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  • Writer's pictureJean Dion

What belongs in a social media style guide?


Employee churn is a real thing. That's true across almost every industry, especially during these times of low unemployment. Without proper documentation, one person's "I quit!" becomes a company's "I'm lost!"


Most managers I talk to know they should have guidelines about what channels they use and how often they post. But many don't dig deeper, and that leaves the new hire in the lurch when it's time to take over social media management.


These are the three things most companies forget when they're crafting a social style guide.


To emoji or not to emoji?


We've all used the smiley face to dampen a harsh statement in email. And if you've ever traded texts with a teen, you've probably become adept at expressing yourself in picture form. Sometimes, they're ideal for your social channels too.


Emojis are ideal for companies:

  • Working across countries. Imagine that your company produces toys for cats, and most of your posts are in English. Think about how scattering a few cat faces and toys in your post text could help your potential customers to find you. (Remember that emojis are searchable on some social platforms.)

  • That skew young. If your ideal customer scatters her text messages with emoji, why in the world wouldn't you try to speak her language?

  • Sell something hip and slightly frivolous. Emoji won't work if you're selling something serious (like life insurance). But if you're selling something fun (like sushi), you're golden.

No matter what you decide, write down those rules. Define what emoji work well, and list any that are banned. Ideally, you'll identify your word-to-emoji ratio too, so your managers won't go overboard.


Are you hip or serious?

There are plenty of companies out there that shift from tone to tone in their posts. Sometimes, I can identify a social media shift change, as I see consistent differences between one hour and the next. Don't do that.


Collect the posts you like best, and put them in your guidelines. Then, analyze why they work and how they can be replicated.


Next, make a list of words you support and those that are forbidden. Outline your stance on:

  • Slang

  • Miss-spelled words (kitteh for kitten, for example)

  • Cursing

  • Shortened words (nothin' for nothing, for example)

  • Jargon (do you want to stick with the industry language, or dampen it for regular people?)

  • Grade level

If you spot a post that's off your approved tone, don't panic. Hop in and edit (if you can), and then dissect the post for your writer, so it never happens again.


What filters do you use?

Most companies have brand guidelines that dictate what should show up in a photo. But few companies talk about color correction and filters.


On some channels (looking at Instagram, again), you can tweak your photos to make them pop with some preset filters. But anyone with a decent photo-processing program can kick up the color or make it fade away.


A standalone image that looks different from all the others is terrible for your brand. You have seconds to capture the attention of your audience, and chances are, they won't recognize something that just doesn't look like your regular post. Don't take a chance to try something new. Ensure that all of your photos look the same.


If you allow filters, write down those you accept and identify those you don't like. Explain your stance on color-correction and how much manipulation is considered "normal." For example, do you want your artists to change skin tones? Can they share in black-and-white instead?


Don't forget to share it!

Writing up a style guide takes time. Don't waste it. Make sure your version is in an easily accessible spot that everyone knows about, and share it with all of your new hires!

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