If your brand attended a dinner party, who would it be? Would your brand be the tech-savvy guest offering pointers on how to be an Excel power user? Or, would your brand be the driven athlete who’s always working out and striving to unleash untapped potential?
Recently we touched on the importance of defining brand voice and tone before launching into a big content program. Why? When your business is publishing content, a number of different people will have a hand in the process. Even at smaller companies, you might have help from a freelancer writer or content strategist. A marketing associate will review the content and then your Vice President may weigh in. Too many cooks in the kitchen without a single, unifying recipe can lead to message dissonance.
A clearly defined brand and voice will keep everyone on the same page for a consistent message across every channel. Whether it’s your freelancer working on design projects, your marketing associate posting on LinkedIn, or your customer service rep responding to a client question on Twitter, everyone is working from the same guidelines.
Developing Visual Brand Guides for Social Media: Images, Filters and Logos
There’s more to brand voice than just words. Recently, we wrote about our rapid movement from a text-based to a visual-based communication world. Visual assets are key to conveying information quickly and memorably. From Facebook to Instagram, Twitter to LinkedIn, images have rapidly become an essential component of every social media post. Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images, according to the latest stats from HubSpot. Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without images. And no surprise here: people following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations.
Nearly 3 out of 4 social media marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing, according to Social Media Examiner. This means social channels are crowded with images and copy. Managing your social media brand presence would not be complete without a visual style guide.
Your business may already have the basics in place. Even if you don’t have a designer on staff full-time, you may have a freelancer or agency that helped develop your logo, website and business cards. The colors and fonts used in this collateral should be reflected in your visual social media presence. But what about images: how should you manage the use of these visuals?
We won’t dive into the image selection process today (this is a great guide if you need support in this area), but we will pause to consider what happens once the image is selected. Let’s start with filters. Instagram offers a number of basic options and apps like VSCO offer even more. Adobe Lightroom presets are great for batch editing images and ensure consistent quality before sharing. Consider what filters (if any) you want to apply to your images. Using the same one or two filters ensures a consistent visual experience for your brand.
Next, consider how you’ll brand the image with your logo. If there are multiple versions of your logo, which version will be placed on images? Does the color of your logo ever change? Can copy overlap your logo? How big (or small) will the logo be relative to the main subject? How will the logo be positioned relative to the edges of the image? Will it be aligned on the right or the left? These may seem like nitpicky questions right now, but they’re essential to creating a unified visual brand. We recommend creating a template to manage social media graphics and ensure consistency for fonts, colors and designs will always be consistent. If you're not Photoshop savvy, Canva is a great resource for simple, drag-and-drop template creation and management.
Putting Branding Guidelines Into Action on Social Media
Once you’ve developed voice, tone and visual brand guidelines, it’s time to put these guidelines into practice and bring your brand to life. To complete your social media brand guide, it may be helpful to outline specific use cases. How does your business address customer service questions compared with general comments? Does every social post need to have an image and when should you feature product images versus stock photos? If "authentic" and "engaging" are part of your brand voice guides, what do these descriptions actually mean when you're posting 140 characters on Twitter?
We’ll dive into these use cases in part three of this series!