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Tess’ tips on how to keep your digital tone in check

In today’s fast-paced world, face to face and even phone conversations are becoming the least favoured forms of communication. The voice of your brand and business is primarily online; so now more than ever, we need to be aware that written communication has a tone.

Not only are emails, texts and social messages fast and convenient, but hiding behind a screen can be particularly comforting for the introvert hiding in all of us. This is especially true at times when the conversation to be had is a little uncomfortable in itself.

The problem with this is that we are programmed to pick up on so much more than just words. We rely on non-verbal cues such as facial expression, body language, gesture, even tone of voice – all of which is eliminated in written form. Without these cues, we are left unable to gauge the feeling or the tone behind the actual words, and guess what happens then? You guessed right, our imagination runs wild and starts to fill in the emotional blanks.

Unfortunately, our imagination can and will go against us and rarely will it fill in the blanks with positive intentions.

People will remember what they have perceived to be the emotional tone far more then they will remember the content. Even one word, or even one missing word, can change the entire tone. Taking the time to think about how the other person may interpret the intent behind what you are writing is so important.

“Sue, make sure you pick up the extra envelopes when you go to the stationary store today. Mike.”

Sounds a little like an order, not particularly friendly and depending on Sue’s mood at the time, she may be a little offended and want to tell Mike to pick up his own damn envelopes. Mike was just in a hurry to get through his morning emails and is blissfully unaware that Sue is even remotely upset with him.

“Hi Sue, how are you? Can you make sure you pick up the extra envelopes when you go to the store today? Thanks a lot, Mike.”

or even just add an emoji:

“Sue, Can you make sure you pick up the extra envelopes when you go to the store today. Thanks, Mike “

It took probably a second longer to write the extra couple of words or add a smiley face on the end. This time Sue is more than happy to pick up the envelopes, she may even get Mike a coffee on the way back to the office.

We’ve all come across posts on social media where you stop mid-scroll because a graphic catches your eye. You start to read the post and immediately, whether you like to admit it or not, you begin to judge the business, product or person negatively by the way the post is written. 

Your tone is not only important in your emails or your newsletters, but it is especially important in your online presence. Every post you put out on social media needs to be on point. You are telling the world who you are, the voice of your brand needs to be clear and consistent, and it needs to work. 

People’s newsfeeds are inundated with information these days, and they have an attention span about the same as a goldfish (scary but true). You need to make sure you grab the reader’s attention but in the right way. Reader’s will be put off by negative posts; they will be put off by boring posts, however, if you go too much the other way you may come across as overly positive, annoying and sometimes arrogant. Yawn, moving on.What an arrogant moron! He aint getting my business!What a great team! I’m going to give them a like – might even leave a comment congratulating them!

You get what I’m saying right?              

“It’s just John being John, he comes across as arrogant, but he’s actually a great guy who is super down to earth” or “John is such a positive person, really upbeat and interesting in person, he’s probably just feeling flat?” probably isn’t going to cross these people’s minds, they don’t know you and your voice online is all they have to go on when they assess you and your brand.

Your current mood will also shine through in how you write – if you let it. For example:

Mood: Grumpy, flat, tired, kids want dinner and hubby is nowhere to be seen, but you need to get this post done asap.
You write: We made it through today, we sold lots of product and met lots of people. See you tomorrow. If you want to know more, call us.

Mood: Rested, childless and relatively happy.
You write: Wow, today was amazing! We sold lots of beautiful product and met loads of lovely new people. All and all a great day and we can?t wait to see you again tomorrow! If you?d like to know more who we are and what we do, give us all call – we would love to chat!

You may not mean to come across flat and grumpy; however, it is very easy to let your mood creep into the message you are sending out. Even if you don’t feel a certain way, it is crucial to make sure you don?t let your clients and potential customers pick up on any negative emotions.

How do you find the right balance and set the right emotional tone? Think about what you want the customer to feel or do, think about how you would react to reading that as a customer yourself, is what you have written sending the message you want it to convey?

Reading what you have written out loud can help you determine what it may sound like to the person receiving it. Get someone else to read it and see what they think. And if you just really don’t have the time for any of that malarkey, a neat little tool which came out recently is Grammarly’s Tone Detector; but more on that next time!

For now, just take some time to think about the voice of your brand and the message you want to convey to the world. Look back at some of your previous posts and think about how they sound to you today. Could you have worded them a little differently? 

Takeaway: take the time to think about what you’re writing. It is 100% worth it to make sure you are getting it right. If your voice is engaging, authentic and positive, people will want to listen.

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