A social media account with no specific direction confuses its followers and turns away people who might otherwise be interested in your brand. On the other hand, a well-defined social media strategy attracts new followers and engages existing ones with excellent content that follows company guidelines.
Social media style guides serve as the cornerstone for your whole social media marketing strategy. It’s a foundational part of the process that ensures consistency and clarity. A style guide will help you create social content that engages and resonates with your target audience.
Here’s what you need to consider when creating a style guide.
1. Identify your brand voice
Every social media platform has its own unique style, from Twitter’s snide remarks to Instagram’s influencer-heavy nature. Some have even started portraying social media networks as different Marvel superheroes and Disney princesses.
While there are so many different styles out there, it’s vital to find a way to get your own brand identity and voice on these platforms, especially when digital marketing trends are always changing. Your voice should resonate with your audience and align with your brand’s values.
For instance, Monterey Bay Aquarium might say its brand voice is pun-filled, friendly, inclusive, whimsical, and informative on Twitter. Its blend of corny dad jokes and cute animal updates is designed to attract and appeal to a target audience of sea-lovers, school groups, and families.
Finding a brand voice is often a team effort. It can be hard to do by yourself. Consider setting up a team and getting members to come up with different keywords. Take note of the keywords that get a strong reaction or are repeated multiple times. You may use these keywords in your marketing material, whether they’re social media posts, email sales templates, or YouTube video descriptions.
The Content Marketing Institute recommends you keep things simple and try to use 3–4 words to describe your brand, some of the common ones include;
However, this isn’t as easy as most people often think. There are so many different adjectives in the dictionary. So, when choosing these three words, ensure to interrogate why you want certain words and be as specific as possible.
All in all, whatever style you opt for, you need to be consistent. It’s hard to have brand trust without consistency. If you intend to change styles, you must introduce these changes properly.
You can do this in two ways: You can either opt to radically restart the whole thing or gradually introduce the new one.
2. Align your social media platforms
The next step is to audit all your brand’s social media accounts.
Social commerce is big business nowadays, and you might get a little shocked when you find out how many accounts your brand has. Most big businesses and corporations use different social media platforms for different reasons and they’re typically all aligned with each other.
For example, Nike has numerous verified Instagram profiles. While @nike is its central platform, the company maintains different Instagram profiles for different market segments, such as @nikewomen for female customers or @nikerunningclub for running and jogging enthusiasts.
The difference between the Nike Instagram and Twitter handles is the company posts more pictures and videos on Instagram because that’s what resonates with that particular audience.
However, you should align all your efforts to one another, whatever the platform. When people visit your accounts, whether on Facebook or Instagram, they should know who they’re dealing with.
When auditing your brand’s social media profiles, include every single one of them. Social media account audits allow one to know who’s running what and will show you what you’ll need to do to ensure they’re all aligned with each other.
An excellent social media style guide should account for the different messaging capabilities in different accounts. For instance, your brand’s customer service Twitter profiles will use different language from the marketing and public relations accounts.
Aside from ensuring that all your social media platforms are aligned, you also need to align your social media and other forms of content. If link-building is among your content marketing strategies, you need to use a good guest post service to ensure that your guest posts take the same tone as your social media posts.
3. Creating formatting guidelines
Different social media platforms have different formatting conventions and guidelines, so your brand’s social media style guide needs to account for such.
For example, Instagram doesn’t allow its users to click on post links but permits brands with over 10,000 followers to have “swipe-up” external links in their Insta stories. On the other hand, Twitter allows users to add tweets to threads but imposes a limitation of 280 characters.
Regardless of the differences between social media platforms, there are a few guidelines and conventions all your profiles should follow:
- Keeping text content to a max of three to four sentences each
- Using the first sentence to get to the point
- Shortening links using software tools like bit.ly
- Using mentions and hashtags properly and with contextual relevancy.
For example, two to three hashtags on LinkedIn are enough
- Add value to posts by using relevant images
Pizza Hut is one of the businesses that use cohesive formatting conventions on its Twitter account. The company delivers its messages in less than three sentences, includes attractive product images, shortens all its external links, and uses branded hashtags like #PizzaPower.
Some brands go a step further and specify how and if you should use emojis. For example, a children’s charity known as Rainbow always places rainbow emojis at the bottom of its captions right before the hashtags.
4. Creating media guidelines
A quality social media style guide needs to include the kind of media. These would be links, video, audio, infographics, and images that one can use on each platform.
For example, if you are planning what to publish/post on your brand’s Insta account, you will need to determine which content will go to your feed posts and what’ll make it to IG Stories.
IBM Watson has found out how to effectively use different types of content to convey its key messages while still keeping within the brand’s voice. So whether the media it’s using is a GIF or static image, the company’s unified brand voice will be consistent with its “Big Blue” color pattern that’s been around since the 80s.
When deciding on the kind of media you will post on your platforms, consider each platform’s media size requirements. Can you resize the content, or will each platform require you to create new versions?
5. Developing a situation response playbook
How does your brand interact with competitors and customers on social media? Do you use these interactions to boost engagement, or do you just ignore them?
If your brand is operating in a competitive space, your target audience might just tag your competitors’ profiles and yours in the same post, which will often “force” you to interact.
A good social media style guide should address these scenarios. Your responses will heavily influence your overall brand voice. For example, Wendy’s is well-known for its witty and short answers to tweets. Oh and sometimes posting content that pokes fun at its competitors.
Social media marketing isn’t as hard as some make it out to seem. However, that’s not saying it’s easy either. The tips above will help you develop a great social media style guide.
Don’t fret if you don’t have all the answers right away. It takes a while to build a quality style guide. It involves trying different things to determine what works, studying your clientele, and defining your brand voice.
Hopefully, this will help you succeed in all your social campaigns moving forward.