This is a guest blog written by Kim McLaughlin from Lyra Communications. Lyra is a social media company, that provides strategy, execution and consulting services for both consumer and professional service firms to help them retain existing clients and acquire new ones.
Emojis, exclamation marks, acronyms and kittens – the world of social media has turned the traditional rules of business writing on their heads.
Back in the day, the rules of writing were clearly defined given a company’s industry, target market and the preferences of its executives. But today those rules are blurred and there is often little difference between the kind of copy we see from a bank and an online jewelry store for teens.
Even brands with years of social media experience under their belts struggle to strike the balance between casual and professional, and it’s easy to fall too far on one side or the other.
The fact is, while users prefer a colloquial tone that reflects the people behind the brand, executives often have a hard time embracing that shift and push their communications people to adopt a more professional, i.e. formal, tone that’s more appropriate for, say, an annual report or even a user manual.
Surely there must be a middle ground?
Here’s a general set of writing best practices you can use until your writers figure out the right balance for your brand.
Once the exclusive domain of tweens and pop princesses, the emoji has matured into a full-fledged communication tool. Studies show that using emojis enhances communication by adding tone where there is generally none (like an email) thus helping to prevent misunderstandings. But does that mean that everyone should embrace emojis all the time? I think not.
Here are a few simple rules to govern your emojis broken down by medium:
Email: Lighten up. If Steve Jobs used emojis in his emails, so can you. Our advice is to limit use to one emoji per email. One happy face or one sad face. You must choose, you may not have both!
LinkedIn: Once an emoji-free zone, we are seeing increasing use of emojis on LinkedIn. Our take? Delete it. Keep your LinkedIn content professional and emoji-free.
Facebook: Like email, one emoji is enough.
Instagram: How many emojis can you fit? Just joking. While using multiple emojis is certainly more acceptable on Instagram than other networks, we recommend that professional service firms and banks hold back.
Blogs: Like email, one per blog, and only if the blog is written under a personal byline and the author is the kind of person known for using emojis. Proceed with caution here.
Contractions (I’m for I am) were created for a reason: To make it easier for people to read. Studies show that we read 30% slower on-screen than we do on paper, and contractions play an important role in getting across a brand message.
Back in the 90s and 2000s, there was still a clear delineation between contraction and non-contraction users. Banks and professional service firms: No contractions. Consumer brands: Contractions, unless they had something important to say, then no contractions.
Luckily for us, fear of contractions went the same way as serif fonts, and as a society, we relaxed our hold on using whole words. That’s why, for the most part, we fully recommend using contractions in all online copy (and off-line copy too, for that matter.)
LinkedIn: Believe it or not, yes
Instagram: Like you need to ask…
Blogs: Yes and yes
OK C U TMW TTFN ?
It’s hard to say exactly when ‘tomorrow’ became ‘TMW’ and ‘thank you’ became ‘TKS’ but it’s safe to say this evolution occurred in tandem with the wide adoption of smartphones, and around the same time that texting replaced calling.
I would hazard a guess that most of us find ourselves, on occasion, writing an acronym normally reserved for text in a client email. Is it ever appropriate? Our take on this one is to use your judgment and proceed with extreme caution…
Email: Use your words, not your acronyms. Acronyms in emails look lazy. If the email is too complex to type on your phone, wait until you’re on a tablet or laptop.
LinkedIn: Use very, very sparingly. Like, .02 percent of the time. In fact, just don’t use them at all. Work on tightening up your phrases, and use contractions instead.
Facebook: No more than one acronym in a short post (approximately 140 characters) or two in a longer post. Keep them obvious.
Instagram: Because Instagram audiences tend to be more highly engaged than Facebook audiences, there’s little need to resort to acronyms to shorten the length of your posts. Whether or not you use acronyms on Instagram is simply a matter of personal style.
Blog: A blog is not a text. Use your words.
Writing standards, like language, are always evolving! Our advice? Flow with it. While many of these changes seem unprofessional or even unsophisticated, the reason for their wide adoption is because they make communication easier, and in business, clear and concise communication is the name of the game.
What are your thoughts on the changing standards of written communications? Feel free to leave us a comment below!