5 Steps to Create a Social Media Style Guide for Your Brand

By Rhonda Bradley / 11 September 2018

Learn how to create a social media style guide that helps your brand maintain a consistent personality across all of your social media platforms.

Successfully marketing your brand on social media often requires a mix of skills from the company’s owner, employees, and freelancers working together.

When many different people contribute a variety of skills to any project, it’s important to create a framework that ensures consistency of quality and brand personality. 

For social media marketing, that framework is called a social media style guide. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to create a social media style guide that helps you maintain a consistent brand voice, minimize social media failures, and onboard new employees or freelancers more quickly.

Step 1: Align Your Social Media Profiles

If you haven’t already chosen the right social media platforms for your brand, consider which platforms might best help you achieve your goals. If you’re working with a limited budget or a small team, consider engaging on only 1 or 2 social media platforms instead of multiple channels at once.

The first step toward creating a social media style guide is to formally list all of the social media platforms that your brand will be active on. 

Once you’ve chosen and documented your choice of social media channels, you’re ready to create your profiles.

Even though different social media channels have different personalities, your profile is one section that you need to keep consistent across all channels. This consistency helps improve your brand recognition, and it also builds your fans and followers’ trust.

Start by writing a brief description of your brand’s mission statement, and a brief overview of your products or services.

Then choose:

  • The profile name that you’ll use across all social channels
  • 1-2 links that you will promote in your profile
  • A simple call-to-action that you can display on your profile

The messaging length may vary from platform to platform, but you can refer back to this section of your social media guide to remind you of the core elements of your primary message.

It’s essential that followers recognize you from one channel to the next, and that you build trust with readers by presenting consistent brand messaging across all channels.

This part of your style guide will frequently change since it’s a good idea to update your social media profiles about once a month. It’s okay to revise and update your messaging, but be sure to do it across all channels at the same time.

Step 2: Document Your Brand’s Tone and Voice

Another step toward building trust with consumers is to present a consistent style of communication across all social media platforms. 

After aligning your social media profiles, you need to define the tone and voice of your brand’s social media presence. 

For example, if your brand wants to be known as energetic and cheerful, then document that in this section of your social media style guide. 

Writing down the personality traits of your brand will help avoid posts and content that’s not in alignment with your standards.

  • Here are some personality traits that you may want to include or exclude from your style guide:
  • Friendly
  • Funny
  • Energetic
  • Sophisticated
  • Trendy
  • Political or non-political
  • Religious or non-religious
  • Genuine or sarcastic

What’s your brand’s personality? Try to pick out 2 or 3 traits that define your style, and also list 2 or 3 that your style is not.

One example of brand personality is beverage company Tropicana, which stays true to a positive, healthy image throughout its branding.

Tropicana Facebook ad

Rockstar Energy Drink takes a different approach to style with casual language that often encourages risk-taking or feel-good activities.

Rockstar Energy Drink ad

Both brands target their customers successfully through a language, tone, and style that matches that of their target audiences.

Step 3: Create Posting Guidelines

How will you introduce the content that you’re posting to your brand’s social media pages?

When you share articles, will you tease a portion, or will you simply introduce it by title? 

When you share videos, will you set them to autoplay or require the viewer to click “play?” 

Will you share mini-stories that engage your followers, or introduce prepared content?

All of the above are reasonable options, and how you approach them will help determine how your brand posts and interacts with followers across social media channels.

In this section, you should also consider what percentage of your social media posts will be self-serving (promotional) and what portion will be informative or entertaining.

Write a clear and detailed description of your brand posting guidelines. 

Once you’ve thought through the above questions, write a clear and detailed description of your brand’s content guidelines that includes:

  • How your brand will format posts
  • What type of content you’ll share
  • What percentage of your posts will be promotional, if any

Setting policies ahead of time will cut down on the amount of decision-making required to publish your content, and help your communication remain consistent.

Step 4: Set Image Guidelines

Graphics go a long way toward setting the style and personality of your brand. Keeping your graphics consistent across all social channels will help your brand to be more easily recognized.

Some of the things you’ll want to consider when setting your image guidelines includes:

  • What logos, positioning, and sizing will you use?
  • What fonts and colors will you use?

Setting your guidelines early on will save time and frustration for your team because you’ll look great across all channels and won’t need to backtrack to fix problems.

Campaigns and cross-promotions may have an influence on the designs your brand displays across social media channels. 

For example, LG Electronics’ Facebook page wall image displays an image of Netflix's show “The Crown” playing on a TV screen.

LG Electronics' Facebook ad

On Twitter, LG shows a similar image promoting another of Netflix’s shows.

LG Electronics' Twitter

LG’s use of images is an example of how brands can use consistent imaging across multiple channels while tailoring the graphics to match different channel personalities.

Step 5: Decide How You’ll Respond in Certain Situations

The more active you are on social media, the more often you’ll be responding to the public.

In the next section of your social media style guide, you’ll document how your brand will respond to:

  • Public complaints
  • Competitors
  • Questions from followers
  • Internet trolls and trouble-makers

Most brands will approach social media with a professional tone, but brands who are able to respond with quick wit may be remembered longer. 

In the example below, Taco Bell retorts with a bit of sass when Old Spice tweets a complaint about their fire sauce.

Old Spice & Taco Bell Twitter exchange

You will face many difficult situations on social media if you’re lucky enough to amass a large following. Will you respond to negative comments with more negativity, with humor, or with kindness? Perhaps you’ll ignore insults or quietly respond to complaints directly.

This step is a chance to think about how your team will handle criticism, questions, and comments on your public pages.

Be as specific as you can in outlining how you’d like your team to respond in public situations.

Step 6: How Will You Use Hashtags?

The hashtags that you use on social media are likely to change depending on the campaign and content you’re posting.

What you can decide ahead of time are things like:

  • Will your brand use hashtags on Facebook, where hashtags tend to have lower engagement?
  • Will you use hashtags on LinkedIn?
  • How many hashtags will you use in your Twitter and Instagram posts?

For example, Red Bull energy drinks uses one hashtag across multiple social media channels: #givesyouwings. The hashtag is included in its Facebook profile and is the only entry in the “About” section.

Facebook Red Bull page

On Twitter, the #GivesYouWings hashtag is listed in place of its company description.

Red Bull Twitter

Hashtags are useful social media tools when used properly. Be sure to use hashtags that align with your campaign or topic, and avoid adding too many hashtags at once.

Set Style Guide Policies in Order to Maintain Consistency and Improve Creativity

The key to a good style guide is to make as many decisions ahead of time as possible, without becoming so strict that you stifle the potential of your creative team. Ideally, your team will appreciate the fact that you’ve made these decisions for them - because it leaves them more time for brainstorming and content creation.

The social media style guide helps build trust with consumers through steady and consistent brand messaging. When it’s well-written, your team can better create engaging content and present a united front when representing your brand on social media.

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