2. People instinctively relate to other people, not organisations. Tweets with personality get more engagement. We are more likely to have an emotional response, and connect more strongly, to other people. And we’re more likely to connect with people who provoke a strong emotional response. In 2011, MP Ed Balls tweeted his own name by mistake and gained notoriety – and popularity – overnight. He dealt with the error in an honest and open way (by appearing slightly miffed).

3. For organisations, trust and training are essential: organisations need to trust individuals to tweet on their behalf, but must also ensure that they have right training. The relationship works best if the person (or people) tweeting on behalf of an organisation share the same values – so it helps if organisations are up front and clear about their values from the onset. Charities like UNICEF UK and The Royal Society get extra kudos for training up not just their marketing teams but other stakeholders (volunteers and scientists) to use social media.

4. Whether tweeting as an organisation or individual, always be sensitive to your audience and aware of any damage you could potentially cause – for example, author CJ Daugherty is mindful of swearing because she is followed by so many teens and young adults. Arena Flowers CEO Will Wynne has three simple golden rules: don’t over tweet, don’t be aggressive and don’t “take the piss” out of people. Sometimes it’s best not to respond to tweets at all. For authors in particular, critical tweets are inevitable: “You can’t win as a writer responding to negative comments online,” says James Smythe. “So don’t take the bait!”

5. Quirkiness and irreverence do amazingly well for some types of profile, but they don’t work for all: some brands may necessarily decide to choose a more corporate voice. Likewise, political or religious views are expected on some accounts, but don’t work on others. Author Sarah Pinborough says she sticks to “comedy tweets” and won’t touch politics or religion (she’s been in hot water for that before). And once you have developed your “voice”, use the same one across all communications channels. Transmedia producer Alison Norrington (with the mic above) says it’s important to respond to all messages “in character”. It all goes back to knowing your audience. Just don’t be boring!

Photo: The Author As Digital Brand panel, left to right: Sarah Pinborough, James Smythe, CJ Daugherty and Alison Norrington

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