Keep Everyone on the Same Page
Maybe when your ecommerce business was just getting started, one person was doing all the marketing and social media, plus a whole bunch more. It’s easy to create and maintain a voice for your brand in this circumstance. But when your business grows, so does the needs for some formalized processes.
Why A Style Guide
The short answer to the why a style guide question is a consistent and clear voice to best represent your brand. The long answer depends a bit more on the specific needs of your business. A style guide can become the foundational building block of your entire social media and marketing strategy. Your style guide can easily become one of the most important and informative documents you create. Ultimately, your goal should be to create a go-to document that is constantly evolving with your business.
Must-Have Info for Your Style Guide
What exactly does a style guide include? Some of these things should be obvious, and maybe some of them don’t apply to your specific business, but there is typical content that should be covered in a good style guide.
Start with all the social media accounts held by your business. This should be a frequently updated section, with all appropriate info about your various accounts, including links and how to access log-in information. This is also a good place to define who controls each account, and even who’s authorized to post.
Add a section with your goals. Be specific about why social media matters to your brand, and about how it should be handled and viewed by team members. If you’ve got a social media marketing document, this is a good time to link to it.
It’s tough to find a voice if you don’t know who you’re speaking to. Clearly define the target audience of each of your social media accounts—and yes, they can be different. How you speak on Facebook may be very different than how you post to SnapChat, based on the differences of those you’re likely to reach.
Define the voice of your brand, and in this style guide, be specific to your social media voice. Overall, it should mirror the voice for your brand as a whole, but social media is a little different in that it’s more personal, and more focused on one-to-one interactions. If you’ve got guidelines about voice in customer service emails and phone calls, that’s a great jumping-off point to ensure consistency.
Every industry has its own jargon, and this is a great time to specify some rules about how and when to use the language of yours. Spell out common acronyms and give guidance on who they should appear in social media; offer proper spellings and capitalization of common terms, customers, and other important entities. Essentially, don’t leave the person posting to your Twitter to guess at the proper language formatting.
Another thing to include is a framework for scheduling posts. Not just a specific time of day, but also adherence to a content calendar. If your content calendar includes Facebook posts three times a week, spell out exactly when those should post. Are there time zone considerations to take into account? If you’re an East coast company with a West coast following, posted at 8am EST probably isn’t going to get you the results you’d like. A link to a content calendar is a good way to wrap up this section.
Posting & Publishing
The biggest section in your style guide is likely to be this one. There are a lot of small details that matter, and again, it’s worth your time to spell them out up-front, so there’s no guessing.
Getting a section all its own, images and design guidelines simply must be elucidated in your style guide. You’re trying to grow your brand and it needs to be recognizable. As such, there should be consistent visuals across all platforms. From logos to colors to specific images, everything should look as though it belongs. Be super-specific about how to make that happen on social media—and be sure to cover everything from images to videos to GIFs.
The legalities. No one likes to think about this part—except maybe the lawyers—but it does matter. If you’re posting images, are you respecting copyright? If your industry has regulations that need to be followed, be sure to clearly define how they are and how to respect them in your social media presence.
Let’s call this last section odds and ends. Anything not covered, but relevant to your business, marketing, and social media strategy, should be added to your style guide. This is one place where more information is better, so when in doubt, add it.
With that, go forth and get to writing your own style guide. Got advice to add? Share it in the comments.