With over 2.3 billion active social media users, you have a lot of competition for attention. Knowing who you want to reach, and how to speak effectively to that audience, filters through a lot of the noise and cuts right to the chase. Crafting a social media style guide is essential for your business, brand, and online identity because it allows you to know ahead of time who you need to reach and how to capture their attention.
Here are some benefits of having a social media style guide in place:
- Allows everyone in your company to stay on track with the tone, format, style, cadence, and imagery that is acceptable
- Guidelines for social media content are clear
- Sets expectations and standards for quality content
- Acts as an extension of your editorial style guide or brand style guide
- Ensures alignment to your brand
- Defines how content should look and sound to the reader
- Serves as a guide to all team members can reference when posting to company channels
Before you jump in, I recommend creating a brand assets folder as a central place to house all of the different documents, images, videos, templates, etc. that you create and source when following this guide. Maintain all these components in a cloud-based storage platform, like Google Drive, so your entire team can easily collaborate and have everything they need at the click of a mouse.
Below is the process we use at damolade, and a free download for you to use! This could serve as a starting point for your social media style guide, however, you should customize the guide to fit your needs and goals. Grab up the damolade template below.
These following should be established right off the bat when creating your social media style guide. These main guide sections most likely should not be changed throughout your brand’s social media presence.
Figure Out Your Purpose
The first step in crafting your social media style guide is figuring out the true purpose of your social media presence.
You want to find out why you are participating on social media in the first place. Is it to bring in new business? Help customers with your product? Network with industry insiders? Host a brainstorming session with team members on what your main goals are and how to align that with your brand.
Don’t be afraid to pick multiple goals, just don’t confuse your followers with random or inconsistent messages. Here are some purposes to choose from:
Think of your purpose as a tree, the branches are the social media channels you want to utilize, and the leaves are the communication practices you put into place.
When crafting your social media guide, you need to establish the different personas you want to speak to when posting on your social media channels. Create a detailed persona document which features your ideal customer characteristics - for example “CTO Charlie” or “Marketing Manager Matt.” There are tons of great guides online for creating personas. I like this fun tool that generates a persona doc for you based on your research from Hubspot.
The next step is to give these personas real-life characteristics. Where do these people work? At a startup or a Fortune 500? A Marketing Manager will have different concerns based on the size of their organization. This will matter when you launch a social media campaign and you want to make sure you understand the nuances here. Compile a list of relevant influencers, publications, and categories of interest to discuss in relevant groups or communities. Aim to solve their problems and you’ll understand how to tie your social media strategy in with your products and services.
What’s Your Engagement Style?
There are several different ways to approach your engagement with followers on social media. And note that engaging with followers will not always be easy or enjoyable.
You may come across angry customers, negative comments on your posts, the backlash for political incorrectness, etc. We see top companies dip themselves into hot water for these incidents all the time.
You need to have an established plan on how to handle each of these situations as part of your style guide. We spoke about having a “crisis plan” previously on the damolade blog. The way in which you handle your engagement style truly depends on your brand and what message you want to convey.
How will you respond to positive comments? What are you going to do to engage new followers? Will you reply to every comment that comes your way? Will you thank people for sharing/liking your content?
These are all questions that can be addressed in your social media style guide in the Do’s and Don’ts section that we will describe below.
Name Your Style
This post by mashable shares all the potential “styles.” IBM uses “The Beehive” and when you go to their social media style guide which is an actual landing page on their site, you get a little bee icon. Nice touch, IBM.
Example Engagement Style - “The Community Builder”
The community builder’s goal is to create conversation around things the company cares about and then link that conversation to the brand. There should be a balance of passion and detachment. You want to spark conversation, but you don’t want to dominate it.
Company thought leaders contribute to the social network identity. You are going for what people actually care about and so a little humility — making the brand ride shotgun or even in the back — works best.
The business benefits by all the small relationships between its employees and the wider world.
Example company using this engagement style: Timberland. They run a community effort called Earthkeepers, a set of initiatives (including social media) devoted to environmental action.
As described on its site:
"When you’re an Earthkeeper, you’re part of a community of like-minded people from all over the world intent on doing the little things and doing bigger things, like replanting eroded areas and retrofitting their engines to run on biofuel. Earthkeepers learn from and support one another through original and inspiring ideas of making the world a more sustainable and livable place. And the more of us there are, the better."
Note that while the Timberland logo is on the top of the page, it’s not mentioned here. In their tweets they take a more anonymous tone and almost always include a link to something the community might care about (often linking back to the Earthkeeper blog).
Tone of Voice
Social media voice is the mood or tone you want your brand to convey over your channels. Having a consistent voice on all of your channels is key. This allows for your followers and potential followers to truly understand who you are as a brand and what your company represents.
The brand voice is composed of the character or persona which is the type of conversation you want to have with your followers. Whether you want to be inspiring or professional. It is also consisted of tone of voice is how do you want to sound to your followers. Do you want to sound humble or scientific? Language is another aspect of brand voice and dictates who you want to speak to. Whether you want to be fun or serious. And finally your purpose is the overall goal of your brand voice. Do you want to educate or sell?
