Unless you live under a rock, we don’t need to tell you that social media has become the most powerful marketing tool for businesses to reach their customers and increase their brand awareness. You’ve also probably already heard that consistency is a key factor to growing on social media. But did you know that consistency doesn’t just refer to the frequency of posts, but also to the style of them? Therefore, having a Social Media Style Guide will help you stay consistent and strengthen your brand across all platforms.
Ideally, you should have two social media style guides: one internal and one external, each customized with the sections you think are relevant.
- Internal: Social media marketing is no longer a one-person job. You might be a small business owner doing it all by yourself now, but (hopefully!) soon your business will be so successful that you will need to hand over the marketing tasks and hire a few folks such as a content creator, a social media manager and strategist (or hire 615innovations), which means you need to make sure everyone is on the same page with your brand’s voice, tone, and aesthetics.
- External: Collaborations are a great strategy to grow on social media, especially with Instagram Collab. Whenever you do a collaboration with an influencer or another business, having a social media guide will make it easier to create a post/reel that can be shared on both profiles.
So by now you’re probably asking: “what should a social media style guide include?” Well, let’s get to it!
Social Media Profiles List
The first thing your social media style guide should have is a list of all platforms you are on and the profile handle. Again, this is another area where you should be consistent and try to have the same handle for all channels. For example:
- Instagram: @615innovations
- LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/615innovations
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/615innovations
Here you should include elements that are on the top of the branding iceberg: Logos, color palette and fonts/typography. It should also include do’s and don’ts regarding logo positioning, color combinations and graphics background. Also, if your Instagram grid has a layout, you should add it in the section.
If you post a lot of pictures on your social media, you should consider creating a “preset” on Lightroom as this will save you a lot of time when editing your pictures and will keep all your images cohesive. Filter usage guidelines should be also added to this section. For example: don’t use black and white filters, intense contrast, overexposure, etc.
Everyone has their own way of talking and companies are no different. Every business has a brand voice, which is the way they communicate to customers and this should be the same on all social media platforms. Friendly, formal, sarcastic are just a few examples of brand voice. Of course, you can slightly adapt your brand voice if you think it doesn’t fit to a platform. For example, the way people talk on TikTok is very different from LinkedIn.
This goes beyond AP Style and there are a lot of specifics about abbreviations and punctuation that can be added to make sure all social media posts are consistent. Some examples:
- The word “and” can be replaced by “&” or “+” (or not replaced at all).
- Decide whether you want to use one exclamation point or will you allow multiple for extra emphasis and unique brand voice?
- Determine how should dates be written: August 5, Aug 5, 8/5 or 08/05?
- What about time? 1PM, 1 pm or 1:00pm.
The list goes on. But before adding all the guidelines, take time to truly consider if the rule you’re creating is relevant to your social media style. You want to keep things simple enough to avoid mistakes. Too many rules opens you up to more mistakes because people can’t (or don’t) follow along.
You know the rule: don’t post and ghost. Your audience deserves attention and this can be a “like” on all post comments or a response to every comment, a retweet, or a repost of the stories your business was tagged in. We know that a business account usually has several marketing team members logged in, but your followers should feel like it is always the same person who is answering them.
We recommend you always add brand hashtags to your posts. And the hashtags you use, and how you write them, should be listed in your style guide. For example: 615i’s brand hashtags are…
- #615innovations (NOT #615Innovations)
- #615ibizdev (NOT #615ibusinessdevelopment or #615iBizDev)
- #615i (NOT #615I)
Besides that, we also recommend having a spreadsheet with hashtags related to your industry, which can be linked in this section of the guide. If you don’t know how many hashtags you should use in each post, we also have a blog about it.
Emojis are a popular way to add personality, emotion and tone to your social media posts. But if none of your posts have emojis and suddenly one post has 10, your followers might get confused and even think your account was hacked. You can add a range of emojis to your social media style guide. For example: 0-3 emojis per post and state whether emojis can be used as bullet points and, if so, list which ones as well as have a list of your brand’s favorite ones.
Words That Should Not Be Used
Some industries might have words that should be avoided in order to mitigate legal problems. Alternatively there are also some words that should be used preferentially in order to be consistent. For example: NYU always uses “residence halls” and not dorms. Don’t forget to also add industry jargon that can or can’t be used.
As digital marketing has become more popular, legislation and regulations around social media has also developed. Some common social media concerns include privacy, copyright, a trademark and other IP rights. In addition, some industries might have other restrictions and regulations that should be listed under this section such as the financial services industry. We worked with a FinTech client and had to avoid specific terms like “income”, “advice” and “investment advice” in any way shape and form.
Social Media Policy
A social media policy will describe your company’s process regarding social media. It should include the following topics:
- Employee posting policy – This is when an employee, outside of the marketing team, wants to post from their personal account or maybe a personal account that they made for the business (i.e., @tinafillups vs @tina_615innovations). Do they need to state that any comments and opinions posted on their personal social media is their own and not reflective of the company? Are they allowed to post pictures from events on their Instagram or only on the company’s LinkedIn? Should employees avoid posting content that would confuse both their personal as well as the company’s audience?
- Who is responsible for what? This identifies who on the marketing team is responsible for the social media calendar, content creation, scheduling, community management, approval, and more.
- The workflow: This determines the timeline of content creation. Ie., We make posts at least two weeks in advance. So, for example, we COMPLETE December’s posts by November 10 then we send the draft content to our graphic designer who has 5 days to edit and turnaround the images. At the same time we send to a graphic designer, we also send the captions to a copywriter for editing. By November 25th, we’re scheduling all of December’s posts.
- Passwords: Have a place where your team members can find all your businesses’ social media passwords. We recommend having a spreadsheet or using a password app such as “OnePassword” and adding any accounts that require a two step verification and who will receive the code.
- Crisis plan: If a post receives a very negative comment or any of your accounts get hacked, what should be done?
We know it feels like it is a lot, but believe us, having a social media style guide will help your platforms grow cohesive. But remember, just like social media is constantly changing, this document should also be regularly updated.