A few months ago, when major business leaders took to Twitter to hail the scrapping of Article 370, the persona that came across the varied tweets caught my eye.
Gautam Adani shared, “What the nation saw today will be truly historic if it opens the gateway for development and peace in Jammu and Kashmir. It will not just empower the Kashmiri people but make India stronger.”
Anand Mahindra remarked, “There are some decisions, which when taken, evoke the reaction “Why couldn’t this have happened earlier?” Today’s decision falls in that category. It’s time for us all to embrace Kashmiris as an indistinguishable & inseparable part of our national community.”
Both the tweets reflect personas that are as different as chalk and cheese. After all, it’s not just what you say on social media but how you say it. This encompasses not only the words you choose but your style, voice and tone.
When we speak to people in person, we have our idiosyncrasies, quirks, favourite expressions, inflections, pace of speech and so on. It’s often the way we say something that evokes a distinct feeling. For example, a simple post about your visit to an event can be articulated in different ways:
“I recently took part in an event…”
“What an exciting evening I’ve had at this event…”
“Sharing with you glimpses of a wonderful event…”
Each of these posts brings out a clear difference in the attitude of the writer. Some leaders tend to speak short, uncomplicated sentences to project an attitude of simplicity and straightforwardness. Others deliberately use jargon-laced language to imply a feeling of ascendency (no points for thinking of Shashi Tharoor).
So, here are a few tips to ensure that how you say things on social media brings out a persona as distinctive, recognisable and unique as the real you.
1. Identify the topics you want to talk about
Pinning down your topics acts as a kind of background work. Before you think about how you write, you must decide on what you want to write.
This must start with the obvious yet often overlooked question: what do you want to tell the world? What’s the story you want to share? Only when you define the core purpose of your social media communication can you start building your persona.
2. Recognise whether you are formal or informal
If you are looking at posting on LinkedIn, look at how you communicate with your colleagues. How formal are you with them? Consider how you talk to a prospective customer or employee about your business over the phone or face-to-face. What kind of language do you use?
The degree of formality should vary over different social media platforms. For LinkedIn, it should be formal yet conversational. A formal tone conveys a sense of professionalism, authority and respect. On the flip side, being too formal runs the risk of appearing stiff and lacking in personality.
Say, a business posted a job opening on its LinkedIn page:
“XYZ Consulting is hiring Data Scientists for its team in Mumbai.”
Conversely, an informal tone can convey friendliness and warmth.
“We’re hiring! Come and join our family at XYZ Consulting and start a career as a Data Scientist.”
3. Don’t dress it up, write to reflect how you genuinely speak
We all tend to express something clearly in spoken language, but when on a keyboard we tend to complicate things and ‘dress it up’.
Writing in a way that reflects how you speak doesn’t necessarily mean your language must be casual. You can still apply the same etiquettes and considerations, just without the formal terminology.
For examples, saying:
“Her ideas have been widely promulgated on the Internet.”
is complex vis-à-vis
“Her ideas have been widely published on the Internet.”
4. Choose colloquialisms and slang carefully
The use of colloquial, everyday language is a sure-fire way of infusing personality. But beware of going overboard. Do you have colloquial words or phrases that you often use when you communicate?
When writing emails, what words do you use as greetings and signoffs?
For example, do you say, warm regards, regs or cheers!?
The language and style — colloquial, formal or slang — depend on the platform and target audience. If it’s Facebook or Instagram, you can be light-hearted, friendly, playful and humorous.
5. Think about context over correctness
Social media content is less about the accuracy of grammar and more about context. Each platform has its unsaid conventions. With short snackable posts, writers use all manner of reductions, abbreviations and concise wording.
Ultimately, it’s about writing in the way that best communicates your message and persona. Don’t be too concerned about following rules. Decide on what works for you and what doesn’t and then be consistent in your voice.
Finally, what you want to share could be based on a trend or news that you think is cool, based on knowledge, experience, a whim or belief, or pulled from thin air. But how you say it on social media is indicative of your unique style and way of thinking. It primarily stems out of who you are as an individual. It is crucial to keep it that way to create a genuine reflection of your real persona.