Finding Your Brand’s Writing Voice: Thoughts and Take-Aways

I attended my first marketing conference two weeks ago, and came back with a certain energy that no amount of those sugar-free Monsters I should stop drinking could amount to (as tasty as they may be).

My seat neighbor on the flight home from Boston (also a conference attendee) said “Wow, you went big for your first marketing conference!” Yes, yes I did. And I’m already excited about next year’s INBOUND conference too.

One of the sessions I attended talked about finding your “voice” when writing for your brand (personal or professional).  HubSpot’s Product Editor-in-Chief, Beth Dunn, gave some great tips and reminders when “finding your voice”. Her session tickled my grammar/ writing-nerd fancy, so I thought I’d share my take-aways from her session for others looking to find their “voice”.

 “Use Your Words: Find the Voice of Your Brand” by HubSpot’s Product Editor-in-Chief, Beth Dunn:

  1. Sound human:
    When we speak, we use contractions. It’s not natural to say every single word when having a conversation with someone. Change “you will not” to “you won’t”, “I cannot” to “I can’t” and so on.
  2. Sound honest:
    Who uses the words “employ”, “utilize” or “leverage” when talking to friends or family? It’s best to use shorter, simpler words — not unnecessarily fancy words. All three of these words can be replaced with one word: “use”. It’s clear and simple.
  3. Cut the exclamation points:
    Using exclamation points, especially in multiples, reveals a weakness in your words. If your words are strong, you can show your excitement without exclamation points.
  4. Avoid jargon:
    Using acronyms can alienate your readers if they have to go look up what it stands for. Err on the side of over-defining them: type out the word multiple times before shortening it to its acronym, even for common marketing phrases, such as: “SEO” or “CTA”.
  5. Use spell check:
    It seems obvious, but proof your writing before publishing it. Solely relying on your word processor to catch your mistakes…is a mistake. It may not catch a capitalized word that should be lowercase instead, and it typically can’t check context (be sure you’ve used the proper “their”, “they’re”, or “there”).
  6. Use a style guide:
    If you don’t have one, make one. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a place to capture the language, style, look and feel of your writing to make sure you are consistent. Keep it nearby every time you write a new piece of content. (Some items to consider: Will you use the oxford comma? Is it e-mail or email? Drop-down or dropdown?)
  7. Hire an editor (or find an editor-at-heart):
    Everyone knows or works with a grammar nerd (I’m guilty of the title). They love to help because, honestly, they cringe at the sight of poor grammar… so they’ll likely help for their own sanity. (They may even have a template for you to start with for number 6, above.)
  8. Check your pronouns:
    Avoid using “we” and “I” – it’s not about you, it’s about them. Use “you” instead. Instead of “I’m excited to announce…” or “We’re working hard to bring…” use “You’ll be happy to hear…” or “You’re going to love this…”
  9. Role play:
    Before publishing, take on the persona of one of your readers. Think of their personality, add a bad mood on top of that, and read your words again. How will it sound to them on a bad day? Will it entertain them, or be overlooked?
  10. Don’t be snarky:
    We incorrectly think that snarky = humor. Using this form of humor can come off as self-righteous and jerky. Instead, channel someone you think is light-heartedly funny.

And lastly, the super top-secret to being a good writer:

You ready for it?

Be kind.

Your Personal Brand: How Are You Managing It?

“You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” The Fight Club quote Chris Brogan opened up with in his Personal Branding Tactics acted as a screaming wake up call for my personal brand. How have I been setting myself apart from the rest?

One of the main takeaways from reading about effective personal branding is, basically, what we were all taught as kids: to be honest, make good friends (“but keep the old…”, or however that song goes) and share

Be Honest:
(Basically, be genuine, open and a REAL person)

Don’t hide behind your brand or spend time trying to sound like a more advanced writer. You might end up like this guy, if you do:
friends joey thesaurus

Gary Vaynerchuk’s speaking style in this video was a perfect example of this. Did it contain casual or slang terms that usually aren’t used when promoting your personal brand? Yes. But was it stuffy and boring? No.
There’s no denying that he has that passion so many of us are currently searching for. I highly recommend watching one of his videos if you haven’t already.

