Do you really need a social media style guide for your brand?
There is no shortage of the number of channels and platforms over which marketers can set up campaigns to reach a target audience. While this highlights an opportunity for brands to establish a sustainable presence on the digital landscape, there is also an increasing concern about losing brand image rapidly with each platform the business decides to take on.
With an increasing number of social media platforms, we often find marketers struggling to keep up with the various algorithm changes, trends and audience needs – especially if the brand is scaling and entering new markets. The need for speed often results in haphazard efforts to create textual and visual content, leading to compromising on the overall brand guidelines.
One thing leading to another, brands are often unaware when they lose out on 80% of what they want the business to be portrayed as.
This is where having a social media style guide comes in handy and we’re here to share how to create one for your business.
What is a Social Media Style Guide?
A social media style guide informs the way you approach different social media content, influencing how your audiences perceive your brand. It is a document outlining the specific choices in styling for social media branding. For this reason, your style guide plays an integral role in social media branding. It guides your brand’s actions and appearance on social media platforms.
When social media marketing strategies are made up of tactical information that allows for growth on social media, your social style media marketing guide can break these actions to portray your brand voice.
A good social media style guide also includes details on what your brand should and should not be talking about on platforms. Since the topics and themes of campaigns can have an impact on how your brand is perceived, this guideline serves as guardrails.
Why is a Social Media Style Guide Important?
Having a social media style guide will allow for more control over the way your brand gets defined. This means that your style guide would be able to define how your content would look when it gets shared.
Even with a good team, knowing how to create social media brand guidelines is a must. These are some of the major benefits of having a social media brand guide template:
- As social media managers often have a lot going on their plates, having a solid source to reference from is important
- Even in instances where you are occupied and there is little supervision, the team can keep your social media marketing efforts functioning smoothly
- With a social media brand guide template in place, you can offer a smooth onboarding process for newer members of the team
- With a styling guide your content remains consistent and unique, making the content easily recognizable for your audiences
- Minor details like spelling, and punctuation on your social media content that impacts brand perception can be sorted and made consistent
- A good social media style guide can also give you complete control over your share of voice and the overall sentiment you want to stimulate through digital platforms
- Brand guidelines can also help in monitoring overall digital health
- Helps streamline the type of content your marketing team wants to create to keep up with audience needs
What Should a Social Media Marketing Guideline Include?
The primary purpose of a social media style guide is to create a consistent brand voice through your content. Hence, it should remain clean and concise. It should take into account factors like your brand voice, tone on various social platforms and your target audience.
When your organization has established or is working towards creating its social media presence, you’ll want to ensure that each individual account is branded consistently. Here are the major aspects that need to be included in every social media style guide:
1. Have A List of All Your Social Media Accounts
The first thing you need for a social media branding guide is a list of all the social media accounts that your business is present on. You will also have to include your brand’s existing social media handles and what type of content is being shared on the platform, as well as how it aids in achieving your business goals and objectives.
It is also a good idea to list the platforms your brand may want to experiment with in the future to take into accounts its requirements.
2. Brand Voice and Tone
A well-defined brand voice makes all the difference when connecting with customers. Each brand has a personality that needs to be communicated and projected to the audience in order to maintain an appeal.
Be it funny sarcasm or mature formalness, your brand has to remain consistent with the personality it holds. This is where outlining your voice in your social media branding style guide comes in. Let’s have a look at a few aspects to look into when outlining your brand voice.
It is only fair that the language you use on your socials is inclusive and open-minded. This is why brands should communicate with their team members to develop guidelines for inclusive social media language. Different views and perspectives can contribute to crafting a fair language guideline.
Here you have to outline whether you post as a brand or attribute authorship of posts to team members.
Using or not using jargon depends on what industry your brand belongs to. It’s better to stick to plain language that offers clear communication unless you are in a technical industry with a niche audience.
When constructing captions or paragraphs, keep in mind that short is better. But keep in mind that the length of your sentences should be appropriate for each of the different social media platforms.
When using CTAs, brands should identify the fine line between too much and too little. Make sure that you are focusing on the type of actions that you want them to take and the wording of your CTAs.
Ask yourself and the team, whether emojis should be a part of your social media content. If yes, what emojis will you use and how do you intend to use them? It’s also a good idea to look into what each emoji means for the netizens before including them in your style guide.
3. Social Media Policy
A social media policy lays out the dos and don’ts of employee behavior on social media. This will include factors like content, guidance on dealing with negative feedback/comments and disclosure. These are some major points that need to be taken into account when drafting a social media policy:
- Designate who holds responsibility for tasks like creating, approving and publishing posts
- Content can be anything from product photos and company news to meme videos; clearly describe what kind of content is appropriate and what is off-limits
- Have a well-defined plan for when your team handles a crisis
- Mention how your brand’s security protocol; how will security risks and passwords be managed
- Layout the employee guidelines for both personal and professional social media use in relation to your business
- Convey when the content should be published for the best impact and when it calls for moving it back to drafts/ getting deleted
- When it comes to regulated industries, make sure that your team and business are compliant with the law
4. Brand Language Rules
Often a brand will have its own specific set of acronyms, names, phrases etc. The usage of such words and phrases needs to be clearly defined in your social media style guide.
We can look at trademarks as an example. Include a list of your brand trademarks in your social media branding guide. Note that having a list in all caps will complicate the list.
When using acronyms, it’s ideal to provide a section that explains their usage. For acronyms that are niche or are not widely in use, it is better to spell them in full form, where it first appears. Also, convey where specific acronyms are appropriate and where they are not.
Also make sure that you include the correct pronunciation of your brand name if your brand name has a peculiar pronunciation that might confuse the audience. Including the phonetic spelling of a difficult name in the style guide, is the easiest way to address this issue.
