Developing a Brand Persona: Insights from NatGeo, R/GA, Twitter & The Tombras Group



Tim Nudd, editor in chief at the Clio Awards, sat down during #SMWNYC with reps from National Geographic, R/GA, and Twitter to hash out key strategies behind building an engaging brand voice on social media.


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What’s the best strategy for developed an engaging brand voice on social media? Experts from Twitter, National Geographic, R/GA, and The Tombras Group shared their best strategies at Worth a Follow: Making it Socially Acceptable to ‘Like’ Your Favorite Brand, hosted by Clio Awards.

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Sassy, sweet, informative, even meme-able brands are speaking out about their products and services, using their unique voices. They are being heard on social platforms like Twitter in real-time, and often go viral, suddenly retweeted to thousands of users everywhere.

Stay relevant, use a relatable voice

Nina Mishkin, Global Content Strategy Lead at Twitter, said to think of Twitter “as a focus group…a unique way to start conversations between brands and real people, which creates interactivity, and thus, impact.”

Mishkin cited the HEINZ Ketchup approach, bringing consumers into a conversation about condiments. “It’s an authentic, true-to-brand voice on social. Lean into whatever persona you’ve developed, and that’s your message,” she said.

The Tombras Group, which runs the @MoonPie account, talked about the infamous Twitter war between MoonPie and Hostess Snacks over being “the official snack cake” during the 2017 solar eclipse, and how MoonPie leveraged the publicity to get more followers and press coverage.

“We wanted to use a unique, ownable wholesome family voice, while still relating to millennials. We just wrote a tweet in the same way a friend would text you back,” said Dooley Tombras, Tombras Group president. “Occasionally a competitor will step into it, and you’ve got a good real-time opportunity. Think about real-time as the most important content filler.”

Tombras shared that social listening–to a lot of topics and brands, not just your own–helps companies stay in the loop to what people are talking about, especially in the fast-paced world of Twitter. Social listening gave @MoonPie a real-time opportunity to jump into any conversation, whether it’s about the eclipse, NASA or outer space overall.

“The more a brand can find the opportunity to be relevant based on what consumers are seeing, in a way that doesn’t feel forced from the brand, but is true and authentic to themselves, that’s when you hit that Twitter gold,” agreed Mishkin.

Integrate brand stories into real-time conversations

Kate Coughlin, Vice President, Audience Development, at National Geographic emphasized brand authenticity as storytellers on platforms from Twitter to Reddit.

“It’s about reaching the audience to get them to interact, ask questions, showcase their work,” she said.

R/GA Creative Director, Chapin Clark, who runs the industry-favorite account @RGA, agreed that “what works best for us, is that you’re not just commenting on culture, but the intersection of culture, and truth about the business.”

Keeping the conversation relevant also signals to potential clients that brands know how to develop a unique voice, and keep an audience.

Whether you’re sharing industry facts or #GameofThrones memes, make sure the people understand and resonate. And, of course, keep it appropriate.

“When I think about the voice of R/GA, we think of ourselves as iconoclastic, people who do things out of the box, who aren’t afraid to poke a little fun.”

Bringing the brand to life

A brand voice is a chance to bring that brand’s personality, their corporate values, and culture, to life. Twitter can help stimulate those conversations, generate reactions, an overall get people talking about the brand.

One way to do this is to think of the brand voice “as a spectrum” — how does your organization’s voice flex across a variety of messages and situations?

“When you see brands succeed on social platforms, like Twitter; it’s because they start with their audience and know what they’re talking about. You’re not just pushing out your marketing calendar,” Mishkin finished in an audience Q&A. “When it starts to be overdone, your brand starts to be watered down, and the audience will call that out.”

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