Brands must be more human on social

Humanising of the brand voice on social media is vital to stronger connections with consumers, as Anita Mullan of B&A writes

During this time of great uncertainty social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Tik Tok are connecting friends and family to an extent never experienced before. Hearing people’s voices and seeing people’s faces are key and we are suddenly catching up with those we have not had time to talk to in months or, in some cases, years.

Social media is helping to drive this sense of a strong connection.

However, it’s not just personal relationships that can benefit from consumers extensive use of social media platforms. Brands should also use this time to review how they communicate with their brand followers on social media. Over the last few weeks brands have been posting messages of solidarity on their social media platforms.

The tone of these posts is typically colloquial and aims to convey a personality behind the brand. In fact, many brands have been using more colloquial language to communicate with their brand followers for quite some time; despite there being little research done on the potential benefits of conversing with consumers in a more humanised brand voice.


To examine the benefits of using more colloquial language to communicate with brand followers, B&A and TU Dublin examined how the tone of voice used in social media posts impacts upon brands relationship with their followers. The research findings reinforce the work of Jahansoozi, J. (2007), Hon, L. C. et al (1999)  and Kelleher, T. (2009).

Those findings argued that more humanised interactions are fundamental to a more receptive audience and by using such a communications voice, brands enjoy greater trust, satisfaction, commitment and influence. The study, conducted before the Covid-19 crisis, focuses on the tone of voice used by Irish government agencies and semi-state bodies.

These organisations typically experience a more polarised brand loyalty.

Government agencies and semi-state bodies face many of the same challenges as large organisations when communicating online with the public; such as overly bureaucratic restrictions on how information is controlled and communicated and there is typically a lack of dialogue between the public and the brand – (Yuki, T.,2015).


The research also examined how the use of a more humanised brand voice by government and semi-state bodies impacts upon the government that is responsible for those organisations and provides robust statistical evidence to back up Yi et al.’s (2013) theory that brands can also use social media to solve problems and operate more efficiently.

Social media users were recruited through B&A’s online panel,

The respondents indicated which government agencies or semi-state bodies they followed on Facebook or Twitter from a pre-identified list. The list included An Garda Siochána, Dublin City Council, Dublin City Events, Dublin Fire Brigade, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail, as these organisations used a humanised voice in social media communications.

They were selected based on the content they share on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Half of the sample was required to follow at least one of these organisations. A control group of respondents that did not follow any of these organisations on social media was also included in the sample. Due to the Dublin bias in the list of government agencies and semi-state bodies that were identified as communicating in a humanised brand voice, the quantitative sample was restricted to those resident in the capital.


A qualitative study of one-to-one, in-depth phone interviews with key staff in the communications departments of government agencies or semi-state bodies was also conducted. The focus of the qualitative phase was to understand at a deeper level why these organisations chose to communicate in a humanised brand voice and what impact, if any, they feel had been achieved by this communication, in terms of trust, satisfaction, commitment and influence.

The research produced several useful insights that transfer across government agencies and brands. Not only did the study confirm that through using more humanised interactions brands can enjoy higher levels of trust, satisfaction, commitment and influence, but it also showed that when used well social media can help government agencies and brands to form lasting connections with their followers.

The research also reinforced the view that brands social media followers are more likely to share positive content about the organisations they follow on their own social media pages and are more likely to believe that the brands they follow place higher value on public opinion compared with non-followers.


Also, the research identified that government agencies and semi-state bodies use different platforms to convey different messages, whereby a multi-channel communications strategy is employed. For example: Twitter is typically used for service updates/event information; Facebook is typically used for marketing and brand messages and showing organisation transparency through the use of video content.

Instagram is slowly becoming a mechanism for marketing, especially with younger audiences.

LinkedIn is used to communicate with key stakeholders and YouTube video content is also becoming a medium for information and transparency. Analysis of the data suggests there is limited information crossover between those following on Facebook and those on Twitter as respondents tended to follow an organisation on either Facebook or Twitter, but not both.

Due to the various ways that social media may be used to convey different messages, and as respondents were more likely to follow these organisations on Facebook or Twitter – but not both – it is important that the departments who look after the social media content for brands are fully resourced and managed to ensure they gain fully from using social media.

Organisations should have clear guidelines regarding publishable social media content and what is appropriate, as well as the type of language to be used. Under-investment in these areas can lead to damaging the brand, from which it can be hard to recover.

A key learning from the Covid-19 crisis is the power of a well thought out multi-channel communications strategy by the HSE, the Government and their agencies, with emotional adaptability of key messaging as events unfold.

Undoubtedly, it will be a case study we will look back on.

This research was conducted as part of an academic study; Mullan, A.; Kidney, E. (2020) ‘Humanising of the brand voice on social media: The case of government agencies and semi-state bodies. Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing, Vol. 7, 4, pp. 344-354.

Anita Mullan is an associate director at B&A




Share with friends:

Privacy Policy | Cookies Policy