How to Create Your Own Social Media Style Guide

Written by Laura Roeder

On March 3, 2017

If you’ve ever tried to “dress for success” without a clear definition of what that means, chances are, you’ve made some questionable wardrobe choices.

It could be true that stripes demonstrate boldness, sneakers paired with dresses or suits signal creativity, and black turtlenecks register seriousness. But if they aren’t you, they signal a whole lot of…well, not you.

Jerry Seinfeld gif with caption I don't wanna be a pirate

When we think about how to dress up our social channels without a style guide, it can be a lot like rummaging around in the wardrobe hoping you’ll find something that works.

Is this post too edgy? Will it make our brand appear more professional? Does it communicate our vision?

This is where your social style guide can become your fashionable new best friend.

Whether you have multiple people writing your social updates or you just want a reference to help keep yourself consistent, here’s how you can write a guide that’ll explain all the ins and outs!

Remember that your brand voice = your style guide voice

The absolute best way to communicate your brand voice is to keep it consistent across everything you do.

A style guide is not a technical manual. The social space is conversational and succinct, and your style guide should be too.

If you’re down with posting terrible puns, mention that in your social guide. If you stick to just the facts and keep it serious, say so!

A style guide doesn’t have to be long and elaborate. You want it to be a quick reference, so that whether you’re sitting down to fill your social queue or reacting in real time to an event that’s unfolding, you have no doubt about what to write – or how to write it.

Fill it with real-world examples

A style guide is a living, changing document. We’ve said this before, and it’s worth repeating: Your brand is your personality, and your personality is your brand.

You evolve. Your brand evolves.

Social evolves, too – and so should your social media style guide.

That’s one of the coolest things about social, actually: when you have an idea, you can get it out there immediately, and start conversations with your followers to gauge the impact!

Documenting your best posts in your social style guide provides a simple model for what works – and these examples can be replaced over time as you get to know your audience.

Why waste time explaining how to write a post when you can show it?

(If your brand is new to social, you can drop in images of posts you like from other brands – ones with a tone similar to what you imagine for your own.)

It can also be useful to document examples of social media gone wrong. We don’t mean your own social media (we sincerely hope you never have any Tweet regret) – but a social media fail can illustrate a clear boundary for where you never, ever want to go!

Set the stage

This super short and simple social style guide from MailChimp (complete with banana-yellow flair, of course) is an excellent example of how you can highlight the basics.

First of all, where do you post? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium? All of the above?

Explain any differences in length, content, and voice between platforms, and add an example or two for each. It’s also the place to tackle topics like:

Do you use emoji in your posts? (A lot of brands do.)

An occasional four-letter word…or squeaky clean?

How many hashtags is too many hashtags?

If your business often comments and shares news stories, think about guidelines for how you want to address politics or controversial issues.

Do you avoid hot-button issues, or jump right in?

Think about the circumstances in which someone might ask, Is it okay for me to Tweet this, and put the answers right there in your guide!

Establish the rules of engagement

When you’re interacting on social media, having rules of engagement in place can be incredibly helpful.

You want to find a balance between personally acknowledging your fans and customers and getting too personal.

Some brands are casual and friendly with their friends – others keep things pretty traditional. What’s most in line with your brand, and the image you want to project?

And then there are trolls. What do we do with these bullies of the social schoolyard?

Deciding ahead of time whether to block, delete, ignore, or engage can save you a lot of stress.

Would you respond, or just let it slide?

In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to walk away from a hurtful remark, but if you’ve decided what to do ahead of time, it becomes much easier to stick to what works best for you!

Stay stylishly evergreen

With a social style guide, you’ll lower the risk of a social faux pas, continue to build a consistent brand voice, and be able to make quick decisions on whether to dare to share.

A social style guide is great for evergreen content, too.

(When you use Edgar, for example, you don’t need the same constant barrage of brand new material that you otherwise would.)

So even if adding to your social queue is an every-third-Wednesday kind of thing, you can use a style guide to stay on message, train a new hire, or freshen up your social strategy for the future.

Do YOU use a social style guide?

How has it helped you stay true to your brand voice?

Let us know in the comments below!

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