media update’s Christine Beukes unveils the secret recipe for creating a personalised social media style guide for your brand.

Ever wonder how some brands always get it right on social media? There’s no doubt that they’re consistent in their messaging, but in order to achieve that consistency, they keep a nifty style guide on hand. By following our five-step recipe, you can have one too.

Here’s how to cook up a successful social media style guide:

1. Start with your brand’s voice

Ingredients you may need:
  • Helpful
  • Humour
  • Informal
  • Formal
  • Conversational
  • Friendly
  • Professional
Think of your brand’s voice as your own: it’s instantly recognisable and it’s attached to your own unique personality. Your brand’s voice on social media is similar, and therefore needs to be consistent throughout. You want consumers to be able to recognise your brand’s social posts as easily as friends could identify the sound of your voice.

Decide on how you want your brand to be portrayed on social media (and everywhere else) from the get-go — that’s before any posts go out.

Just as your brand has its own voice, there is a tone to that voice that changes when placed in different scenarios. Do you speak to your mother differently than you do to your boss (hopefully the answer is a resounding yes)? Your tone of voice changes according to who you are speaking to, and it’s the same with your brand. If you’re speaking to a younger audience, your tone would be entirely different from that of a brand that is speaking to a much older one.

For example, if your company provides nutritional information to parents of small children, you may choose to be portrayed as friendly and helpful to your consumers. This is opposed to a bank, for example, which would choose to be perceived as formal and professional, for instance.

The traits you choose need to be carried throughout your posts, on all the platforms that you use. This will assist in the creation of a voice that consumers will come to grow accustomed to and will endlessly associate with your brand.

Once you’ve decided on the traits, jot them down in your style guide. Try to stick to two or three to avoid confusing your audience. Experiment with your voice by keeping a record of your posts and the traits used to see which work best. You’ll eventually be able to adapt your content with ease.
advice from media update: Keep in mind that the tone of your posts will vary, as the audiences on each platform differ. For example, if your brand has a formal and professional voice, the post would still be short and modern on Twitter, with trending hashtags and a few ‘conservative’ emojis — whereas on LinkedIn, your posts would be more lengthy, and your tone would be business-like and concrete.

2. Don’t forget grammar and spelling

½ cup of proofread posts
¾ edited content

This may be an obvious point to many, but spelling and grammar is something that is often overlooked — especially when it comes to social media. With all the different acronyms and slang terms being used, spelling and grammar are sometimes the last things brands think of.

However, most consumers can spot these mistakes from a mile away — and they will judge you (don’t think they won’t!). Proper spelling and grammar show that your brand can be taken seriously and that your content creator didn’t produce last-minute content while sitting on their phone during a meeting.

It’s also important to decide on the type of language you’d like to use. For example, are you going to be using American spelling or British spelling? Will you address your audience in first person or third? These are the things you need to decide on beforehand so that your posts remain harmonious.

Here’s an example of a template you can use when compiling your guide (hint: this is a great place to insert your traits):
  • AP style English
  • British spelling
  • Third person
  • Conversational
  • Two hashtags per post
  • Professional
  • Helpful

3. Add a dash of hashtags

Sprinkle your content with relevant hashtags to make your brand sparkle — and easy to find.

It’s now time to decorate your social content with hashtags. Hashtags are vital to any strategy, as this is how people will actually find your content. That is, if you use them correctly.

Not every platform, campaign or post will use a hashtag, so you need to jot down when they do — there's a time and place for them.

For instance, will you be using your brand’s slogan as a hashtag? If you are, where will it be placed — Facebook, Twitter, both? Will it be used in your social media pages? How often will you include the slogan in your posts? You need to include these decisions in your guide.

