Personalize Your Content: 3 Steps for Finding Your Voice
When I was a kid, my mom often told me, “Young lady, watch your voice!”
I wasn’t always a smart-aleck to my parents. But I definitely had my moments!
Sometimes we don’t realize how we sound to those listening to us. The tone we think we’re using may come off differently to another set of ears. So it’s best to really consider how what we say may be interpreted—before we say (or write) it.
This isn’t always easy. There are many mediums available to communicate with your customers—websites, blogs, social media, print materials, videos, etc. And you probably have lots of great ideas about what you want to say.
But how should you say it?
Glad you asked! Let's give you some tools to help find right voice for your business.
STEP 1: Know your audience
To engage your readers, you have to get their attention. To do this, it's important to know whom you’re talking to. You'll also want to know how they talk. Then you can write so that they can relate to your words.
First, pinpoint your target audience. You should know some basic details, like age range, gender, income, geographic location, etc.
(I should probably write an article on this topic alone, and probably will in the future. But for now, let’s use your audience’s age group as an example of how to communicate with them.)
You don’t want to write for an older audience the way you’d write for a considerably younger one. How often does a Baby Boomer begin a sentence with, “Dude, guess what I just saw…”?
Boomers have the attention span to read long-form articles, and many still subscribe to print newspapers and magazines. They also lean toward slightly more formal language than younger folks. These are good things to keep in mind.
If you’re targeting Millennials, consider keywords that resonate with their vocabulary. They're kings/queens of abbreviations (OMG, ROFL, SMH) and key phrases like “that's lit” and “throw shade.”
Anne Loehr’s wrote a series of posts on generational groups and vocabulary that may be helpful:
Point to remember: know your audience and how they talk.
STEP 2: Pick your tone
Now you want to make sure your tone resonates with your readers. The goal is to connect with them and build trust. After they get to “know” you, they’ll be more likely to subscribe to your blog, like your Facebook page, or buy your product.
Since you’ve already worked hard to understand exactly who your audience is, you can now tailor your tone to reel them in and keep ‘em reading. When it comes to tone of voice, you have a few choices:
Nobody writes like Shakespeare these days. That's a good thing—you wouldn't want your marketing content to piggyback on his style, anyway. And while formal English is a few notches down from William S., you still may lose your audience if you go this route.
The best tactic? Semi-formal, no-nonsense content. It has its place in many contexts, and some industries that benefit from this type of verbiage include:
Friendly yet casual
This popular tone makes up a large percentage of web content, blog posts, and other types of materials. The kicker here is to write like you speak.
That means use contractions: It's a great day to visit our store! You’re going to love the tips in this post! You won't believe what J-Lo wore at the Superbowl halftime show!
It also means leaving jargon and tech-speak out of the picture in most cases. You aren’t dumbing down your words, but you are writing as if you were having a casual conversation rather than a job interview.
This is where things can get interesting. There are some snarky, foul-mouthed sites out there. And while they may turn off certain people, they definitely grab the attention of others.
Some of those "others" laugh—and want more! If you're writing for a younger, scrappier audience, go ahead and try this type of tone. Some uber-casual examples are ScaryMommy and Dollar Shave Club.
Think swearing is the way to go for your brand? Read this before diving in.
STEP 3: Add personality
It’s important to own your content, so use your style consistently on most (if not all) marketing materials: social media, blog, website, newsletters, even internal communications. But how do you make it truly yours?
Share stories - Personal insight and experience helps humanize content.
Add humor - Jokes and funny GIFs can be an effective way to connect with your audience. Who doesn’t like to laugh?
Break the rules (but know them first) - Yes, you can start a sentence with “and” or “but." You can end a sentence with a preposition if you like, too. We won’t judge! But some of your readers might, so beware of random grammar police who may call you out.
Here’s a good in-depth article about personalizing your content, complete with infographics.
These are just a few ways to create a unique voice for your brand. There are many other ways to do this—what are some of your secrets?