Posted: Fri 20th Nov 2020
Developing simple brand guidelines for social media helps make sure you get value out of the time you invest.
Brand guidelines define your company's social media content. Get it right and it'll make it easier for potential customers to not only understand what your business does but follow your accounts and engage.
We spoke to Enterprise Nation advisers and members about the steps small business owners can take to create clear brand guidelines for social media.
Why is branding important to social media?
It's really important marketing is consistent, whether it's a website or products you display at a market stall. It helps people identify your company and builds trust.
"Social media is a busy place now. It's hard to grow organically unless you've positioned yourself well. It's a standard marketing thing, but on social you're often paying out for advertising spend. You need content to look good and be shareable."
What can I get from social media?
Your marketing plan should cover what you want to achieve through social media. If you don't have one, think about how different platforms can support your business before beginning your branding work. Your objectives could include:
building your business network
providing a channel for customer feedback
What should I include in brand guidelines?
Once you have a small number of key objectives in mind, you can start to think about how your company's brand translates to social media.
The key elements are the profile, the images and content you use, and the tone of voice. Make sure you have high-quality logos and brand images. Outline the details that should be included in your bio and suggested profile images.
Rachael Dines says:
"There should be some elements in your general brand guidelines that apply to social media. Do you use stock imagery or is it your own photos? Do you use emojis? The type of language might be slightly adapted but it should still fit with your brand."
Write a short paragraph or list of bullet points for each. A single page should be enough to cover the overview and you can add details that are specific to individual social channels.
Your approach can evolve over time. Rachael said her team recently started using emojis, for example. Although they still steer clear of things like the Pile of Poo emoji that could damage credibility.
Defining your social media presence will increase consistency and quality, and provide a guide for any freelancers or new employees that use the accounts.
"Social media offers a great platforms for raising awareness and spreading the word about your new service.
"What you need to remember is being consistent and creating a seamless experience throughout the platforms. You need consistency in terms of logos, branding, colours and your voice. Try to secure the same handles too."
What images will support my social media brand?
Think about what kind of images fit with your brand and work well on social media. For example, what kinds of people are shown in pictures and what situations are they in? Think about what your customers that are on these platforms will relate to.
Every social media channel uses different sizes for images. Sprout Social has a useful guide on images sizes. Tools like Canva, which help with layout, include templates with pre-defined sizes that are ideal for social media.
What kind of content should I include?
The content you include in your posts creates a reason for people to follow your social media account. As Joanna Michaels puts it, "content is king".
"Social media is a content monster. Content is king. People follow us because they come across a post they really like. They start to follow and want more. To hook them and keep them we need to deliver that consistently. Offer good content consistently and not only will they stay with you, but they'll also tell other people about you."
Joanna says to start by thinking about the pain points your customers experience – how can the content you publish help?
Shake It Up Creative's Twitter account provides a behind-the-scenes look at the company, occasionally including calls to action to get in touch and content customers. Rachael Dines said they're trying for a "mix of being authoritative, friendly and professional but still fun".
"Telling the story of your business is the best way to convert followers into customers. Showing behind the scenes of your business gets customers to feel like they're part of your journey."
Defining your tone of voice on social media
Running a business means talking about it a lot. You probably use certain anecdotes to explain things and language that resonates with your customers. That translates well to social media – you just need to find a way to encode what you already know.
Try writing several bullet points about the tone of voice you want to use on social media. Rachael Dines recommends considering the following:
Are you using acronyms? What about the kind of language that might be internal or related specifically to your industry?
There might be certain words that fit really well. You don't want to use them too much but making a list of suggestions provides useful guidance.
How much of your content will be selling something? Rachael uses the 80:20 principle: only 20% is sales and promotional, the rest of it is entertaining and informative and aims to build trust.
When you start a business, it's common to sign up for lots of different social media accounts. Make sure you go back and check that every platform fits your brand guidelines.
When defining your social media presence it's worth thinking of it as your company's shop window to the world. Alison Battisby says:
"Make sure your shop window looks amazing – what impression do people get in three seconds when they land on your account? You want to make sure you have really enticing images."