For example, if you were to use the hashtag '#SoftDrinkKeepsYouFresh' as a slogan for a new soft drink, you could:
  • Use this hashtag on the brand’s Twitter page and in the ‘About’ section
  • Use in all communications across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
  • Use in all marketing campaigns and strategies to promote the brand
You also need to decide on which platforms you’ll be using your hashtags, as well as how many hashtags you’d like to use per post.
advice from media update: Remember to consider the character limits of social posts. If you include numerous hashtags, you’ll have to cut down on the number of characters in your post. #DontForget
Previously, LinkedIn was not associated with the use of hashtags (that was a feature primarily connected to Twitter), but with LinkedIn’s new updates and features, hashtags might not be a bad idea. It’s always good to experiment. That way, you know for sure what works best for your brand.

4. Douse your content with multimedia

Drench your social posts with multimedia to ensure a rich onset of consumers.

Now it’s time to decide if you want your social content to include visuals. Remember, even if visuals do not align with your brand’s persona, posts that contain images, videos, infographics, etc. tend to perform better (650% better to be exact!) and are viewed more often then posts without. Don’t believe us? Check out these stats:

  • Videos have a 38% higher engagement rate than images on Instagram.
  • Posting a video at 22:00 on Instagram (your time zone) will get you 34% more interactions.

  • Tweets with images (as opposed to text-only Tweets) have a higher click-through rate of 18%, -150% more retweets and 89% more likes.
  • Tweets with videos are six times more likely to be retweeted than tweets with photos.
  • Tweets with videos are three times more likely to be retweeted than tweets with GIFs.
  • Tweets that contain an image link are five times more effective in terms of engagement.

  • Images account for 75% to 90% of Facebook’s Ad performance.
  • Videos, on average, are shared 89.5 times more than any other content on Facebook, making them the most shared type of content on the platform.
  • More than 100 million video hours are watched on Facebook per day.

Now that you know that the proof is in the pudding, you might be wondering which medium to use.

Here are a few to consider:
  • Video
  • Image (quote, illustration, graphic, etc.)
  • Infographic
  • Twitter card
Try to personalise your visuals to your brand. You can do this by using a standard type of image (perhaps you prefer illustrations over graphics) for your posts. You could also watermark your images, infographics, videos, etc. with your logo. That way, consumers will instantly recognise your content.

Whatever you decide to use, remember to jot it down into your guide — and keep it consistent.
advice from media update: Try to keep visuals of people as diverse as possible. This will allow a range of individuals to connect with your brand and avoid any bias — you don’t want your audience to feel as if they can’t relate to any of your brand communications.

5. Stir — and set — your format

Set your format and check it regularly in case it needs to be updated.

The format is where your brand’s voice, grammar restrictions and multimedia all come together. This is the skeleton of your content and determines how your posts are going to appear online.

Here are a few elements (not all, as each brand is different) to include when thinking of your format:
  • Length of posts: This is the number of characters your post will have on each platform. For instance, on Twitter, your posts will be 80 to 110 characters, whereas on Facebook you’ll try and keep them between 70 and 140 characters. Just be mindful of the fact that each brand is different, so experiment and find out what works best for you.
  • Emojis: Think about which posts will include an emoji as well as which ones work well for your brand. Try and keep them relevant to your posts — and don’t include them if it’s not necessary.
  • Hashtags: If you do decide to use hashtags, remember how many you would like to include and, most importantly, check to see if they’re actual real hashtags that people are currently searching for on the platforms. #You #don't #want #to #include #random #words #no #one #searches #for, as it’s not only pointless, but it also might direct the wrong audience to your brand.
  • Tone of voice: Keep in mind your tone of voice for your posts. Have you thought of which traits you’d like to have consumers associate with your brand? Great. Now show them off in your content!
  • Scheduled time: What time will you be sending out your posts? Remember to draw up a content schedule and keep a record of the times that your audiences are online. Then, only sent out posts at those times. For instance, are people scanning your Twitter account more in the mornings, or in the evenings? Find out, and revise your schedule.

And there you have it! The perfect mix for a personalised social media style guide. Have some secret style guide ingredients of your own? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Now that you’ve got your style guide in order, it’s time to start planning! Get started with our 10 steps to the perfect social media marketing strategy.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy