How to define your brand, brand values and tone of voice in 5 steps

Define your brand and tone of voice

It’s true when they say that failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s common sense when you think about it, really. If you can’t explain what your brand is, what it stands for and why it’s worth following, how can you possibly expect a stranger to have the answers which make you worthy of their time and potential money? 

People don’t know what you don’t feed them and the biggest mistake any brand at any scale can make it assume an audience’s behaviour. It’s also the direction you’d want to wholeheartedly avoid for the sake of controlling your brand’s perception and reputation from the get-go. 

The additional plus side? Once you’ve spent the time creating a brand which makes you attractive to your target demographic and embodies what you truly believe in, the hard part is done. It’s similar to creating a logo or a media kit. Yes, you might begin by trialling and failing a gazillion alternatives until it feels ‘just right’, but thereafter it’s just a matter of making small revisions here and there to maintain relevancy — and the most important part: applying it consistently!

1. Before creating content, find your competitive advantage within your niche

Don’t make content for the sake of making content. While quantity does matter on social media in this day and age, the quality shouldn’t be compromised in the process. Travel #inspo and quotes perform well, but that doesn’t mean the engagement scored from those posts will convert people into following you for your brand.

What about YOUR brand stands out compared to others who are similar? Maybe you have a different editing style, have more personality on camera or have an incredible way with words? Dig deep into all your skills, your individuality and what you can do with your resources — and find that ‘edge’ which ‘competitors’ don’t necessarily have. This will essentially be your USP.

A good way to check yourself is by questioning whether each piece of content you produce and upload on your feeds has that little bit of ‘you magic’. You want your audience to feel as if they can’t find someone like you elsewhere! Read more about defining your USP and audience here.

2. Identify competitors or similar brands (but not necessarily to compete with)

I don’t believe in competition within the influencer marketing space because, in my experience, it can a) become nasty pretty quick, and b) tends to eat up the person trying to compete more than anyone else. This is because influencer marketing is unique in that you are leading with your name, and whether anyone wants to admit it or not, a percent of your success is often judged from vanity metrics such as likes and the follower count.

Instead, use ‘competitors’ (i.e. others in your niche with a similar target audience) to identify what audiences respond to. What are the pieces of content which over perform? What doesn’t seem to be working for others? Are there specific types of content in your niche which is more common than others? What’s the common theme between the most-engaged contents? E.g. If you’re a beauty content creator, video content should be your priority as that’s where the engagement is right now — and, equally, it’s what brands are looking for before collaboration outreach.

You’re allowed to feel inspired by others… just don’t outright copy them, obviously.

3. Create values that define your brand

Not a lot of creators do this because they don’t find it necessary, and some even do this without realising they are.

It’s important to set values and ensure all of your content highlights these values as you grow. This is because you want people to have a solid understanding of you without any outlandish judgements. Social media can be quite a scary place. Trust me, I know from both personal experience and consoling others. On my IG @unsahmalik, I made it clear from the get-go that one of my values is a no-BS approach. By doing so, most people have grown to know me as someone who probably won’t beat around the bush but because I come from a warm place, I’m not being blunt to attempt to sound like someone I’m not (I have this sort of blunt monotone voice in real life too, which is both a blessing and a curse depending on the situation!). I’m doing it in a positive manner so people can feel accountable and, more importantly, grow into incredible individuals. 

Write a list of five values you always aim to stick to. It will create a sense of familiarity with your target audience and, eventually, they will grow to love you for it — and intentionally come to you for it too. If you would like further guidance on this, my e-book goes through a step-by-step. For inspiration, Google is your friend. Many big corporations like Uber publish their brand values on the Internet for the general public too. 

4. Create a tone that reflects your brand, branding elements and values

How do you speak to people and what is your communication style? Are you corporate or more friendly? Do you use emojis? What about allowing memes on your feed? Do you use internet slang? Are you in favour of exclamation marks or not? 

Don’t underestimate the power of a tone of voice (ToV). It’s essentially how people decide what your personality is.

Every successful thought leader, publication, brand and content creator has one — and people actively seek the same people for their specific reasons. Strive to be someone who others will search for because of the way you communicate.

5. Apply consistency 

Once you’ve sussed out all those details, apply every tiny detail of your branding consistently. In my opinion consistency is the most important factor of your overall social strategy: keep consistent in order to become a go-to personality. Of course, you can make tweaks here and there if need be, but otherwise try and stick to what you stand for as much as you possibly can!

My e-book goes into building a brand predominately for the social media audience in further detail, click here to purchase.

Unsah Malik is the writer of the bestselling eBook ‘Slashed It’: The Ultimate Social Media & Influencer Marketing Guide, the founder of The Modern Go Getter (launching soon!) and purveyor of great social media advice on all her social platforms @unsahmalik