Why do you need a social media style guide?

If your job entails social media management, you should think about adding a social media style guide to your marketing materials. Whether you work for a digital agency or as an in-house designer, building a social style guide can smooth out the processes and transitions that are inevitable for small businesses.

Complete, up-to-date brand guidelines for social media help new employees get familiar with your company. They also keep in-house team members, social media management across multiple locations and supporting agencies striving for the same goals with overall uniformity (both verbiage and imagery).

To begin creating a social media style guide that employees and advertisers find useful, start with an overall goal for your social channels, whether it’s to grow brand awareness, communicate with customers and potential customers, or sell products. Identify how progress toward these goals will be tracked over time and who is responsible for gathering this data.

As social media and your business grow and evolve, it’s okay to revisit your goals, as well as any other part of your social style guide.

Example of a social media style guide with colors and fonts

Building Brand Guidelines for Social Media

Audit Your Channels

Take an objective look at all of the social accounts your business uses so you have a baseline to compare your progress to. Take note of which platforms are helping you meet the goals you just set.

  • How many followers do you currently have?
  • How much engagement (likes, comments, shares, etc.) do your posts get?
  • What type of content gets the most engagement?
  • How often are you posting on each platform?
  • Are each of your social channels worth continuing to invest in?

Get to Know Your Audience

If you’re an established company, you probably have a good idea of who your ideal customer is and what they like (and don’t like). Creating content that you know they’ll love is the first step to ensuring social media success. Outline your audience within your social media style guide to make sure your team knows how to connect with the people who matter most to your business.

Writing for Social Media

Your Tone of Voice
Social media is a great place to let your brand’s personality show through. Whether your brand is funny, kind, intentional or a little sarcastic, let everyone know what tone of voice is okay for each of your channels.

Technically Speaking
You’ll also want to outline the technical side of writing for your company on social media. Outline the terms that are unique to your business, including their spelling, capitalization and synonyms.

You may also want to address how your social media team should respond to comments, reviews and messages – regardless of whether they’re positive or negative.

Your Hashtag Strategy
Start with hashtags that include your brand name. These are tags that should be applied to most, if not all, posts. Then, build a list of hashtags that relate to your industry and location so they can be used consistently.

This probably one area of your social media style guide that will change as best practices shift. Task one of your team members with updating this section with fresh keyword research on a regular basis. Depending on your industry, as well as how much you rely on social media for business success, this could be as often as every few weeks.

Visual Style Guidelines

So much of social media is visual, especially on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. Your images should feel like they belong together, whether they’re of your product, your people or your location. One way to do this is with predetermined filters outlined in your social media style guide (try VSCO, Lightroom presets or Canva) and templates for complementary graphics.

Platform-Specific Style Guides

Don’t be afraid to set strict guidelines for each social platform your company uses. Facebook doesn’t offer the same tools as Snapchat; therefore, you shouldn’t treat them the same. You may choose to designate a word limit on your Instagram posts or require all Snapchat videos to document a “behind-the-scenes” type action. You can even schedule specific times to share your posts on each channel depending on when your customers are online.

Consistency is key in branding, which includes your social media channels. A style guide is a really great way to reinforce your business’s brand and voice. It will also keep employees and outside contributors focused on the same social media goals!