Most social media sites are designed to be simple enough for even a child to use. Therefore, it’s easy to assume that carrying out social media marketing for your business is just as simple. However, you won’t get far without some preparation – including developing a strong social media branding strategy.
Branding is absolutely vital when it comes to your online presence. How your company looks, acts, and sounds will affect how your audience perceives it. Plus, compelling and consistent branding can go a long way towards making your business more memorable and enhancing its authority.
Branding is a fairly broad term. In general, it’s used to refer to any element that helps to identify your business. This includes visual elements such as logos, as well as stylistic and tone choices within content and marketing materials.
While branding is important in every aspect of your business, it’s particularly vital online. After all, it’s one of the only ways to help your company stand out. Over 70% of small businesses are now using social media, and the figures are even higher for medium- to large-sized companies. If your business is to have any chance of standing out, you’ll need strong and memorable branding to get you there.
Let’s look at a few more statistics to help hammer home the point of taking care with your social media branding:
Numbers don’t lie – not only does branding matter, but the number-one factor driving its success is consistency. However, this is nearly impossible to achieve without some forethought and planning. In fact, for best results, you’ll want to put together a cohesive social media branding strategy.
Fortunately, creating a strategy for your social media branding isn’t difficult. You’ll just need to carefully consider your goals, as well as how you’ll present each element across various platforms. Now, let’s walk through the five steps that will help you put your strategy in place.
Before you can develop any kind of branding strategy, you’ll need to know two things. The first is your business’ goals, and the second is the audience you’ll be courting.
When it comes to goals, you’ll want to consider what you’re trying to achieve through social media. Are you primarily trying to increase awareness, for example, or are you more concerned with directly boosting sales and conversions?
While you’ll want to achieve as much as you can, we’d suggest choosing one to three goals to focus on initially. This will keep you from spreading your efforts too thin and should make it easier to develop a coherent social media branding strategy. In addition, each goal should be as specific and concrete as possible. The S.M.A.R.T. goal framework can come in very handy here.
Along with determining what your business wants to achieve through social media, you’ll also need to be very clear on who your target audience is. After all, it’s hard to create branding that ‘speaks’ to a specific type of person if you don’t know anything about them. For this, we’d recommend working your way through our comprehensive guide to finding and understanding your social media audience.
Once you understand both your goals and your audience, the next step is to figure out an overall ‘persona’ for your brand. This defines what your brand looks and sounds like, and is potentially the most important step in this process.
What you’ll want to do here is think of your brand as a person or character. Then, consider the following questions:
When answering these questions, keep your goals and audience firmly in mind. If you’re looking to build connections, for example, you may want to develop a warm and friendly persona. If your target audience is highly educated, an intelligent and professional persona might be a strong fit.
Above all, take your time with this process. The persona you settle on should be a ‘person’ you’d be happy to have representing your company to the outside world – because that’s exactly what they’ll be doing.
With the preliminary work out of the way, it’s time to start putting together your actual social media branding materials. This starts with your imagery.
Instead of creating images for various websites and social platforms as you go, you’ll want to develop a set of branding visuals upfront. Then, you can use the same images (or slight variations as necessary) across your entire online presence. This is vital for establishing the consistency we talked about earlier.
If you’re a designer, you may be able to put this imagery together yourself. Otherwise, there are plenty of tools available to help you out. You may even want to hire a professional, since having strong and compelling brand visuals is worth the monetary investment.
Plus, it’s fine if your budget is small. You can start by just focusing on a few key images, and work your way up from there. This includes a logo, as well as one or more banner-style visuals that can be used as headers on your website and social media pages.
Of course, you’ll want the design of these visuals to reflect the brand persona you developed in the last step, whether that’s creative and quirky or traditional and low-key. This includes more than just the content of the images – it also applies to elements such as color and font choices.
When in doubt, ask yourself: “If my brand persona were a real person, would they use this image on their social media profiles?”
As we mentioned earlier, maintaining consistency in your brand’s presentation isn’t always easy. This is particularly true if you’re trying to market through multiple social media sites. To keep everything straight, you can benefit from putting together a social media branding style guide.
This guide will be for internal reference only. It should outline the key rules that need to be followed whenever any sort of business-related content is created. This means it should:
As with your brand persona, you’ll want to be as specific as possible here. The idea is that a completely new employee or team member should be able to pick up this style guide, and craft social media content that’s completely in line with your business’ goals and target audience.
It’s also worth noting that this style guide should be a living document. Feel free to add to and change it over time, as you perfect your approach to social media branding. Just make sure all relevant parties have an updated copy available at all times.
Throughout this guide, we’ve emphasized the importance of consistency. Your brand persona, key imagery, and voice should be as similar as possible throughout your entire online presence.
However, there’s a caveat. You’ll still want to make small refinements to your social media branding, in order to fully adapt it to each platform. After all, every social media site has its own culture, expectations, and limitations.
This can include practical considerations – one platform may require images at different sizes than another, for example. In addition, the audience you’re speaking to may vary from site to site. If you’re targeting potential customers at a wide range of ages, for instance, your Snapchat audience is likely to be younger than your Twitter audience. This may necessitate a somewhat more informal approach on the former, even if your overall brand persona is very professional.
Striking a balance here is key. You’ll want to refine your social media branding to best fit each platform, without making major changes that might compromise your consistency. To do this, you simply need to understand the unique nature of the platforms you’re targeting.
This will naturally require some research. To get you started, however, we’ve complied several handy guides to the ins and outs of popular platforms:
These articles should help you determine what tweaks you’ll need to make to your persona and branding strategy, in order to get the best results on each social media platform.
To put together a strong social media branding strategy, you’ll want to follow the five steps we’ve outlined above:
Do you have any questions about how to develop the best branding strategy for your company? Let us know in the comments section below!