The Condescending Corporate Brand Page on Facebook has given us all the chance to chuckle at ourselves self-depreciatively in recent weeks. And while not every post appearing on there is necessarily ‘condescending’, the page has undoubtedly shone a light on an issue that’s seriously troubling the industry – why on earth do so many brands continue to talk to their Facebook fans and Twitter followers as if they’re a bunch of illiterate eight year olds?
OK, that’s a big overreaction – but this is a big problem, and it needs to be addressed before it spirals out of control.
The main issue is less that these brands are so irritatingly patronising, and more that so few of them have even attempted to replicate their brand tone of voice in their social spaces. They talk with a consistent voice across every other channel – TV, direct, press, you name it. They’ve all got 900-page, leatherbound bibles on what their tone of voice is, and how important it is to them. Yet when it comes to Facebook or Twitter, that bible goes out of the window. And probably leaves a dent in the pavement.
It’s somewhat understandable, as social spaces demand a more conversational tone than every other medium – but that doesn’t mean the essence of a brand should be sacrificed in order to achieve this. Unfortunately, for most brands, this sacrifice is currently happening – it’s an industry-wide case of failure to adapt.
It’s hard though; of course it’s hard. We want likes, we want comments, we want shares – but we shouldn’t have to ask for them. We shouldn’t have to end every post with a question. And we shouldn’t use so many exclamation marks!
But turning things around might be an easier task than it seems. Agencies should be challenged to give community managers the most thorough tonal education they can – but they should also bestow them with a level of freedom. Freedom to implement their own vision of what they think the social tone should be. To keep an edge, retain an identity – and stop their brands defaulting to the industry standard tone that’s so comically lampooned on the Condescending Corporate Brand Page.
Perhaps most importantly, however, community managers need to be given some proper, regular facetime with those who know the brand inside-out creatively – be that copywriter, planner, account handler, or client. Surely, with a bit more regular collaboration between those who know the brand and those who know the social spaces, expertise can be swapped – and before we know it, we’ll be communicating with Facebook audiences the way we communicate with every other audience.
Of course, this isn’t a fix-all solution. Firstly, words can only do so much. The content we push onto our social sites needs to do the bulk of the work itself. If we’re posting a dull stock-shot every day, the accompanying copy is destined to fail, very quickly, through no fault of its own.
Then there’s the issue of cross-company collaboration – if a brand’s social channels are controlled by a different agency to their digital creative work, getting together for a quick catch-up becomes a whole lot harder.
Another point to remember is that some brands already possess somewhat childish TOVs across other channels, because they deem it right for their audiences. These companies’ fans and followers may be less bothered about ‘Happy Whateverdayoftheweekitis!’-esque posts – but methinks they’d still appreciate a level of consistency across all media.
These points aside, however, there are no excuses for the way that the majority of brands talk in their social spaces. If the exact tone of the brand in question can’t be replicated, the essence of what the brand stands for certainly should be. We should be trying a whole lot harder to sound more like the brand these fans know and love (and liked) – and less like Mary Poppins on speed.
Main image Bigstockphoto.com.