As a Brand, Strategy and Design Agency we think differently about social media branding and how it needs to be incorporated into a healthy overall brand strategy.
Our philosophy is that your branding and website are the hub of a bicycle wheel. The spokes around it are the various marketing activities driving traffic to the hub. Social media is one of those vital spokes, so your social media branding is key!
What is Social Media Branding?
Social Media Branding is more than just uploading a logo and choosing a set of colors.
It involves carefully selected visuals, graphics and messaging that resonates with the types of customers who are key to your business.
There are 3 crucial elements of social media branding: strategy, tone of voice, and visuals. In this article, we’ll go over some of these basics.
The goal here is to ensure that these elements are consistent and align with all your other online visuals and content, so that customers immediately recognize your brand, even if it’s their first time seeing you on social media.
You want your audience to recognize you immediately, and be interested enough to follow you, engage with you, and purchase from you.
Let’s Begin by Talking About Your Social Media Branding Strategy…
Chances are you’re not starting from scratch. So you need to decide which social media account(s) you plan to focus on and remove any old accounts that no longer serve you. Or keep the profile just in case but unpublish it for now. That way, your username is reserved for future use. For the profiles you intend to keep active, fully update all your information so that it’s complete and accurate. Review the profiles and remove any previous content you think may be “questionable” to avoid any negative connotation with your brand.
Think Through Your Strategy
Begin with a content strategy and specific goals. Social media can waste time and budget if you don’t have a plan.
- Identify your area of expertise. Think about the types of content that are most likely to interest your audience.
- Determine your target markets and the goals for each one.
- Research where on social media you are most likely to find your target audiences; is it Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and/or YouTube?
- Make plans on how to engage your followers. Then nurture these contacts so that they become a more permanent part of your community. It’s not unusual to have several campaigns running simultaneously.
- Research and network with influencers who may be able to help you reach your goals.
- Investigate possible collaborations with other businesses complimentary to yours.
- Create a content calendar that fits with all the above. It will give you a visual framework that can help you move forward.
- Adjust your content as needed. Content may not resonate on LinkedIn the same way it does on Instagram. You may have to adjust content across channels.
- Create branded hashtags that align with your brand values and personality.
- Determine who will schedule regular posts to your major social media channels.
- Determine who will monitor and refine your channels so that they are always consistent.
This isn’t about setting and forgetting your posts. You need to plan, schedule, audit and adjust as required. Keep it fresh and new for your audience. Watch for trending hashtags and how they could relate to your own marketing campaign(s). Be prepared to be nimble and to make changes on the fly.
Social Media Branding Basics – The Essentials
Once you’ve got your strategy figured out, it’s time to prepare your social profiles with some visual branding basics, like a consistent logo, color palette (this is where a brand guide comes in handy), company or personal bio, templates and username. Customers should instantly recognize they’re in the right place, no matter which social media profile they visit. In our example below, we use the same logo for Facebook and Twitter. Our banners are also the same, although banners can differ as long as they share the same look, feel and branded colours.
Establish Your Social Media Branding Tone of Voice
When we talk about your ‘tone of voice’, we are referring to your written content — what you write about and how you write it.
Social media is exactly that, it’s ‘social’. It’s a chance to show off your brand personality. For some, their tone of voice is humorous and casual. For others, it’s more formal and informative. It’s up to you to establish a tone for your brand that is appropriate to the products you sell or the services you provide. Your tone should align with the messaging on your website, marketing materials, and anywhere else a consumer interacts with your brand.
Once you define your brand’s ‘tone’ it becomes part of your brand guide. Then, you can ensure that anyone who works for you understands your brand and creates content that is consistent with those guidelines.
A brand guide could include details like a company tagline, secondary strap lines, personality traits and vocabulary. The smallest details, like whether you use the term “clients” or “customers” will help to keep your writing consistent.
Here are some great examples of brands adopting a clear and consistent tone of voice in their social messaging…
Dove, a cosmetics company, has built their brand identity around the message of self-love and body acceptance by casting natural “real women” rather than the flawless, standard size, industry models used by their competitors. They’ve run several mini campaigns on Instagram around this theme, such as @dovelovesbeauty, using bold messaging, a strong, confident voice, and the kind of casual friendly language that their customers use. Their visuals further underline that message by featuring women of all sizes, shapes, race, and age. It may sound simple, but their appeal to the average woman has been quite successful and relatable. Examples of their work below…
As for fun and playful, Wendy’s has the market cornered, especially on Twitter. Using humour, and playful digs at their competitors, this fast-food chain has set the tone for not only a consistent brand voice, but a unique, edgy social media ‘personality’ that has really won customers over. They’ve even taken to “roasting” customers on social – a big hit among their audiences. Look at some of their tweets:
How Do You Define Your Visual Brand?
Once you’ve determined your brand tone of voice, you’ll need to choose fonts, imagery and graphics that fit your brand personality. You should also have consistent logos, colours, and mastheads for your social profiles. Remember, the visual elements you choose will often determine how your audience perceives your brand’s character and values. So choose wisely.
You’ll also need to work on your content calendar and the overall visual plan for individual posts. Images should align with your brand values. Photo lighting should be similar, fonts should be pulled from your Brand Guide, and make sure that colours work well with your brand colour palette. There should be a familiar theme connecting the visuals for each post and a consistent tone across all messaging.
For example, when someone visits your Instagram page, is the filter or pop of color immediately apparent to them? Is the tone of voice light-hearted and casual, same as it is on Facebook?
