Online tone of voice for business

by Tom Albrighton 21 September 2009 Tone of voice

All the digital and social media have their place in a balanced marketing diet, but each one requires a slightly different writing style. Here’s our take on the tone of voice you should adopt online.

The overarching theme of all these points is to remember what you want to achieve, coupled with what is appropriate and possible within each channel, and shape your tone of voice accordingly.

Your website

  • Tone of voice: concise, direct, informational

Your website is your online shop, office or call centre, and should therefore be all business. Information is your key aim, as well as reassuring surfers and searchers that they’ve found what they’re looking for.

Strike a tone that reflects who you are, but don’t let expressing your corporate ‘character’ get in the way of information and/or converting interest to enquiries or sales. Link out to social media presences so people can get more of a sense of who you are, if and when they want to.


  • Tone of voice: authoritative, knowledgeable, human

Your blog is where you display your smarts. Leverage your industry knowledge to write buyers’ guides, subject overviews, in-depth focus pieces and so on that are relevant to your work. Comment on industry developments too.

Write what you really think and don’t dumb it down too much – you want to come across as authoritative and knowledgeable, and it’s OK if novices don’t get every word. Don’t sell too much, but link to your website when you can. There’s room for humour if you’re sure it will work. Keep titles and headings relevant and, provided you’re on topic, SEO will take care of itself.

Article sites

  • Tone of voice: helpful, inclusive, authoritative

Closely related to blogs, article sites are a great way to deploy your industry knowledge in a forum where it’s likely to generate interest, credibility and traffic. (Here’s a useful list of them.)

There is potential repurpose some blog posts as articles. Steer clear of outright self-promotion since many article sites will reject articles that are too ‘marketing’. Instead, try to offer content that genuinely has value for a broad range of readers: how-tos, hints and tips, useful lists, guides and so on.

PR sites

  • Tone of voice: impartial, journalistic, factual

At PR sites, you write about your business in the third person, as if you were a journalist, usually focusing on new developments that are ‘newsworthy’.

Your tone needs to be balanced, even when the whole point of the piece is to say how great you are. Obtain quotes (e.g. from clients) to back up what you’re saying, and let them provide the enthusiasm and colour. Seek facts and figures that support your argument too. For example, you could position your latest new product or service as the response to an emerging trend.


  • Tone of voice: urbane, friendly, professional

LinkedIn is like an interview. It’s where you paint a picture of yourself as an individual professional. (You can also create corporate profiles.)

At LinkedIn, you’re very much ‘on duty’ – it’s the pinstripe suit of social media – but that’s not to say you can’t be friendly.

Keep the tone relatively formal, but concise – just as if answering interview questions. Keep your profile updated, connect with members of relevant groups and consider what your interests say about you. Answer questions in your area if (and only if) you can add significant value to the questioner.


  • Tone of voice: topical, immediate, irreverent

Twitter is like a chat around the watercooler. It’s the place to mix the personal and professional, with a strong emphasis on the present moment and humour.

In my opinion, you should Tweet a few interesting third-party links, a few personal links (e.g. to your blog) and a whole lot of personal observations, which can be as quirky, obscure or mysterious as you like. Some people say every Tweet should be relevant – personally, I do enjoy throwaway, impulsive and inconsequential content too, even during work time and from work contacts. But whatever you tweet, keep it clean, friendly and funny.

@EveningNews is a great example of how Twitter tone of voice can differ from the corporate tone (or, as here, the tone of a paper publication). 


  • Tone of voice: lively and friendly, but measured

Facebook is the SM equivalent of the drink after work.

Professional and personal social circles may overlap, so think carefully about what you post (particularly images). Facebook content is more persistent than Twitter, so you need to think carefully before you post. Without suppressing your personality completely, you might need to consider whether your profile is suitable for everyone who might see it.

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