5. Consistency Guidelines
Consistency guidelines help ensure that all your content uses the same language throughout. Begin by sharing a carefully selected dictionary with all the relevant team members. Grammar and punctuation choices, when made uniform throughout, can do away with many inconsistencies in language use.
You’ll also have to choose between US or UK English, depending on the location where your business is based. Businesses might even have to consider both if they have a global audience.
Another thing to note is punctuation. On social media, brands usually punctuate in a proper manner. This covers things like correctly utilizing apostrophes and avoiding text speak. Things like hashtags and some abbreviations are exceptional cases here. In your social media style guide, be sure to specify when and where acronyms and slang are okay.
Other things that need to be detailed in your social media style guide include headline capitalization, the use of serial commas, dash style, the format of date and time, links and numbering.
6. Customer Personas
You might already have defined customer personas before your brand got established. If not, then now is the time. Knowing your target audience will help you develop a brand voice and content that resonates with them. To do this, you should create customer personas.
Knowing your audience is essential before you can create a compelling brand voice. When developing customer personas, consider the following points as well:
- Demographics like age, location, gender and occupation
- The way they use social media
- Business goals
- Challenges/pain points
- Type of content customer engages with
7. Guidelines for Curation
Curated content can be an excellent method to improve the quality of your social media feed. This is important because not always will your ideas be new and unique.
Here you should define which source you can share and which source you will not share from (For example- your competitors). Your guidelines should also define how third-party images should be sourced and cited.
8. Hashtag Usage Strategy
How does your brand use hashtags? Your objective is to outline a hashtag strategy in your social media style guide that maintains your social channel’s consistency.
Do you use branded hashtags? How do you collect user-generated content? You have to list down all the branded hashtags of your brand with guidelines on their usage, in your style guide. You should also create a list of hashtags that are specific to ongoing or one-time campaigns.
Other guidelines on the number of hashtags to be used, as well as the case in which your hashtags should be written (upper case, lower case or camel case), are some other aspects that need to be included in your social media style guide.
9. User Generated Content
Content generated by your audiences will have a hugely positive impact on your brand. But your team should have the proper guidelines on how to curate and credit such content. Some basic guidelines for user-generated content are as follows:
- Request permission from the user
- Credit the creator
- Provide value in return for the content
- Find missed user-generated content with search streams
Keep in mind that the specific instructions on tagging and crediting should also be there in your social media marketing style guide.
10. Guidelines for Visual Design
Visual design is where the look and feel of your brand finally gets defined. These are some of the key points to include in visual guidelines:
Your brand colors need to be prominent in your socials. You may want to use colors that complement your brand when designing your content. Sometimes softer variations of your brand colors can set tones to your backgrounds when it comes to designing images and CTAs.
You will already have a logo. But where do you use it? Where won’t you use it? Answer these and point them in your style guide.
Using Images and Filter effects
This is where you outline the kind of images you are going to use on your social media content. Are you going to use stock images? How will you promote user-generated images? Will you use watermarks? Detail these in your guideline.
How to Implement The Guidelines You Create?
There are five steps involved in implementing your social media style guide. In short, it is a process of including all the above elements in your guideline; but here’s how it typically flows:
- Define your brand voice and tone
- Audit and align all your social media accounts
- Set up guidelines for formatting
- Create guidelines for media
- Develop your strategies to deal with crises and other situations
Pro tip: Ensure that you get a stakeholder buy-in for all the steps above; this will help reduce the number of last-minute changes in your social media strategy and guidelines, and also take into account their industry expertise and insights.
Social Media Style Guide Template
[Describe your majority audience persona or insert link to customer personas.}
[insert handle or links to every social account run by your organization]
[Insert types of content you post and how often you aim to post each type of content]
|Voice and Tone|
[Summarize the voice and tone of your social media presence in one sentence]
|Words and Phrases to Avoid||Emojis to Avoid|
[Describe which emojis should be avoided and why, and what each mean]
[Identify capitalization style to be used when writing on social media, i.e., sentence case, title case, no capitals, etc.]
[insert link to editorial calendar and/or guidelines on how often/when to post on each network]
|Bad Post Examples |
[insert at least one screenshot example of a type of post you don’t do per network]
|Content Curation Blocklist |
[insert list of outlets that you do not share content from (i.e., competitors, untrustworthy sources, etc.)]
[insert list of brands that inspire your content creation, include space for notes on what exactly you like about them]
|Guidelines for Visuals|
[insert list of outlets that you do not share content from (i.e., competitors, untrustworthy sources, etc.)]
[make sure to answer the following questions:
●When do you tag someone?
●Do you include a tag in the photo, caption, or both
●In which cases do you need to ask permission to tag?]
[make sure to answer the following questions:
●When do you need to credit someone?
●What format should the credit follow (i.e., “Name, CCO)?
●Are there different levels of crediting? If so, what are they?
●When do you not need to credit someone?]
Optimize your social media branding for higher ROI
Social media marketing requires consistent efforts to drive the desired ROI from organic and paid campaigns.
For this reason, a social media marketing style guide becomes one of the most important aspects to keep your efforts directional and streamlined. With a guide in place, you equip your team to not just keep up with your target audience and trends, but also adapt the strategy to suit the changes in unpredictable circumstances such as launch of new features or algorithm updates.
Constantly improving your social media style guide based on real-world testing and analytics of your socials, will ensure that your brand has what it takes to compete in the market. This is where having a powerful social media analytics tool like Radarr comes into play.
With its ability to process millions of conversations online, it helps you measure your share of voice, sentiment of your audience, the ongoing conversations around your brand and provides insights on how you can optimize it all for a positive impact on your business.
New to social media analytics that can help with branding?