A style guide of social media acts as a foundation for your social media network strategy—An introductory document which ensures consistency and clarity.
Every website, brand, and publication needs a style guide. Every social marketer also needs a great style guide for the social media network.
Let’s see why is it important for you to have defined brand guidelines of social media, along with good style guide models to follow.
Bonus: Get a free, customizable social media style guide template to easily ensure a consistent look, feel, voice, and tone across all your social channels.
Why you need a social media style guide
Do you know how to use the serial commas? These are the commas before “and” in the list such as butter, eggs, and milk. I’m a big fan. Luckily, the same is Hootsuite. But use it neither wrong nor right, that’s just the matter of style. The wrong thing is inconsistency.
Do you prefer to use American or British spellings? If you prefer to use British spellings, then your spelling of analyzing has “s”. but, you may write realize with “z”. The style guide of British spell gets split at this point.
Similarly, for “Z” do you call zed or zee?
Language becomes messy, because of several variations and inconsistencies. To stay consistent with your brand, make important decisions and save them in the form of writing.
Since minor issues such as grammar, punctuation, and writing are just a beginning. You need to set your voice of a brand, find how it may differ across the social media networks, and recognize what types of images will help you define your entity or brand.
A social media style guide ensures the whole members of your team who write and talk of your brand do so by consistency. That supports the objectives and image of your brand.
What should include into your style guide of social media?
A list of all your social media accounts
You need not take it as a social media audit, but, it’s important to create a complete list of all of your social media accounts that are used by your brand.
For the first thing, this helps you to get a perfect image of your naming conventions, which you use for your social accounts. You need to find that whether names are consistent across your all channels. If the answer is no, then it is your time to select one style and write it to your social media style guide. Through this, you make it sure that new accounts over new media network are discoverable easily by your existing followers.
The following areas of your social media style guide most likely to vary by the channels and these may also vary by creating different accounts over the same platform. For example, your accounts of customer service show differences against your social media marketing channels.
If you did not still define the target market and develop the audience personas for your brand, then it’s the time for you to do this. You cannot develop an effective voice for your brand until or unless you know of whom are you speaking to.
You must provide a brief description of your customer persona on right upfront. Since all other decisions of your brand depend on this when you create social media guidelines for your brand.
Tone and voice
You need to set a clear brand voice if you want to connect with your audience. Some brands prove super cheeky over social media. And some others maintain a formal tone. It depends on you to which approach you prefer but whatever the style you use you need to be consistent with it.
Social media style guide example: Brand voice—Celebrity Cruises
Below are a few questions that you need to consider regarding your brand tone and voice.
Do you like to use it? It is most appropriate for high tech-industries with a niche audience, and your answer is possibly not.
You need to stick over simple language, which your audience prefers to understand. You can make the list of jargon of the word “Y” to avoid.
Social media style guide example: Jargon—Skype
Source: The World According to Skype
Whatever the guidelines on social media will you use, make sure that your language should be fair and inclusive?
Involve the members of your team in a discussion forum when you develop guidelines regarding your inclusive language. If your team cannot join the discussion forum because of large numbers, then you must ensure to take diverse viewpoints from unique members of your team. You must not circulate primary guidelines for seeking feedback.
The key part of Accessibility is inclusivity.
Paragraph, sentence, and caption length
Short proves to be the best. However, how short it is? Will you need to use the same strategy on Instagram as you use on Facebook? Will you form threaded Tweets for going above 280 characters?
Social media style guide example: Caption length—Mailchimp
Source: Mailchimp Content Style Guide
Would you like to use emojis? How many? Which Ones? How often? On which channel? Have a similar discussion about stickers and GIFs.
Where and how to use Call to Actions
How many times will you want to ask your audience to take particular actions, such as make the purchase or click over the link? Which type of action’ words would you prefer to use to your CTAs?
Do your posts are based on your brand? Or do your posts are attributed to individual group members? For Instance, it is very common to social accounts of customer services to use the initials for indicating which group member will reply to a specific public message.
Rules for brand language
We view this as a part of the brand voice. However, it’s worth to considering it independently as it’s from one of the big deals. There are various words, acronyms, names, and phrases particular for your brand. There is only a need to define them precisely.
Your social media style guide must include a complete list of all trademarks used for your brand. You must not put a list under all caps, as it makes this impossible to show a difference between Hootsuite (right) and Hootsuite (wrong).
You need to provide guidelines on how can your trademarks be used. Will you use the names of your product as verbs?
Social media style guide example: Trademarks—Google
Source: Google Trends Brand Guidelines
Most of you frequently use acronyms in your daily routine without even knowing about it, and the same is the case here. Does your audience aware of what they mean? Do new employees get to know what they mean?
You need to create the complete list of acronyms that are used internally, with full spelling versions and of what these stand for. You must identify whether it is effective to use full terms of acronyms on your social media channel.
Other languages specific to your brand
Employees on Hootsuite are lovingly called “owls” both on social networks and internally whereas Starbucks’ employees are called “partners”.
So, if you also use similar terms, then you must mention them. Not only it’s the case of how you refer your employees, but all other non-trademark languages you use in your company must write. For instance, do you engage with clients, guests, or customers?
Once I got ready to travel by cruise. I told to my agent I was waiting to go on the boat, then she replied “The Ship”.
