What is the right tone of voice for a blog?
Guest post from Graham Jones – Internet Psychologist
Should your blog be chatty and informal, should it even be colloquial, or should it be business-like and create a distance between you and your readers? The tone of voice you provide your blog is important. Firstly, it helps determine the way people see you – happy, chatty, or straight-laced, for example. And secondly it influences their likelihood of repeat visits.
It also depends on who you are. After all, should Barack Obama’s blog be chatty and informal, one of “the guys” or should he create something of a more formal tone, where there is extra distance between him and us? Or if you are a celebrity blogger, do you want to separate yourself from your audience by a formal tone, or do you want to create closeness, a deeper connection by being colloquial?
The first step in any successful blog is working out the distance you want between you and your readers – close, somewhat distant, or on the horizon? Only you can choose. But once you have selected the distance, this will determine the way in which you write your material.
For example, if you want to increase the distance between you and your audience, write mostly passively. If you want to increase the closeness, write mostly actively. To raise distance, talk about the company, but never about individuals within the business. To reduce the distance, talk about people and even use the word “I” quite a lot.
There are also some technical signals of closeness – such as the ability for your audience to leave comments. If they can leave comments on your blog, they will feel closer to you. If they cannot comment you are signalling this is largely a one-way communications system. Another method of reducing the distance between your blog and your readers is to display icons for social media services, such as Twitter and Facebook, whereby people can recommend their friends to your blog. All of these sharing systems help reduce the distance between you and your readers.
However, ultimately it is the tone of voice in your writing that matters most. The way your copy conveys your personality determines to what extent people will connect with you. And, rather like the real world, not everyone will like you. There are some people who just cannot abide the way you write – they will never connect with your blog, so don’t try to make them. If you try to write to please everyone, you end up pleasing no-one. So, just be yourself.
If you want to convey a sense of authority on your subject, however, you need to set yourself up as an authority figure. Research shows us that there are two facets to this. Firstly, you need to write from the perspective of the audience and demonstrate you care for them. The more you do that, the more they respect and trust you.
However, in addition to this you will need to take on an authority persona. The way to do this in writing is to “tell” people what to do, rather than “suggest” or give hints as to how people can put your ideas into practice. In addition to being rather dictatorial, you need to add in signals of authority, such as your qualifications, examples of your own work successes and references to academic papers, journal articles and so on which show you are “well read”. In combination with a “telling” tone, this helps boost your position as an authority figure in your field. But without the appropriate tone of voice, none of that works; trying to be dictatorial and authoritative whilst having a chatty, informal tone is unlikely to have much impact.
But whatever kind of blog communication you want to establish you can succeed by considering the distance between you and your reader, the level of authority you wish to convey and the degree to which you want to be seen as informal. Pay attention to these “tonal” areas of your blog and you will do well.
Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist, advises companies on how they can increase their engagement with their online audiences. He is the author of 16 books about the Internet and is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars on the subject. His blog is at www.grahamjones.co.uk