Branding 101

Consistent branding and voice

There are many elements that go into a brand—both visual and otherwise—but ultimately what it becomes is your promise to your customers. You define their experience of what your product offering tries to fulfill. A “brand” can feel like a very amorphous concept; but consider the fact that your company’s brand helps add tangible value to the organization, and when managed appropriately, it can help to protect the investments made to the business over time. How one actually determines the value of a brand is a fairly complicated endeavor.

Most of us aren’t trying to compete with the most valuable global brands. That being said, there sure is a lot you can learn from them:

Sample Guidelines

  1. How your logo is to be represented
  2. What fonts and colors can be used and in what manner
  3. A full brand description and what it stands for
  4. Situations in which the brand can and cannot be used
  5. Tone, voice, and manner guidelines
  6. Other topographical and structural elements (primarily for advertisers)

If you do not already have brand guidelines developed, you’ll want to start there with your marketing team. Once you have those finished, you’ll want to address how they translate to social media. Most of the visual components (logos, colors, etc.) will remain the same, though you’ll want to make sure the users setting up your social profiles have access to any relevant creative assets. For more inspiration, take a look at the

Cambridge Identity Guidelines and MailChimp’s guidelines. For most small and medium businesses, these will likely feel overzealous (they probably are), but you can glean inspiration for the parts that make sense for you. If you have a graphic design team, they should be able to help you with a lot of this as well.

Know your audience

Be on-brand, but also be relevant to the environment in which you’re working. Your audience, or the social platform you are engaging on, may slightly change your tone and voice from your brand guidelines. This is where it’s important to have a really solid understanding so you can adapt as necessary. It’s not vital to be absolutely consistent between platforms, but it is vital to demonstrate cohesiveness.

Be human

It probably sounds obvious, but this is the goal of social media. Human engagement is where the magic is, and keeping that in mind as you’re developing your brand will help you craft a voice that’s not only solid and cohesive, but also one that users can relate to and build relationships with. You know, like people. 🙂

Integrate your campaigns

Integrating your campaigns across all of your social profiles can help solidify your brand and amplify your efforts. Using similar visual elements across all of your profiles will help ingrain your messaging and drive home the point in ways that are relevant and customized to the platform.

Your Brand

Your social presence is just an extension of your brand, allowing that brand to reach many more people through networked experiences. This can be both a risk and an opportunity, so it’s important to spend the time it takes to decide and define what your brand will be in the social environment, as inconsistency in this area can lead to a disjointed customer experience (or even a negative impact). Key questions to answer include:

What is our brand voice and personality?

What do we stand for, and what do we represent?

What is our value proposition and differentiating factors?

What are our defined visual branding elements (logo, font, colors, etc.)?

If you don’t answer these questions first, your social presence can veer toward one of two extremes: Either your communication will come across as stiff and corporate, and the people you’re engaging will feel like they’re dealing with a robot, or your community manager will use his or her own voice in your communications, leading to an inconsistent or even inauthentic experience.

Providing a cohesive, branded customer experience that is completely agnostic of site, network, or location will serve to galvanize your community’s comprehension of, memory of, and hopefully preference for your brand.

How to earn familiarity, trust, and likeability in your community

Building a reputation around these three qualities is part of what goes into building relationships. We’re all in this social media puddle trying to accomplish big things for our businesses, but step back for a minute—let’s think about this in a different way. How do you build relationships offline or in person? Building them online for your brand is not all that different.

Show up
Simple as that; just being present is the first step. But it doesn’t stop there. You have to continue showing up. Give people a reason to invest in the relationship. If you don’t prove you’re going to stick around or pop in at least somewhat regularly, they don’t have any reason to connect with you in the first place.

Be human
Be kind. Be real. Be funny. Be respectful. Be empathetic. Be all of the things you would expect someone to be toward you in every interaction. No one can easily relate to a bland personality. If your effort feels automated and heartless, you won’t come across as very likeable. Also good to remember: When you’re engaging with someone on social channels, it’s best to assume all interactions are completely public.

Don’t be exclusionary
This creates a balance in your relationships. You don’t want to treat a select few so specially that outsiders new to your brand or account feel as if they’re on the outside looking in. Strive to make every individual you interact with, and those watching, feel like they are special and part of the in-crowd.

Be off-topic
Closely related to being human, it is definitely okay to go off-topic now and again. If every tweet or Facebook post is only your marketing, people will tire quickly and leave. Turn it off once in a while. Post something that’s relevant, but perhaps only tangentially. Enjoy a joke now and again. Celebrate the holidays or world events. No one likes to be marketed to constantly, and that’s not where the magic happens!

Add value
Sure, you can show up and make friends just by being congenial, but you’re a brand. You want more than just “friends.” You’re building a network and trying to establish your company here. Adding value will help you be seen as helpful and authoritative, and ultimately, make you a wanted part of the community. Offer assistance, answer questions, and go out of your way to make someone’s life easier or brighter.

Practice etiquette
Do not spam hashtags. Brands have gotten in trouble for this in the past, and it can show your brand in a disrespectful and distasteful light. Don’t be too pushy or forward; you want to make a good first impression.

Be aware of current events
During solemn times, natural disasters, tragedies, events of terrorism, etc., you definitely want to turn your marketing messaging off. If you’re using a scheduling service to post content for you, turn it off immediately at the first sign of a catastrophic event of any kind. Your timing will be seen as incredibly insensitive and could cause severe backlash against your brand.

None of this will happen for you overnight. An investment in these relationships is ultimately a long-term investment in your community and brand. Keep it up, and be patient—the more you invest, the more you’ll get back.

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