Discovering Your Digital Personality For Your Organization

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I once was asked to describe the personality of the online presence for the retirement community that I work for. I knew the answer right away – “unrelentingly optimistic.” That wasn’t just a phrase that popped into my head, however. It was the product of many hours of discussion and nearly two years of social media data.

In my professional life, I manage or consult on nearly two dozen social media accounts for varying lines of business. Each of these accounts has a distinct audience and requires a different tone and personality. From education to fine dining and event management, they run the gamut of styles and needs. But, for me, the most interesting (and challenging) accounts to run are those tied to retirement communities. Why? Because they don’t just serve one audience!

If you’re reviewing the social media of a restaurant, you’re probably hungry or planning to be in the future. Checking out a museum’s social media presence? You’re either looking for information on their exhibits, hours to visit, or perhaps for some educational tidbits.

However, the audiences that engage with a retirement community are much more varied. Not only are you speaking to your current and potential residents, but also their families, friends and loved ones. For non-profit communities, you’ll need to factor in potential donors and the gift planning process. Of course, you also have your employees to think about as well! Because of the nature of the retirement industry, employees often feel very invested in the success and public image of the organization. That’s a lot of audiences to grow, nurture, and engage with. Therein lies the fun of the challenge!

I was once tasked with defining the personality of an organization that needed to speak to all of these varying folks and do it in a way that was simple and easy for other staff members to understand and replicate. We began by reviewing all of our social media posts to date and finding a common thread between them. We then took a critical look at our internal procedures and controls so that we knew exactly what had to be referenced.

At the end of the process, the one word that stuck with us was “optimistic.” All of our posts found the positive in any story and tried to show that even difficult topics, such as end of life care or infection control, can be shown in a positive light. The term “unrelenting” came about when we poured through the comments and messages that were responded to. No matter how abrasive, unhappy, or angry a contact was, we always treated them with the utmost respect and responded with an optimistic answer. Through the combination of those two words, we had our personality.

Our final definition, used in the internal style guide was:

“When speaking on the behalf of the organization, to adopt the values and mood of the organization in all posts and responses so as to project a position that is unrelentingly positive and optimistic in our online presence. All posts are factual and formally written. All responses are even tempered and customer service oriented with the intent to satisfy and inform.”

The process we followed wasn’t innovative or new; rather, it was an exercise in personal understanding and reflection. Only by having a holistic view of our business could we generate a concise, driving principle for our social communications going forward. This is kind of exercise is valuable for any organization to undertake, as it should form the basis of your digital engagement platform.

So, how would you describe the online personality of your organization?


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Seth Anthony

Communucations Manager, Varsity


Seth works for Varsity, a boutique advertising agency dedicated to products and services for seniors and the mature market. He holds degrees in psychology, human resources and organizational management, giving him a unique perspective on how people communicate and interact. He specializes in telling brand stories to niche audiences.

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