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What is a Social Media Style Guide?

A Social Media Style Guide is a reference sheet, for you and others who might use your social media. It provides a general overview of what your social media is trying to achieve, as well as some do’s and don’ts on what you should post online. Whether you are bringing someone else on to improve your social media, or are simply struggling to decide what to post online, having a style guide can be crucial in making your social media platforms run smoothly and effectively. Consistency is key on social media and, with a style guide, you will hopefully avoid regular inconsistencies in your social media presence, as well as provide a basic guide to help spark your creativity.

What do you include in a social media style guide?

Every social media platform is different - Every social media brand is different too. And while particular details will vary from guide to guide, such as punctuation choices, font selections, and overall themes and colour schemes, there are four key elements that must be included in every Social Media Style Guide:

1. Mission Statement and Current Goals

The mission statement provides an overview of what you are using social media for. Some examples include “using it to promote your website and services” and “using it to connect with like-minded people.” This provides a clear and easy-to-follow baseline that all of your content should follow; it is the direction that you are always aiming towards. Current goals, however, are the short term goals for your social media. This could be “promoting this specific product,” “increasing followers by 10%” or “replying to more commenters.” These goals must be regularly updated, to ensure that you are aware of your social media’s top priorities. By noting them down, you can improve your social media presence one stage at a time.

2. Audience Breakdown

Who are you trying to reach? This is the most important question on social media. When working on any social media platform, you need to know what type of audience you are reaching for. Not just their age range, but their interests, hobbies, and any keywords that they might use. These pieces of information are invaluable when you are working online, and you can utilise all of them in your social media style guide. This may take a little trial and error, especially if you are just starting out. But as you begin to build an audience, you can look through your analytics - or simply make note of who else your followers follow - and create an audience breakdown surrounding it. Having a bullet point list of what your “ideal followers” enjoy is crucial to an effective style guide, and ensures that all of your content is led by your followers. You should update and refer to it often, to help keep aware of current trends, and keep you ahead of the curve.

3. Brand Voice

The voice you use on social media needs to be more informal than other online communication. However, the specifics of how to create that voice - from tone, to word choice, to layout - need to be noted down in the style guide. How do you want to present yourself to others? Do you want to be seen as energetic, kind, cheerful, informative? Or will your tone vary depending on the content you are putting out? Creating a list of keywords, adjectives, and punctuation, as well as clear examples of text to refresh your memory, will help you keep your social media voice consistent from platform to platform. This will make your more memorable and more humanised than other, less-prepared brands online.

4. Images

Every social media platform has specific dimensions for images, especially Instagram. As such, having a note of all the dimensions for each account can save a lot of time in the editing process. You can also include a list of preferred filters, a note on what images to put up and what not to put up, and a plan of potential image ideas. Making note of images in this way will help provide consistency with your imagery. The most popular posts on social media are connected to an image, so having a notable and recurring style will help get you noticed by a wider audience. In addition, if you ever hire a social media assistant, this list will help direct them on what they can and cannot post on your social media accounts - giving them guidelines to follow, whilst also allowing them room to be creative.