While social media has technically been around for about 40 years, it wasn’t until after Facebook launched a little over a decade ago that companies began paying attention it as a powerful tool for marketing. It used to be that branding would be focused on print media, broadcast ads and newsletters (email and flyers). The addition of social media meant that companies now had another way to connect with their consumers.
Brand consistency across all marketing touchpoints is a challenge for every company, let alone each social network. How do you make sure that you’re writing in a similar tone in your email marketing, one that matches your brand’s vibe in TV ads? How do you differentiate between how you speak to those two audiences, if at all? How do you ensure that customers can recognize your brand even if it’s their first time seeing you on social media?
A brand is more than a logo or set of colors, and its so much more than a cover photo. A brand is how you make your customers feel, and it’s built by taking a consistent approach across every interaction they have with your brand. We’ve written this guide to help you uncover strategies to ensure a consistent brand across multiple social media networks.
1. Cover your basics
We won’t go into the minute details of a basic branding, but what you do want to make sure is that you have is a consistent logo, color palette, bio, boilerplate and handle. Some companies like to change logo styling slightly between networks depending on how small the allotted photo space is and the interests of those specific audiences. Whichever you choose, the most important thing is to ensure your profiles have a common thread that people will recognize as your brand.
In the above example, Burt’s Bees uses the same logo for both Facebook and Twitter. Their banners are also the same. It isn’t always necessary for the two banners to be the same on every network, but this approach succeeds because even the colors in the banners reflect those in the logo. You could implement this with different banner designs by retaining a recognizable brand color palette, even if the text or the imagery in the design changes from one network to another. Since Facebook allows you to create Video Cover Photos, you could also explore animating your standard brand banner—think video views!
Once you’ve got the basics of branding your social profiles down, then you’re able to move on to more intermediate strategies. Even your basic branding strategy should be audited and updated quarterly. These next four strategies are not one-and-done deals. Your audience craves new content, and your brand should evolve alongside that, especially on social media. There also may be times where you can use your branding basics to your advantage. Celebrating a hashtag holiday or the launch of a campaign could be a great time for this! Branding your social media presence takes takes time and like your posting schedule, will need consistency, forward thinking and focus to implement.
- Perform a social media audit across all of your accounts
- Ensure logos, banners, bios, posting cadences and handles are consistent with your brand guidelines, and audit regularly.
- Make sure you’re posting on a consistent schedule consistently and that your content aligns with the look and feel of the branding you’ve established.
2. Extend your visual branding
So now that you have a consistent visual brand across network accounts, it’s time to enhance that even further. What does that mean? It means ensuring you have the same colors and fonts reflected in your images, graphics and videos. When someone visits your Instagram page, is the filter or pop of color immediately apparent to them? When a video is published, are the overlay text fonts similar to those that you use for your blog post’s featured image?
Over time, your customers will see the consistency in posts and begin to recognize when a post is from you without seeing your brand’s logo or social media handle. This type of brand recognition is the ultimate goal for your social media branding efforts.
Anthropologie is known for their pastel and earthy colors. The general brand feeling is light and airy, which carries into their clothing. And though they may deviate from that depending on the season, the consistency carries into their Instagram Stories. A single story has a clear beginning and end in terms of color and design. The story set in the above example uses a specific font style and design approach throughout the story. Stories like this help reinforce brand identity with these recognizable elements, and as the brand’s followers see these types of Stories over time, they’ll be able to recognize the brand’s unique approach to visuals even without checking the logo or brand name at the top.
- Write out your visual brand guide to include fonts, their uses and colors. For example, at Sprout, we define brand elements like typography and color and outline their uses on a visual style guide.
- Create graphic templates for the same type of announcement (e.g. new product announcement has a similar font, color and design)
- Create photos and videos that keep your brand’s aesthetic and color choices in mind. The posts should flow seamlessly into each other.
3. Develop your marketing personas
Your marketing personas are going to vary between the networks. Audiences on TikTok are younger than audiences on Facebook. This is the reality and if you use the same content across both networks, it’s possible that it won’t resonate the same way. To this end, it’s best to create multiple personas for your own marketing efforts.
Start with the company’s customer base and then map them to the different social media networks you use. For example, your Twitter account could target millennial parents while your Instagram account targets small business owners. Having these established personas per network helps you narrow down your content ideas and maybe even adjust your voice.
Chipotle uses memes on their Instagram account to connect to that specific type of customer. They’re tongue-in-cheek memes that usually bring a laugh to those familiar with them. With each meme posted, you come to expect another meme, which establishes a certain brand awareness of Chipotle on Instagram.
