Have you noticed that companies have gotten a lot friendlier over the past few years? I don’t mean that they’re any nicer or that they’re offering better deals (though maybe that’s happening too), but rather that they’re coming across as a lot more personable and human in their content. In fact, these days even the most corporate brands are loosening up and starting to speak to their customers rather than at them.

Microsoft is a great example. Not all that long ago, when the company’s software crashed, users would be presented with a so-called blue screen of death, an exceptionally robotic, off-putting error message like this one:

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Recognizing just how unhelpful that screen was, Microsoft eventually replaced it with a much simpler message that everyone could understand:

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Implementing changes like this are important because they go a long way toward increasing engagement by making your brand more approachable. It certainly helped in Microsoft’s case. In fact, small changes like this one have slowly helped evolve the face of that business from a cool, corporate behemoth into a much more likeable and personable business partner.

Although the trend toward creating more conversational content is on the rise, not everyone has gotten on board yet. There are still plenty of companies holding on to their formal corporate speak. Not only that, many of the companies that have adopted a more conversational tone have only done so in certain areas. As a result, you may find companies with content that’s warm and engaging in one instance (such as their marketing content) and formal and off-putting in the next (such as their technical content). That kind of inconsistency can muddle a brand and confuse customers.

Some Advice on How to Loosen Up

In my view, it’s important to establish a conversational tone across all of your company’s content. One of the knee-jerk responses that companies have to this is that they’re afraid that their customers won’t take them seriously if they do. My response to that is simple.

You’ve always got to create your content with a clear understanding of the context you’re writing it for. In other words, always strive to be conversational but ramp that up or down depending on the situation. For example, you don’t see Microsoft cracking jokes or trying to come across as too cute or chatty with their new error message. That’s because they understand that the message is about the fact that their software just crashed. As such, they’ve managed to tailor their tone so that it’s both conversational and appropriate to the particular context of the situation.

I don’t recommend trying to be too slick with your messaging either — no matter what the context. You want your language to come across as natural and not so overwrought that it doesn’t seem sincere.

My final piece of advice is to make sure that your content is consistent. You probably have lots of different writers across your organization and it’s important to ensure that they’re all on the same page. If your marketing content is going to adopt a more personal tone (and believe me it should), then you need to figure out how that tone will translate to all of your company’s other content as well.

The Bottom Line: Your Customers Are People

Content marketing is all about building relationships with your customers through content. One of the keys to doing that is talking to them like the people they are. So lighten up and adopt a more conversational tone with your content. In other words, start writing more like the way people actually talk. Trust me, your customers will thank you for it.