How to Create a Social Media Style Guide for Your Brand

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You’ve established a great social media presence. As the head of marketing, or a marketer in charge of social media – you’re really proud of what you’ve done. Your fingerprints are all over your social media program – but the time has come to bring in other team members.

How do you stay consistent with your social media writing? It’s time to create your brand’s style guide.

Style guides are another tool from old school journalism that is easily adaptable to social media writing. With a style guide you can establish the rules for communicating on social media, and ensure that you continue to grow the strong presence that you’ve already established.

You don’t have to wait until your add to your team to create a style guide. Even if you’re handling things solo, creating a guide can help you streamline your social content creation and make sure you stay consistent.

No matter why you need it, here’s how to create it.

What to Include in Your Social Media Style Guide

Who is your audience?

Generally speaking your audience on social media is short on attention span, interested in getting quick hits of information and looking to make a connection (possibly). Social media readers are on a mission – they are looking for information, inspiration or entertainment. They’re interactive.

If you want to create a strong social media style guide, you need to go beyond generalities. Who are you speaking to specifically? Who is the target persona? Establishing your target will help you work backwards and craft the tone, formatting and scheduling that will appeal most to them.

Have a basic idea of your target audience but no persona developed? Now is the time to do it. Give that person a name, an occupation, hobbies and a face. Since social media is based on interpersonal connection it’s critical that you know who you are talking to.

Who are you?

Speaking of making personal connections, your style guide also needs to include your brand’s persona. If your company were a person, who would it be? Would it be young, trendy and adventurous? Slightly stodgy, but approachable? Button down with a bit of an edge?

Look back at your top level messaging or any other marketing assets that define the brand, and if you haven’t already, create a persona. This will help you communicate the right voice and approach to anyone who may take up the reins of social media management at your company.

How do you engage your audience?

Although this is somewhat defined by your brand’s personality, you need to lay out exactly how your brand interacts with the social media audience at large. Matthew Latkiewicz defines five different persona types that are commonly seen on social media: the game show host, the friendly neighborhood sales rep, the beehive, the community builder and the friend. They are all effective, but each brings a different flavor to social media marketing. A fun, youthful brand could act as a game show host or a friend – and both would produce a different social media experience.

What do you sound like?

Your tone of voice on social media speaks volumes about your brand. Again, this is area that is partially defined by your persona and the target persona you are trying to reach but it can help to granular in your social media style guide.

Outline terms that your brand would use, and terms that it wouldn’t. For example, if Dove started tweeting with slang and multiple exclamation points it would be a major shift from their friendly, approachable tone. Get specific in your social media style guide – outline terms and examples that help anyone taking up the reins get a feel for how your brand communicates.

How often do you communicate?

Although it’s not directly related to writing style, the frequency and timing of your posts are just as important to how your brand is perceived. Do you sprinkle kernels of wisdom throughout the week, or do you hourly contests that challenge people to @ reply you with specific information? Do you take a fire hose approach to publishing content or the drip method?

Your frequency is going to be defined and refined by your stats – so be sure review and update this section of your social media style guide regularly.

In fact, your style guide needs to be approach as a living document. Using a wiki or other collaborative format will allow anyone on your social media writing team to make tweaks based on performance. Establish your baseline with your target persona, your company persona, your tone and your frequency and then adapt as you need to.

Do you have a style guide for your social media usage? What are your “must have” sections?

Courtney Ramirez
This monthly Social Media Writing column is contributed by Courtney Ramirez. Courtney is the Director of Content Strategy for Endurance Marketing, where she helps take B2B brands from boring to breakthrough. She creates strategies that helps businesses tell their story, increase their prospects and convert more customers. She manages content marketing creation and implementation so clients can see the best results from their inbound marketing efforts. She geeks out on content marketing metrics and cat memes. +Courtney Ramirez
Courtney Ramirez

@CourtneyRami

Content Strategist, B2B Copywriter, Biz Blogger, mom of 2 geek girls, loves Doctor Who, GTD & green smoothies, Socially Awkward Penguin is my spirit animal
6 Social Media Trends for 2014 to Watch Evolve by @nealschaffer http://t.co/4v6hnKMKyB - 31 mins ago
Courtney Ramirez
Social Media Strategies Summit

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve done image and branding guides for clients, different companies – it’s important to present a consistent image, esp. if you’re a chain or franchise system and represented by many. Only logical to create a similar tool for SM, considering the bigger the organization the more people will be part of the SM management. The SM Guide will be a living, evolving document as the needs of the biz change, as the team changes.

    One MUST HAVE in managing this is be upfront about WHO you are; I think when appropriate, Disclosure is essential. ID the tweeters, the FB managers, the pinners; I’m mixed on the ghost-blogging, so go ahead and share that the CEO’s blog is w/ help of person’s XYZ. Another essential is a real communications plan for it; regular questions and posts are fine, but if you never stick around for the answers, never do more than condescend to your fans for likes, then it’s just for show and won’t help your brand. FWIW.

  2. says

    Great points, Davina and Courtney. May I add that ‘being genuine’ is also an aspect when you develop your image and style. Hidden agendas can be easy to spot, so ‘stay true’ to your passions vs. trying to become famous. To help put this in context, I recall a politician suddenly offering to read ‘In Flanders Fields’ at our communiy’s Remembrance Day Ceremony, The sentiment was dimmed by the obvious intent to raise visibility and upcoming election votes ….we said thanks, but no thanks.

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