So Gary fired us up…now what?

Barry Feldman and Michael Hyatt’s Personal Branding Tips give us some great tips and reminders for getting started with a personal brand. And they all seem to have one thing in common: YOU…it all revolves around you being you, not someone else. (“Define YOUR audience, Show YOURself, Find YOUR voice”…see a pattern here?) Bottom Line: Your personal brand is just that…personal. How does that quote by Oscar Wilde go again?
Be_yourself._Everyone_else_is_taken._Oscar_Wilde

Make Good Friends:
(or make lasting connections through trust)

Jacob Cass’ story in this TEDx video reminds us that the power of connections can go a long way. In his case, it found him a new job when he was in a time crunch. Jacob tells us that he received an incredible response from his connections after posting on social media and his blog. But would he have had a similar response had he not nurtured these connections or provided helpful information to them at one point or another? Probably not.

How do we nurture our connections, though, to make them last? We listen and engage with them. We collaborate with them, always giving credit to them where credit is due.

Share:
(Share great content, and don’t be afraid!)

Chris Brogan suggests that we “think of way upon way to contribute and be useful.”

We can do this by sharing interesting and relevant content to our networks. Jenni Hogan’s advice (in Kelly Clay’s Personal Branding Secrets) of applying a filter of values (her three values are: “impact, inspire, and inform”) is an excellent way to always remember your audience when sharing content.

In this same article, Porter Gale reminds us to stay focused by making sure the content we share reinforces our passions, goals and objectives. I may be guilty of the stereotypical Instagram post with a filtered photo of my dinner from time to time, but this does nothing for my personal brand. Sure, I might get a few followers from them but, from the looks of their Instagram names, they probably won’t be following me too much longer when they see how infrequently I post healthy food pictures. At the end of the day, find what makes you tick (in a good way). What fills you with joy and passion? The answer to this question can make a world of difference if you actively incorporate it into your own personal brand.

Why? Simple. it’s YOU, and YOUR passion.

onefishswiminoppositedir_78705-758x485

Spring.me: A Closer Look Into a Resurrected Social Media Concept

What is it?

Originally Australia-based Spring.me is a social media app and website platform for generating questions around various interests. They call themselves “a social network for meeting people and starting conversations.” Ever heard of them? I hadn’t either and was suprised, until learning that they had just launched Beta this time last year, after acquiring an existing social media platform that had gotten a “bad rap”.

The Stats:

A relatively new social media platform, Spring.me has over 4 million visitors each month: 82% of which are between the ages of 16-24, according to their website. Part of this large number could be attributed to the fact that Spring.me acquired the (now closed) Formspring website, along with all of their users in May 2013. The existing Formspring users were given the opportunity to continue as Beta users on the new Spring.me platform in July of last year, before opening to the public in September 2013.

To prepare for its launch after raising over $2 million from various investors, Helpa Services (owner of Spring.me) recruited a technical team to build a platform ready to support Formspring’s existing 25 million users. In the last few months, an announcement has been made that Helpa Services will be acquired and rebranded: “[…] GRP Corporation will acquire Spring.Me’s parent company Helpa Services, and rebrand as Spring Networks, as the company seeks to raise $4.5 million from existing and new investors on the sharemarket.”

So you’ve got the scoop…but what exactly is it used for?

Spring.me is a place for questions…questions about love, questions about life, questions asking “would you rather,” and so on. Spring.me’s open community allows users to ask all types of questions, post videos, pictures, send both public and private messages, and “smile” at other users’ posts (similar to Facebook’s “like” function.) If you’re familiar with Formspring, you are probably aware that it received a reputation for cyber bullying. Spring.me has revitalized the original concept of “starting conversations” based on common interests making an effort to keep risqué or vulgar posts away by their extended list of privacy, security and content settings, allowing users to select from “Green” content: suitable for everyone; “Orange” content: suitable for 15+, and “Red” content: suitable for 18+.