- Create multiple marketing personas and assign the social media networks that match
- Examine your networks’ different demographics or set up listening queries if you need to get to know your audience
- Create content to match the personas
4. Establish your brand voice & tone
After visuals, captions and related copy are the next important piece of branding your social media posts. Company social media accounts tend to have some personality. For some, it’s sarcastic or snarky and for others, it’s informative. You might already have a brand voice established for your other marketing focuses. Extending that to social media, and cultivating a specific approach by social platform, is highly recommended.
A voice and tone guide should include details like brand persona, company catchphrases, personality traits and vocabulary. The smallest details, like whether you use the term “clients” or “customers” will help you keep your writing consistent. If you have multiple people managing your accounts, having a guide to reference keeps your team aligned so it doesn’t seem like your company is writing from disparate perspectives.
Mailchimp’s style guide covers several areas including social media and newsletters. It’s easy to navigate and is direct in its approach and examples. While your own guide may only be for internal use, having it accessible to everyone in the company allows for people to refer to it when writing anything from marketing copy to sales emails. Everyone is on the same page and that cuts down on repetitive work.
- Fully develop and write out your voice and tone guide. Better yet, use social media listening to validate some of your writing style decisions.
- Audit your own social media posts to see where you can improve in voice and tone
- Share the guide and educate teams that write copy. Ensure that your social team, including customer support, is writing new posts with this voice and tone guide.
5. Create multiple accounts for different areas of focus
If your company is large enough or has a diverse set of products and/or services, it’s sometimes best to have multiple accounts. The advantages of having these different accounts include being able to hyper-focus your branding, cater to a specific audience and serve up relevant content.
Some different ways you can approach this include:
- An account per location: This is most popular on Facebook because it offers a location feature for Pages (Carmax has locations set up on Facebook)
- Separate marketing and customer service Twitter accounts for those that receive a high number of inquiries
- Accounts by audience such as Nike for every sport they work with
- A mascot account like some popular sports teams have
- Department-specific accounts for higher education
Helping to change the lives of 3 families through the #RecycledRides program. @GEICO in #SanDiego donated the vehicles and #PacificEliteCollision refurbished all of them. Congratulations to the Frazier, Proctor, and Millet families. We wish you many happy miles. pic.twitter.com/MMiKGE7ttS
— GEICO (@GEICO) October 17, 2019
Can you believe it?! It's been exactly 20 years since my very first @GEICO commercial aired. Do you ever cringe when you look back on old pictures of yourself? Let's just say my style has definitely changed over two decades. 😬 #ThrowbackThursday #TBT pic.twitter.com/JzkpYU4E7S
— The GEICO Gecko (@TheGEICOGecko) August 29, 2019
It’s TYme to get this beauty on the track @TalladegaSuperS! @tydillon and @GermainRacing have NASCAR Cup Series practice today at 1:35 & 4:35 PM (ET)! Watch live on NBCSN! #NASCAR #GoTyme #1000Bulbs500 #RCR50 pic.twitter.com/0SRS0C81cX
— GEICO Racing (@GEICORacing) October 11, 2019
GEICO maintains several accounts that address different areas of the company’s endeavors. With their main account, they highlight corporate responsibility and general announcements. With the Gecko account, the voice is from the mascot and photos always include it. The GEICO Racing account is solely focused on their sponsored NASCAR team and race updates.
- Take a look at your offerings and see where it would be best to divide up focus
- For each account, repeat your branding steps to ensure consistency across them all. For example, one location may want to be a little more sarcastic than another to fit its customer profile.
- Use a service like Sprout to maintain multiple accounts under one ownership
Measuring the impact of your branding efforts
Increasing your brand awareness across social media is a common goal. Actually executing the strategies to reach that goal is the more difficult part. These strategies, business examples and actionable steps should get you started in the right direction to establishing your brand on social media.
Branding is no longer limited to logos and colors. It’s about your voice, your imagery and even your targeted audience. Because it’s more qualitative, it can make measuring its success a little tricky. But as you start on improving your branding on social media, you can see the impacts by paying close attention to engagement, mentions and share of voice. You can also use techniques like regular surveys of your audience to understand their level of brand recognition, learn what audiences you’re effectively reaching and find out if how they see your brand is what you’re aiming for.
A group report from Sprout Social will give you overall trends across all of your networks. Since the reports are customizable by date ranges, you’ll be able to see how your brand is performing since you began your branding efforts.
It takes time to build brand recognition on social media. The most recognizable brands today like Coca-Cola and Nike are recognizable because they have time and consistency on their side. While you certainly don’t need decades for social media branding, some patience is required. Utilizing the strategies above will set you on the path for improving your brand online.