We’ve all come across them. The ‘blue sky thinkers’, the ‘imagineers’, the ‘envelope pushers’ – the kind of people who wedge you into a corner and bombard you with maxims to show how great they are and why they’re so incredibly important.
But unless you’re a candidate on The Apprentice, it’s more likely that you’ll hate having to talk about yourself and your business. You might be able to promote your products, your services and your opinions without any trouble at all – but yourself?
Social media means we have to talk about ourselves more and more these days. Personality is important. We have to put pithy, succinct bios on our Twitter feed, Linked In profile, Facebook page and the ‘about us’ section of our website.
You might find it easiest to fall back on jargon and buzz words. If you’re pitching yourself at a very niche market, they can sometimes be useful shorthand. You’d expect an engineer to know what a slip-on flange is and a boatbuilder won’t be offended if you ask him about the length of his scantling. These words show that you know what you’re talking about, that you’re part of their industry, an insider. The downside however, is that they make anyone who isn’t familiar with the terminology feel excluded. If you have a broader client-base and you’re using your social media outlets as a shop-window, why would you want to exclude anyone?
The other extreme is the over-familiar: ‘Hey guys! We’re such great mates, why don’t we all go out for milkshakes!!!’ We’re not all in this together, we’re not part of the same gang – you’re a business and you’re trying to sell something. People may just want to use your services, not join some kind of consumer cult. Let them move on if they want to, don’t use Twitter or Facebook to stalk them.
Finding the right tone of voice to outline you and your business is crucial if you don’t want to come across as pompous or self-satisfied or desperate. The problem with writing is that it gives you too much time to think. If someone was to ask you what you do, you could probably tell them in a few words. But when you’re sitting in front of a laptop with a copy and paste function at your fingertips, the possibilities can seem endless.
It sounds like a glib cliché but the best advice is just to be yourself. Social media is everywhere so unless you’ve got a team of brand managers at your disposal it’s very hard to maintain an artificial persona. You’ll wake up in a foul mood one morning or tweet something after you’ve been on hold to the council for three quarters of an hour and you’ll get found out. That chummy, happy-family chattiness in your profile will seem fake and manipulative next to a comment about how much you despise your gardener for what he’s done to your rhododendron bush.
So be direct, be natural, write how you speak – but speak well. Otherwise you might find yourself stuck in a meeting room with a bunch of imagineers, singing from the same hymn sheet and running things up the flagpole to see who salutes.