Have you ever participated in an Instagram poll conducted by your favorite brand? Have you contacted a business to get support on your recent purchase from them?
No matter how you interact with brands on social media, you must have noticed one similarity — their consistency over every channel they use.
So, how do top brands ensure cohesiveness across their social media presence? By following an on-brand and strategic social media style guide diligently.
Such style guides lay down definite rules on how to represent your brand on social media. They keep everyone in your marketing team on the same page and every activity on social networks on the brand.
Result? Whenever your posts pop up in feeds, your fans can recognize you instantly without even looking at your username.
So today, we discuss how to create a social media style guide and why you need it in the first place.
Table of Contents
- What is a social media style guide
- What your social media style guide should include
- 3 Social media style guide examples
- Get started with your social media style guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
A social media style guide is a set of rules that dictate how to represent your brand on your social media accounts. It outlines the style your marketing team and the brand advocates in your workforce should follow while doing any activity on social media.
A social media style guide typically includes-
- Voice and tone
- Language, grammar, typography
- Color scheme
- Guidelines for engaging with the audience on social media
- Posting frequency
- PR crisis plan, etc.
Here are some reasons why a social media style guide is a must for your brand:
Consistency is key to building a singular and recognizable brand image, and your social media presence must reflect that. However, maintaining consistency can be tricky when juggling multiple social media channels. One slip and your whole campaign may end up looking odd to your target audience.
A social media style guide acts as the recipe for how your team can create a cohesive brand presence across every channel.
For example, the beauty brand Glossier’s social media style revolves around realistic skincare routines. The brand follows this diligently on its Instagram and YouTube profiles — their primary social media marketing channels.
The aesthetics on both channels are consistent and tie their every activity together beautifully. Glossier uses soft pastel colors, clean designs, and jargon-free captions. Every visual aligns with their brand identity of minimalism and authenticity, creating a cohesive look across both platforms.
2. Efficient planning
Laying down social media style guidelines helps your team plan content ahead of time. Even if the social media marketing head is unavailable, any team member can lead the activities.
For example, if your style guide dictates the frequency of posting on your social media channels, your team can schedule and publish posts according to those rules. It saves a lot of back and forth, making the process much more efficient.
A social media style guide keeps all your team members on the same page and allows them to collaborate seamlessly. It prevents miscommunication on how to run campaigns, optimizing your marketing impact.
Social media marketing often involves external partnerships like influencer marketing or collaboration with other brands or charity organizations. In such scenarios, simply sharing your style guide will communicate your brand requirements with your campaign partners.
Plus, while collaborating with other brands, you can compare your brand guidelines, find similar grounds, assess your alignment with them, and create mutually beneficial campaigns.
For example, in honor of Taco Bell’s 50th anniversary, the fast food brand partnered with Doritos and launched the Doritos Locos Tacos. Both have similar brand identities of making Mexican food accessible to the local masses.
4. Handling PR crisis
If you have a thriving social media presence, PR disasters are very likely to happen. However, having a thorough social media style guide lowers those chances, as everyone on your team will adhere to carefully planned rules.
You can also add a crisis management plan outlining which leaders and executives will handle it when a reputation disaster escalates. This way, if and when some slip happens, everyone is clear on their responsibility, letting you respond swiftly and appropriately. This will give you a fair chance to minimize the impact and protect your online reputation.
For example, in 2019, Versace ran into a severe PR disaster for a factually incorrect t-shirt that Macau and Hong Kong were countries independent of China. The following backlash resulted in Versace’s Chinese brand ambassador Yang Mi cutting ties with the fashion house.
An apology by the brand through the media didn’t do much to resolve the issue. So, Donatella Versace herself took to Instagram to apologize personally.
If you keep a clean record of similar responsibilities in the social media style guide, you can mitigate such issues quickly.
Your style guide should represent your brand personality clearly. It must outline guidelines on your brand voice, target audience, and engagement patterns on different social platforms.
In short, your social media style guide should be clear, concise, and strategic. But what do you need to include in it and how? Let’s see-
First, list all the social media handles you use for your business currently. Ensure you include all of them, not just the ones you use extensively. If you have brand profiles on Reddit or Snapchat, add them to the list, too.
Every social media platform has its specifications and algorithm. So, your style guide needs to accommodate the voice and tone of each. Listing them and mentioning their specifications in your style guide makes planning your campaigns easier.
For example, Nike has a ‘linkin.bio’ listing all their social media profiles and website links.
While you are at it, see whether all your channel names are consistent across all the platforms. If not, make the necessary changes. As your brand name may not be available as a username on every social network, keep a few available versions as options.
2. Voice and tone
How we talk and what tone we use make up a big chunk of our identity as a person. A consistent speaking style makes us look authentic, helps us connect with peers, and gives us individuality.
It’s no different for brands.
To build relationships with your audience on social media, your brand voice has to be consistent in everything you do. For example, if you are all business on your YouTube but post fun and colorful content on Instagram, it sends a very confusing message.
That’s why you must define your brand voice and tone. Imagine your brand as a real person. How do you want your audience to see you? Friendly and humorous, bold and energetic, or witty and sarcastic? Should you use emojis, or keep the captions clean and professional?
For example, the fast food chain Wendy’s maintains a friendly, witty, and humorous brand voice in all their customer interactions.
3. Color palette
Colors leave a powerful impact on how your audience perceives and recognizes you. Every color evokes unique emotions. That’s why you must choose your brand’s color scheme carefully and outline it clearly in your social media style guide.