I spoke as a passenger, and my wrong term was not a matter of concern in that case. But when you are a writer, then it makes a big deal for you. Try to use correct terms and get them listed into your guidelines. In this way, everybody who posts on your social media channel will use the correct term all time.
Consistency guidelines are the language issues of which we talk about at the beginning of this guide.
First, you need to get a dictionary. List it to your guide and ensure all team members have access to your online subscription.
Here are a few issues regarding consistency that you must consider:
The UK or US English
English may also be Australian or Canadian.
You cannot find the right answer for it whether to use it. The Associated Press remains against it, but the Chicago manual assets for its use.
You need to make your own decision and once to make then you must be consistent with it.
Do you prefer to capitalize on the only first character of your word or the whole word? Yet again, there is no wrong or right answer. You can define your brand style.
Factual story: once I won Dale Carnegie pen on doing a speech of difference among an em-dash (—), a Hyphen (-), and an en-dash (–).
You may not bother to pay attention to punctuation as I do. Yet you need to select your style of a dash for consistency assurance.
Social media style guide example: Dash style—Disney
Dates and times
Do you abbreviate or write for the week’s days? Which format for a date do you prefer?
Do you write at 17:00 or 5 p.m. or 5 pm?
How frequently do you include the links to your posts?
Do you prefer to use the URL shorten?
Do you prefer to use the UTM parameters?
You cannot make your ideas all the time on your social media network. Curated content is a great approach for creating new and your content for your social media feed.
But you need to identify from which sources can you share it or from which you cannot? You want to not share posts of your rivals. For instance,
You need to define guidelines on how to source and cite third-party images.
The topic of how to use hashtags effectively is covered in another blog post. For your style guide of social media, your aim is to create a hashtag strategy that keeps you consistent with your social media channels.
Do you prefer branded hashtags to be used to encourage followers and fans to tagging you, or you prefer to collect the user-generated content? Enlist the all branded hashtag into your guide, with guidelines of their use.
You also guide your team members on how to respond to particular hashtags of your brand. Will you comment on their posts? Like? Retweet?
Social media style guide example: Branded hashtag guidelines—Austin Community College
Enlist hashtags which are specific to any of your ongoing or off-going campaigns.
When one campaign gets finished, do not remove its hashtag from your list and make notes of it like the date or time of its creation, etc. In this way, you can build a permanent record of your used’ hashtags. It helps spark creative ideas for the new hashtag of your future campaigns.
For instance, when travel stops in March, then Destination BC runs a campaign with #explorebclater. And when travel starts in early summer, then they transition to #explorebclocal.
How many hashtags?
The answer to the question of how many hashtags are ideal to be used is not still clear. You need to perform some tests to identify the right number for your brand.
However, you may not mention the exact number for hashtags, but your range must be clear.
It is so simple. Select your case:
- Uppercase: #HOOTSUITELIFE
- Lowercase: #hootsuitelife
- Camel case: #HootsuiteLife
Guidelines for use
The guidelines for a user to generate content are not clear. But we recommend some basic thing of how to use user-generated content:
- Always request for permission
- Give credit to the original creator
- Offer some value in return
- Use the search streams for finding user-generated content that you might miss.
How to credit
How can you make the credit of whose posts you use in your post? You can tag them and identify the format that you will use to give credit.
For instance, icons of the camera are a simple way to attribute the images on Instagram.
We have told a lot regarding brand voice or words. You should also need to create a visual look for your brand.
If we already associate your brand with colors, then you can also use these colors on your accounts of social media. You can also define of which color of your brand will define a particular context.
Social media style guide example: Brand colors—WhatsApp
Source: WhatsApp Brand Guidelines
Your font is not under control when you write social posts. But the fonts which you use in cover photos, Instagram Stories, and images are under your control.
Large brands mostly invest in the customized font. Other brands select one font or maybe a few for several applications. It also requires consistency.
Social media style guide example: Font—Cisco
Source: Cisco Interactive Brand Book
Where and when will you use your logo on social media? It’s often a good idea to use your logo as your social media profile picture.
If your logo doesn’t work well as a square or circle image, you may need to create a changed version specifically for social media use.
Social media style guide example: Logo as profile picture—Uber
Source: Uber Brand System
Filters and effects
This is significant to form a visual feel and look for your entity or brand. You can also go for #nofilter or use the latest design tools for editing images, and consistency is also a must here.
Social media style guide example: Filters—New York University
Social media policy
The style guide of social media clarified tiny details regarding your brand usage of social media, while the policy of social media clarifies a bigger picture.
If you still do not form one, then you can get the help of how to write a social media policy. Some key factors for these include:
- Role of teams: What, When, Who does.
- Crisis plan: identify the way of how your team members handle a crisis?
- Security protocols: Find out ways to manage passwords and security risks.
- Compliance: your strategies must comply with the law, particularly in regulated industries.
- Employees’ guidelines: For professional and personal social media network use.
Social media style guide template
Feel to be overwhelmed? That’s true; there is a lot of material covered here. We have also created a free template of social media guidelines for your brand.For using this template, you need to click on the tab File in the left top corner of your page, then from the drop-down menu, make a copy. When you do this, then you can get your template to share and edit. You can also delete any field which is not related to your business.