New users can integrate their Google +, Facebook and/or Twitter accounts to see which of their friends or followers are already using Spring.me and connect with them. The Spring.me app mirrors the website, both visually and with its functionality.

spring.me 1 spring.me 2

Key features and functions within the mobile app and website:

  1. The ability to ask any or all users a question: (your status as an active user or influencer, based on number of followers, determines just how many people see your post)
    spring.me feature 1
  2. Users can use suggested questions to get a conversation going:
    spring.me feature 2
  3. Top users (Spring.me, in most cases) posts a featured question that generates a large response:
    spring.me feature 3
  4. The “Gallery” function allows users to share photos publicly:
    spring.me feature 4
  5. The “Opinions” feature allows users to participate in polls.(Currently in Beta, this feature shows the percentage of other users that selected the same answer, however, it does not show the total number of users that participated.)
    spring.me feature 5
  6. The “People” function gives users the ability to see others who are ready to chat, followers, and featured profiles.
    spring.me feature 6
  7. Additional feature: ability to create meme images:spring.me feature 7a spring.me feature 7b
  8. Users can post a Widget directly on their blog or website, encouraging site visitors to ask them questions:

spring.me widget

 

Now, how can these features be beneficial for a brand’s marketing efforts?

After researching the Spring.me channel, I noticed this platform is hardly used by brands. Sure, many more users can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and other major social media platforms, but there is something to be said for over 4 million visitors each month. Spring.me could be a mecca for brands that target the younger crowd. They can ease their way into the “conversation” by asking open-ended questions, generating a discussion with their followers. This could be an added effort to establish or maintain a relationship between consumer and brand. Plus, consumers know what they want and can give feedback for new or improved products.

Spring.me encourages organizations to become an “influencer” on their website. Whether you are a major corporation or a small mom & pop storefront, various price options are offered.

spring.me influencer

Spring.me welcomes organizations to participate in conversations: “Our targeting options allow you to setup a Spring.me account and build a following of members who are passionate about your business. We can connect you with customers in a specific geography or across specific demographics allowing you to engage them in meaningful conversations.”

To demonstrate the response one question can receive, I posted the question: “How often do you log into spring.me?” Within 30 minutes, I had three responses:
spring.me 2 spring.me 3

If my measly little week-old profile with no true profile picture and 1 follower could generate a handful of responses within half an hour, a brand that is widely recognized by consumers could receive a massive response to their posts. (Due to the lack of brands on Spring.me, I was unable to capture this response and, therefore, these are only my assumptions based on project research.)

Not only would adding Spring.me into a company’s communications plan reap benefits from a virtually untapped platform, it would also be a smart IMC move, which is perhaps the biggest benefit…

Let’s say “ABC Ice Cream” company posted the question,”What flavor would you like to see on the shelf next?” on their Spring.me page, selecting the options to post via Facebook and Twitter. Not only would they receive answers from the original platform, but current Facebook and Twitter fans will also be able to see this question and have the opportunity to share their thoughts.

spring.me facebook

As previously mentioned, Spring.me is still in its early stages, but appears to have promising results with the current number of visitors to the mobile app and website. There is much room for brands to begin making their presence on this platform, especially those that target young adults, or are looking for ways to include their current audience in relationship-building discussions.

For information on how Spring.me can benefit a brand’s IMC strategies, as well as a brief walk-through of Spring.me, check out this Prezi.

 Sources:

Spring.me “Advertise”: (Retrieved: 2014, July 1).  http://new.spring.me/#!/static/advertise

 

Spring.me “Become an Influencer”: (Retrieved: 2014, July 1).  http://new.spring.me/#!/static/influencer

 

Hutchinson, J. (2014, April 29). Social network Spring.Me latest to take backdoor to the ASX. . Retrieved June 30, 2014, from http://www.afr.com/p/technology/social_network_spring_asx_latest_vR9u5G0033ZjDqYRhOTbyM