Here, your job is to set a color palette that makes your brand memorable to the customers — so much so that whenever they see that color, they think of you.
For example, Tiffany & Co. trademarked their signature brand color, Robin Egg Blue, and it’s still one of the key parts of their style guide.
As you can see in the above screenshot, the jewelry brand highlights the Robin Egg Blue all over its Facebook page.
Tiffany and Co. follows the same color scheme on its Instagram handle, too.
Like color, different fonts evoke different emotions.
For example, “I will always be there.” looks romantic, whereas “I will always be there.” comes across as some sinister message.
That’s why typography is another aspect you must regulate through your style guide. It ensures all the graphics are the same and represents your brand personality accurately, no matter which social media platform you use.
High-end luxury brand Gucci’s social media style guide example follows their iconic typography, the Granjon Gotham font. While it’s simple, it oozes authority and class. All their social media graphics follow this typography.
Hashtags can push your content to a large audience, make your social media posts more discoverable, and raise brand awareness. But using any random ones won’t show much results.
That’s why, your social media style guide must include an organized note of the hashtags your team can use while posting content. It should have your branded hashtags, campaign-specific hashtags, and industry-specific hashtags.
Keep space for some trending hashtags to hop on the virality bandwagon. Using tools with hashtag analytics can help you find the best ones for your brand.
You must also mention how many hashtags your posts should have on each platform.
For example, home decor company Serena and Lily’s style guide kept it simple with hashtags, not crowding the posts with a plethora of them. They use their branded hashtag ‘#SerenaAndLily’ in most Instagram posts.
6. Multimedia standards
Visuals are an essential part of a social media marketing strategy. It aids in your brand’s storytelling, makes your posts more engaging, and creates a memorable impact on your audience.
But they must be brand-relevant, and their aesthetic must be consistent across all your social media channels. That’s why, your style guide must have a separate section for your multimedia standards.
Divide this section into two parts. One for profile images, cover photos and header graphics, and another for photos, post graphics, GIFs, or videos shared through social media posts. Mention the color scheme and fonts in the multimedia section, too.
For example, the art and craft retail chain—Michael’s, has vibrant visuals in their Instagram and Pinterest profiles.
The visuals are colorful and merry and suit the brand’s personality perfectly.
7. User-generated content
Want to make your brand seem relatable and authentic? Amplify user-generated content (UGC). But before that, ensure your style guide has specific instructions about UGC collection and usage.
Create a hashtag for your UGC collection and highlight it in your style guide to make it easier for your marketing team to find content posted by your customers.
Specify what format you will use while crediting the OP. For example, camera icons are a common format brands use while crediting the photographer of an image on Instagram.
For example, Nikon shared the above carousel and highlighted the photographers with a camera icon.
8. CTA usage
Your social media style guide must also specify CTAs and their placements. How often should your team use them to drive a specific action? What words do they need to avoid while designing the call-to-action?
Some brands add shoppable buttons on their posts, while others add website links in the comments. Just make sure it works for your audience.
For example, the above LinkedIn post’s CTA urges followers to comment and engage.
You can also use Twitter cards as CTAs. For example, P99 Conf promotes its events and recaps through Twitter cards.
3 Social media style guide examples
Want some inspiration to create yours? Here are some social media style guide examples worth your attention:
Medium’s style guide mainly focuses on logo, symbols, wordmark, and their dimensions and margins.
For example, the above image from their style guide defines the logo margins.
The guidelines also include what to avoid while using the Medium logo.
Starbucks also has a detailed brand style guide that outlines everything from the brand theory to the intricacies of their typography.
For example, the above image details the brand’s color scheme.
The style guide is quite interactive. For example, you can try the brand’s font SoDo Sans in the typography section.
Discord’s style guide also lays down all the specificities of how they represent their brand.
The guide first talks about Discord’s brand personality.
It showcases different versions of the Discord logo you can use while representing the brand.
There are also specific regulations on the color palette and logo spacing.
Does it look overwhelming?
If you can pinpoint exactly caption length, visuals, and posting frequency works for your audience, creating a social media style guide that shows your brand in the best light won’t be difficult.
For that, you need a good grasp of your current position on social media and what your audience wants.
That’s where Keyhole can help you.
With our profile analytics, you get real-time updates on your social media performance. We also offer hashtag suggestions to keep your guidelines on par with trends.
Plus, you create and schedule posts according to the specifications in the style guide to minimize any consistency errors.
So, what are you waiting for? To make the best out of your social media style guide, start your free trial with Keyhole today!
Frequently Asked Questions
Creating a social media style guide helps maintain consistency in your brand's voice, tone, and visual elements across all social media platforms. It ensures that your messaging aligns with your brand identity, and helps build a strong and cohesive online presence.
A social media style guide should include guidelines for brand voice and tone, preferred language and writing style, approved visual elements such as logos and colors, guidelines for caption length and formatting, and specifications for using hashtags, emojis, and other relevant social media features.
To create a social media style guide, start by reviewing your brand's existing guidelines and identifying the key elements that should be consistent across your social media channels. Develop clear instructions on brand voice, language, visual elements, and specific guidelines for each social media platform. Document these guidelines in a comprehensive style guide document, which can be shared and referenced by your social media team. Regularly review and update the guide as needed to ensure it remains relevant and aligns with your brand's evolving identity and industry trends.