Many articles have been written about what in recent times has come to be known as ‘content strategy’ — the reassuring, if not always entirely accurate, notion that we are in control of all the resources available to us, can marshal them with precision, and present them optimally.
Rather less has been said about the manner in which we present these materials, presumably because it is a given that by default we will do so in the most sympathetic and productive manner possible.
However, the critical eye does not have to wander too far across the topographies of social environments to appreciate that this is frequently not the case.
From the passive-aggressive to the overtly pugilistic, tonal dysfunction is everywhere on the social web, with innumerable strident voices that will brook no opposition offering their incontestable truths in clarion tones. I’m sure we all have our favourite examples.
It benefits all of us who participate in the conversation on the social web to regularly assess the tone of voice we adopt and ask whether we are enhancing or degrading our potential trustworthiness.
Some brief contextual notes follow:
- Trusted voices are identifiable. I question whether we should even converse with anonymous voices on the social web. If you’re principled enough to represent yourself as yourself, those who wish to hide behind a pseudonym should not expect to be acknowledged by you. We all need to play by the same rules. To be trustworthy is to be identifiable.
- Trusted voices are unified. If you maintain more than one set of accounts (for example, ‘personal’ and ‘business’), ask yourself why. Those who follow what you do will be asking the same question. Consider the possibility that, despite what it says in your account bio, what you publish does indirectly represent the views of your company. You work for them, and are therefore associated with them, and anyone can discover who they are. Again, if you’re reluctant to associate the totality of who you are with your work, ask yourself why. It’s exactly what your followers will be doing.
- Trusted voices are consistent. Trusted voices turn up every day and talk about the things you expect them to in the manner that you have become used to. That’s why you follow them.
- Trusted voices are reasonable. Trusted voices listen, offer rational opinions, and defend their points of view in a consistent, logical manner.
- Trusted voices are reliable. Trusted voices don’t let you down. That isn’t to say that they can’t surprise you, nor that they always say the same thing; rather, it infers that the opinions they offer will always make sense within the contextual framework provided by their previous contributions. Trusted voices are always ‘in character’ because they’re not playing a part. They’re being themselves.
- Trusted voices are modest. Trusted voices do things that other people find it easy to like, share, and talk about. Trusted voices allow — gratefully, but most importantly silently — such praise as they may garner to be bestowed upon them by others rather than heaping it upon themselves. Self-praise is no praise at all.
- Trusted voices are assured, and we in turn are reassured by the voices we trust — over time, and incrementally.
- Trusted voices are supportive. Trusted voices identify new trustworthy sources, endorse and advocate on behalf of existing trustworthy sources, and dissociate themselves from untrustworthy sources without criticism. The latter do a good enough job of shaming themselves, by themselves. They don’t need your help.
- Trusted sources are contributive. Trusted voices give more than they take. They are net contributors, not net withdrawers. Trusted voices are always in credit.
- Trusted voices are attributive. Trusted voices are scrupulous about giving credit, and never claim that which is not theirs.
The checklist offered in the image above is far from exhaustive, and there will be specific criteria that you will wish to incorporate that correspond to the work that you do.
If you can’t find at least one category that you believe you could improve upon, let’s face it: you’re kidding yourself.
Nobody’s perfect, trust me… 😉