Language: Insider and Simple
Purpose: Educate and Engage
Here are some sample tweets that exemplify a solid brand voice focused on it’s thought leaders within the company whose purpose is to educate and inspire its audience:
and another ...
and for some idea about what the opposite of this voice would be let's look at a different tone altogether- the irreverent tweeting of Mr. Dave McClure, of AARRR fame. Tweets like this may be appropriate for an individual, but not necessarily a company, so put in some sample "Don't" tweets too so your employees know what not to do.
You would not post in the same format on Twitter as you would LinkedIn because each channel has its own language and culture. LinkedIn is more about B2B communications, and therefore the language is authoritative, professional, and not irreverent like Snapchat for instance. Here is a breakdown of some norms for each channel:
Some example formatting rules for Twitter:
- More conversational
- Utilizing trending hashtags
- Stick to 140 characters
- Always including an image and link
- Change Post or Page Title to be directly relevant
- Retweets of “Scalers” and your industry thought leaders “as-is” ( make sure you ‘@” them so they see you mentioned them ).
- Use your social media tool’s link shortening to conserve characters
Some example formatting rules for LinkedIn:
- Polished tone of voice
- Professional language signifying a thought leader
- Don’t just brag about your professional accomplishments or people will tune out
- Always including an image and link
- No hashtags
Some example formatting rules for Facebook:
- Be inspirational, that type of post works well here
- Good place to straight SELL your product or service
- Ask questions to your audience, be conversational
- Try video here
- Always include image and link
- No hashtags
- Clean all URL parameters from third party posts, use existing image from article
Some example formatting rules for Instagram:
- Striking imagery, if you don’t have any, or plan to produce them, don’t bother with this channel
- Use emoji’s!
- Try video here
- Always include call to action in the post
- You can only add a link in your bio - so make that bio shine!
Some example formatting rules for Snapchat:
- Very conversational and informal
- Engaging videos and photos showcasing your brand’s culture
- Showcase the unique personality of your brand and company culture
Do’s & Dont’s
The do’s and don’ts of your social media posting is determined by your company culture and how your audience expects to be addressed. Essentially you are laying the ground rules in this section of the guide. If multiple people have access to your account, mistakes get made. Make sure it’s clear what to do and what not to do on your channels. For example: a “do” might be to place the newest branded content at the top of the newsletter. And a “don’t” might be to avoid commenting on politics or religion on social media.
The brand’s messaging and voice should have consistency. An example of a consistent social media channel could be sending out the company’s email newsletter at the same time each month/week. People begin to expect it in their inbox on a certain day/time. This is oftentimes to be determined after testing and the editorial calendar is the place where you define your terms and optimal frequency.
Cadence refers to how many times a day, a week, or a month you should post on each social media channel. It also refers to what times of day you should be posting. You can gather insight on the best times of day to post using Google Analytics or Buffer the specific analytics of the social platform and cross reference with your social sharing software, like Buffer, to best determine optimized times. You could also cheat a little.
An editorial calendar oftentimes determines the frequency of posting content and what channels to focus on and when. Do you want to send out 15 tweets a day? Or two Instagram images per week? How many posts per channel do you want to push out to your audience? Whatever you choose, just be sure you’re consistent.
Keep in mind that they may expect a certain number of posts per day or month. The worst thing to do is have a channel you neglect and rarely publish posts on. So cadence is key.
Acceptable link shortening will be specific to your company, but I tend to use either the auto generated link via Buffer or bit.ly which you will have to manually create.
Your social media depends heavily on images and videos. Content with images receive 94 percent more views than content without images.
Which means that every post should be accompanied by an image. Include a social media image size cheat sheet as part of your style guide so you have image sizes for each channel handy.
Hashtags & Keywords
Using trending hashtags and keywords will help increase your impressions and engagement rates. You need to stay on the pulse with the trending keywords and hashtags and jump in on the conversation if one aligns with your brand.
Be consistent with use of hashtags and keywords across all social channels to increase the discoverability of your content.
For example: if a trending Twitter conversation and accompanying hashtag is #outdooradventure and you’re a bicycle company promoting people to spend more time outdoors biking, then you have a great opportunity to jump in on that hashtag, partake in the conversation, and then yield more followers and business from people who are following that trend. You have an interested audience ready to buy and follow right at the click of your keyboard.
Can you say #winning?
Having a social media style guide on deck will be an asset to your business and brand. Once you establish your style guide don’t stop there. Create an “assets folders” containing your brand imagery, editorial calendar, personas document, and content interests.
Creating a social media style guide can be quite the undertaking, which is why we can help you build a style guide to fit your business, brand, and goals.
Contact us today and let us know how we can assist you! Leave a comment below and share some of the social media guides that have worked for you.
If you have enjoyed this post, please take a moment to share it.
Ready to dive in on your own?