Over time, your customers will see the consistency in posts and begin to recognize when a post is from you, with or without a brand logo or social media username. Strive toward this type of brand recognition in your social media efforts.
Below, are some examples of successful social media branding on Instagram.
J Crew is known for posts with cohesive colour themes, depending on the season. They also have mini-campaign themes that run throughout their social media channels. You can see our example below of a nautical theme that J Crew used for about 20 Instagram posts (roughly a month-long campaign). Their photo lighting is always fresh and cheerful. Their tone of messaging is always very casual, positive, and clever. They clearly indicate that animal welfare is part of their brand values by sharing photos of dogs and encouraging followers to submit their own pet photos.
Anamarques210376 has put a stake in the ground, only using soft muted pastel shades for all of her images. Every image has a minimalist feel – right away, you get the sense that less is more when it comes to the type of prints she creates. Likely, she has created a set of filters that she applies to each image before she posts. The stories she posts also have a consistent narrative, as well as her standard posts. Brand messaging is sparse. She lets the images speak for themselves; cleverly targeting a specific customer who likes the minimalist “look and feel”.
Abeautifulmess is definitely going for a feminine audience by using soft warm tones in all of their photography. Although the images are very curated, there is something comfortable and casual about them. They have “humanized” their brand by sharing an intimate look at their daily lives and including themselves in photos every so often. By doing so, they can relate to others who are inspired by their lifestyle. Brand messaging is helpful, inclusive, and interactive, and they’ve set a distinct tone of bright, light, casual, fun, comfortable and family oriented.
Unbirthday.co has a very whimsical and upscale brand personality. They have made the bold choice to limit themselves only to Instagram as a primary social media channel. They carefully curate posts to match their colour palette and always use a similar alternating backdrop. You’ll also notice that they have several styles of photography, depending on the product. For each style, the image’s focal point is always taken from the same distance and angle (with few exceptions). Colours are vibrant and photos of people are unique and unexpected, which gives a sense of spontaneity. Even their brand name, “unbirthday”, communicates an “unconventional” and “creative” vibe and they do a great job showcasing their unique brand personality on social media.
Patrick Yves has some of the most creative social media branding we’ve seen. He creates brand consistency by using a very specific colour palette to connect his diverse images. He also uses his graphic design skills to merge illustration with composite photography, for a super cool vibe. You just can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with next. He also makes his brand values clear by tackling some complex topics within his brand messaging. His overlying brand character is very apparent – positivity through creativity.
Birch.house.lettering has a very organic, natural, and slightly playful energy that they bring to their social media. Since most of their Instagram feed features images of watercolour birds, bugs and botanicals, you know immediately the style and medium preferred by this artist. You will notice a consistent theme of soft, nature-inspired colours, light cream backgrounds, and scripty fonts, which work together beautifully, to create a cohesive and instantly recognizable brand personality.
Measuring the impact of your social media branding efforts
Social Media Strategy is a long game and it requires patience! It’s a wonderful tool to nurture relationships with your audience and to increase brand awareness. But results are sometimes difficult to measure. There’s often no direct correlation between the number of followers and increased sales. You will often see social media accounts that have thousands of followers, yet, that doesn’t necessarily translate into paying customers. There are Social Media accounts with fewer followers, but they are more actively engaged with the brand, which could be far more meaningful.
Once you begin to develop your social media branding, you can monitor the impact by paying close attention to engagement, mentions and shares. We also recommend you check your website analytics (Google Analytics) for how much traffic you currently get from social media channels. That will give you a baseline. After you begin refining your social media branding, check to see if traffic volume increases over time. That way, you’ll know if your strategy is working.
Of course, there are tons of tools you can purchase online that will not only help you manage your social media but give you insights just like the ones mentioned above, often in a report format. Good examples of this are Hootsuite, Sprout Social, HubSpot, Buffer and many more.
It’s not easy to get people to your social media profiles, so don’t risk losing them because your content is boring and never post something just for the sake of posting. If you don’t offer something different from everyone else, it will be challenging to grow followers and win brand recognition. Social Media Branding will help people recognize you. It will show followers who you are as a business and what you represent, which will help them gain a better understanding of your brand.
Need Help Getting Your Social Started?
Always keep in mind the three key elements of social media branding: strategy, visuals, and tone of voice. We can help with all three. Whether you need assistance with design and visuals, research, custom photography, or advice on messaging, as well as planning or implementing a content calendar, we can work within all budgets to get you where you want to be (and we love helping small businesses!)
We can create simple graphic templates based on the type of content you post, which makes it a no-brainer when you’re ready to create and schedule posts. We can make these in the various sizes you need for each social media channel. It ensures a clear recognizable social media presence, consistency in your posts, and it beats agonizing over colours and layout every time you need to create a branded image. We provide vector files, jpgs and pngs so you can use them with your preferred image editing software.
Don’t need the whole package? Maybe all you need is a social media strategy and some creative direction to pull it all together? Check Out Our Social Media Branding Services.
Need Help With Your Overall Brand Strategy?
Looking for an overall Brand Strategy that can be applied to all your marketing and branding efforts?
Through our Brand Strategy Services, we can help you gain a deeper understanding of your brand, so you achieve better traction with your target audiences and see better results. Then, we formulate a strategy that fits your brand values, brand personality and your unique goals. We can even put it together for you in a Brand Guide that ensures quality and consistency, no matter who works on your brand.
Check out our Brand Strategy Services and get valuable advice from industry professionals.