Whether you’re on a big team or small team, have a full content calendar or post intermittently, it’s important that everything you post on social media exudes your brand. From color to tone of voice to logo usage, one of the most important ways to succeed as a brand on social is to be instantly recognizable, and developing (and using) a social media brand style guide is the easiest way to do just that.
If you don’t know where to start, fear not. We’ve outlined everything you need to know about establishing social media guidelines of your brand’s very own.
What is a brand style guide?
First things first, what exactly is a social media brand guide? Think of it as the go-to tool for anyone who will come in contact with your brand’s social media presence. From graphic designers to content specialists, this guide serves as a one-stop shop to ensure that your brand maintains and cohesive and consistent presence across social media. It can include anything from fonts to brand colors to logo guidelines to tone and grammatical/style choices (but more on that later).
Why do I need one?
Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. If you have multiple people creating and managing your social content, a social media brand guide is necessary in determining and maintaining how your brand looks and presents itself on social. It plays a key role in keeping content true to your brand’s form when many different employees are touching your channels. When scrolling through a feed with mismatched images, variations on punctuation use, and an inconsistent voice, chances are they don’t have a living social media brand guide in place, and it affects the perception of the brand by any visitor to its page.
What should I include?
The short answer: Everything. Your social media brand guidelines should leave no stone unturned, but what exactly does that include? Here are a few must-haves:
Your social media handles. And don’t forget links to the channels you’re on. It’s also a good idea to explicitly outline what kind of content should live on each platform. As inspiring engagement with organic content gets more and more challenging, it’s important to make the most of each post and think strategically about what you share and where.
An outline of your brand voice. What is your brand’s personality? What qualities describe your brand? Compare what it is to what it isn’t. For example: Our voice is humorous, but not snarky. Some choose to give their brand voice a gender, but it’s not always necessary. Only do it if it feels right for your company or product. How your brand responds to users that interact with it on social also falls in line with the traits you’ve outlined above. Also keep in mind that while your tone and word-choice may change from platform to platform, your voice should not.
Proper grammar, punctuation, and terminology. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s good to establish some copy rules. Even if it’s as simple as stating that you always follow AP style, or avoid complicated jargon, it’s good to put it on paper.
Style of photos and graphics. Establishing a visual style is as important as a written one. Here are a few things to make sure you include when locking down the details:
- Brand colors
- Brand fonts for use on graphics
- Acceptable color combinations
- Filters for a cohesive Instagram style
An easy way to maintain consistency is to develop templates of different types of graphics you may need.
Logo use. This may come from your brand’s more broad style guide, but it’s important to lay out guidelines for how to use the brand logo. Oftentimes this includes whether it’s acceptable or not to change the colors, stretch it, flip it, tilt it, or alter it in any way (and usually, the answer is no).
Hashtag use. Outlining how and when to use hashtags appropriately on your channels is a must for a cohesive brand voice. With the shifting landscape of social, hashtags are becoming less important for increasing reach, so use wisely (general recommendations: no hashtags on Facebook, minimal use on Twitter and LinkedIn, and around 10 on Instagram if you choose to use them in your captions). Making and updating a list of relevant hashtags to use and when and where to use them will keep everyone on the same page.
Publishing guidelines. If you’ve done your due diligence and examined your social analytics, you probably know what times of day/days of the week you’re most likely to get engagement on your posts. Including this data in your guidelines will ensure that everyone who posts for your brand has this same valuable information. Posting in the most active blocks of time with your audience is the easiest way to optimize for maximum reach and engagement, a must in the social world we now live in (without chronological feeds).
After you’ve put pen to paper, it’s time to maintain, maintain, maintain. Your guidelines will be used by everyone throughout the organization until there comes a time to update it once again. Make sure the guidelines end up in the hands of the right people (including new hires), keep them in a central place accessible to your social team members, and when in doubt, always come back and reference it.
Having these guidelines in place makes it even easier to convey your brand on social media and ensure it's recognizable at first glance. Staying consistent will help build trust and familiarity with your audience and your team, and keep your content quality and brand style a perfect 10 every time.