text-highlight
May 30, 2017

How to write a social media style guide

by Imogen
Imogen Baker
Copywriter & Social Specialist
“A man's memes are his own business”

Imogen creates premium words and terrible jokes. The jokes are free but the words will cost ya. Her journalism degree from QUT and years of industry experience in copy and journalism give her mad writing authority. Her love of dorky memes dilutes this, but only a little.  She can often be found wearing overalls, eating cheese, and having heated debates about the dangers of uncovered urban wells.

She kindly asks her colleagues to please stop hitting table tennis balls at her.

Lightcreative  Imogen  V2

Most businesses with a social media presence will know a social media style guide is an essential asset.

Although social media may have started as a fun time-suck for the individual, it’s become an expectation for businesses. But we already know this, so let’s cut to the chase. Why do you need a social media style guide and how do you write one?

Why do I need a social media style guide?

The why is simple. Because, most likely, more than one person will have control over your social media channels at any given time. Control might change hands or be managed by various people. And you can’t have all those chefs spoiling the broth.

Consistency is everything. Your audience will know when there’s a distinct shift in tone and content between SM handlers, and the bubble will be broken. A social media style guide will also act as a road map. It’ll make handovers easier and settle disputes, such as how to format a link share or handle a public customer complaint.

It’s important to remember that, generally, your corporate social media accounts aren’t about you as an individual. It’s about expressing your brand identity and legitimising your business with an online presence. A style guide will control the tone and formatting of your social media presence, to keep it consistent.

Social Media Style Guide

How to write a social media style guide

So, what to include in your guide? Here’s a basic rundown of the structure of a social media style guide.

1. Purpose

State the purpose of the style guide. You can pretty much paraphrase the above. The purpose of a style guide is consistency and accountability.

2. Account Index

Include a list of all your active accounts, handles, and associated email addresses. It’s up to you to decide if you list passwords here. At the least, indicate who to contact for access to each account. Remember, this is intended as an internal document, not a public declaration.

3. Social Media Aims

Start with your social media aims. They should be clear, long-term, and measurable. They could include a priority such as brand awareness, customer service, or social engagement. You could also include KPIs.

4. Social Media Audience

In this section, you’ll define who your audience is. Start broad, with age range and industry. Then you can drill deeper with audience personas and examples of language, and content, that appeals to them. Develop as many personas as you need to express your aims.

5. Publishing Guidelines

This is a big one, as herein lies the consistency element. This section should define the formatting of various posts across all social media channels. List any hashtags you want to use consistently, and a procedure for using extra hashtags. List the formatting for sharing content, both yours and others. For example:

Facebook: 

  • When sharing links, use a colon to separate the text and the link. 
  • Delete the URL if sharing a link in a status or comment, but ensure the clickable preview is visible. 
  • Stay abreast of trending hashtags, but don’t use them unless relevant.

6. Giving Credit

This is an important one. A big part of social media is sharing content, but as a corporation you have a legal obligation to give appropriate credit. Clearly outline how to give credit on each specific platform. This could include linking to the original publisher in the body of the post and tagging them, linking to their website, or even asking them personally how they’d like to receive credit. For example: 

Instagram:

  • Tag the original source clearly in the body of the caption. Use any hashtags they associate with their work. Tag them in the image itself.
  • If the name of the original source contains explicit or offensive language, use discretion to decide whether or not to give credit by tagging.

7. Type Of Content

You might find you need to split your social media schedules into visual and text based. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are all designed for link sharing and status updates. Instagram, SnapChat, Behance, and Dribble are designed for image and portfolio sharing. 

A sophisticated social media plan will account for this and design content for the platform specifically, then cross-pollinate between (automatically pushing content from one platform to another as appropriate).

In this section, you should outline the type of content you’ll share. This is important if someone else is ever going to come in and write/plan your social media. You can illustrate with examples (e.g. “Share informative articles like this ____, from these sources ____,”) or simply list the content appropriate for each.

8. Tone

Outline the tone and language to use when sharing different types of content, such as native content, shared content, and client work. This is particularly pertinent if you have client work to share, as it’s important to not jeopardise client relationships with flippant comments.

9. Posting Schedule

This should outline how many times a week to post to each social media platform, and the ideal times/days.

10. Social Media Profiles

This section should keep track of the last time you changed your social media profile/cover images, and how often to change each.

11. Image Guide

Finally, a section dedicated to imagery. If you have a brand style guide elsewhere, you can borrow some information on brand colour palettes, but you should also delve deeper. 

Define the types of angles, colours, and content your imagery should convey. Define the preferred size and resolution for images across different platforms. Consistent imagery is critically important for visual brands on platforms like Instagram. And while you yourself may be able to understand and execute the visual style of your brand, it’s important to be able to communicate that clearly with other staff members.

So there you have it. Bear in mind, this is an MVP structure for a social media style guide, but every business is different and will have different social needs. Hit us up for a free social media consultation if you want to know more.

Light Creative is a Melbourne-based creative, content, and digital agency.