“Be human! Be authentic! Be conversational!” We often hear this advice when we talk about communicating via social media. It is one of those phrases that always seem to appear in those popular top five articles that bloggers never seem to tire of. On the surface it seems quite simple and obvious, but what does that really mean? Aren’t we human already?
The thing is that when we say we should be authentic when managing social media for an organisation we are not really being completely clear. We don’t want people to be authentic to themselves. When we talk about being authentic, we are asking people to be authentic to an idea, to the character, to the brand we represent, while at the same time infusing it with a little of our own personality, a little of what it means to be human, and when you start to think about it in that way it becomes a lot less clear.
That is not to say we cease being ourselves. When we attend an interview or go to work there are certain things we never think of doing, but we are no less ourselves. We understand instinctively that we expected to behave in certain ways. Sure, somewhere there is probably a human resources document, forgotten and crumpled amongst those essential unread documents that line the bottom of your drawer but we never really refer to them, we somehow know what is expected of us.
In many ways we are still adapting to using social media and until it becomes completely integrated into the way we work and communicate there will remain some uncertainty about how we communicate and how we balance being ourselves with the need to represent our organisations, and so the need for clear guidance and documentation becomes essential to maintaining authenticity to your brand and developing the tone and voice for your social media channels..
This is particularly true when developing social media channels within an organisation that has little experience of this medium or when training new staff to use these tools. Once you have defined the voice and personality that reflects your organisation, you can start guiding colleagues and staff on how to communicate on behalf of the organisation. These guidelines will inform the style and substance of your social communications and help content contributors use the voice and tone appropriate to your organisation so that every tweet or status update you publish reflects your brand as if it were a real human-being filled with personality, insight and opinion.