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A 5-Step Strategy for Establishing an Effective Social Media Style Guide

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  • A 5-Step Strategy for Establishing an Effective Social Media Style Guide

When your marketing team creates new content for your business’ social, you want to ensure that it has the same style and brand voice. A social media style guide ensures that consistency.

A well-crafted social media style guide will help your business accomplish the following goals:

  • Define your brand voice and personality
  • Ensure consistency across channels
  • Make your brand more recognizable
  • Encourage your marketing team to work more effectively together

Let’s discuss how to establish a practical social media style guide for your business.

Five things to include in your social media style guide

Your social media style guide should be unique to your company. However, all social media style guides should include certain elements, regardless of company or industry. Here are five things you should cover in your social media style guide.

1. Consumer persona

You may have already done this but if you haven’t, make sure you create a profile of your buyer persona. Defining who you’ll be addressing will make it easier for your team to create content that would interest your audience.

A customer persona is a representation of your ideal customer. The representation is based on the information you have about your audience. You can create a customer persona by asking some basic questions about your audience:

  • Gender
  • Age group
  • Hobbies
  • Location
  • Occupation or industry
  • Language
  • Challenges or pain points
  • Business goals
  • Number of employees (for B2B)
  • Social channels they’re active in

Here’s what your buyer persona might look like.

Social Media Style Guide


You should create every piece of content you create for social media with your consumer persona in mind. That will help you avoid creating posts that no one reads.

The women’s clothing brand Shoppingcenter9 knows their buyer persona. The content they create on social media consistently targets their audience. For instance, their Instagram posts start with “Girls, …” or “Hi girls…”.

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The customer persona should be the first thing you need to discuss in your social media style guide. This social media best practice will reinforce the idea of the customer being at the center of everything that your brand does and will impact many other elements of your social media style guide.

2. Language and formatting style

Your language also plays a major role in determining your branding. Switching from one language or dialect to another might confuse your followers and make them wonder if they’re looking at the correct social media account. If you use English, specify whether it’ll be American or British. You also need to list words, phrases, acronyms, or names specific to the brand you want to use and how and when to use them.

There are various spelling, grammar, and punctuation rules you can specify. These include things like using an em dash or an en dash and capitalizing headlines.

The easiest way to go will be to follow an existing style guide, like the AP Style guide or the Chicago Manual of Style. Whatever you decide, your content must be consistent across platforms. That includes any tweets, Instagram posts, or follow-up emails you send to leads you’ve gathered from social media campaign ads.

3. Industry terms

Research the terms relevant to your industry and include them in the style guide. Your marketing team should have this information to be sure they are using the correct terms every time. Don’t hesitate to check what your competition does in their social media publications to see if you’re following industry-standard terms.

While you do need to speak to your audience, you should also stick to plain language that’s easy for potential followers to understand. To do this, you can make a list of jargon words to avoid. Unless you’re speaking to a niche audience within a specific industry (like medical, technical, etc.), you want to keep it simple.

It’s common to use acronyms and abbreviations in place of commonly-used terms on social media posts too. This is especially applicable to Twitter, where there’s a character limit. For example, the international basketball federation FIBA uses #FIBAWC (FIBA World Cup) as a hashtag:

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Similarly, you can also list acronyms or abbreviations your audience would be familiar with. That way, your marketing team knows which ones they can use.

Finally, your style guide should include a list of all your brand trademarks and how you can use them.

4. Brand voice

Next, define your brand voice. Some businesses like to keep it formal, while others like to be cheeky on their social accounts. The marketing team at Netflix, for example, uses a lot of social media humor. Here’s an excellent example from their Twitter account:

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Or this one:

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You may be limited here depending on the industry or type of your services. Keeping it formal and friendly is a safe option if you don’t want to experiment.

Your brand voice needs to be consistent. If you suddenly start to change your brand’s voice, you may confuse your followers.

For example, if you’re cheeky on Twitter but your brand’s YouTube videos take a serious tone, your audience may end up wondering whether they ended up on the wrong channel.

With clear brand voice guidelines in place, you’ll ensure that your content will always be on-brand and on-point.

5. Hashtag usage

Making up some branded hashtags is an excellent idea to encourage followers to tag you in their posts or collect user-generated content. You should consistently use them to build familiarity with your followers.

Your style guide should include a list of branded hashtags, along with guidelines for their use. For instance, many businesses feature branded hashtags in their social bios. Branded hashtags come in handy when you want your followers to mention your brand in your posts.

In the Instagram post below, recycling container manufacturer Glasdonises uses plenty of industry-related words as hashtags.

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Once the campaign is over, don’t delete the hashtag from this list. Make a note about the dates the hashtag was in use and keep it for the record. You may come back to them in the future.

Be sure to choose your case and keep it consistent:

  • lowercase: #foodwaste
  • uppercase: #FOODWASTE
  • camel case: #FoodWaste

Be careful with uppercase hashtags, though. Overusing them could lead people to misinterpret it as shouting.

Your style guide should have a section on how to respond to your followers too. Responding to follower engagement (likes, shares/retweets, comments/replies) will increase the chances of your content showing up on more users’ feeds.

How can you create your social media style guide?

Your social media style guide will underpin an element of the success of your social media strategy. Be very detailed when creating it. Include do- and don’t-follow procedures. Use screenshots of example publications you will want your team to follow.

The following steps will help you create an effective social media stylebook for your brand:

1. Identify your brand voice and tone

How do you decide on your voice? Think for a minute that your brand is a real person. Now, ask yourself, what would your brand sound like? How would it want to be perceived by its audience?

Here are some examples of brand voices:

  • Friendly
  • Cheeky
  • Smart
  • Compassionate
  • Confident
  • Helpful
  • Casual
  • Sarcastic
  • Bold
  • Energetic
  • Cheerful
  • Formal
  • Young and trendy

The tone you choose reflects different ways in which your voice is used depending on what it’s trying to accomplish. Your style guide should include screenshots with examples of posts from your brand (or others) that showcase the voice and tone you want to establish.

2. Audit all your social media profiles

One of the most essential parts of every social media stylebook is an audit of your current profiles. It should list all the critical information about each of your social media accounts, so it’s all in one place. A social media profile audit will let you see which accounts are active and which people are in charge of each of those accounts.

Right away, you’ll be able to get a clear picture of the naming habits you’ve used for your accounts. Are the names consistent across channels? If not, now it’s time to make them match.

Next, audit your company’s social media profiles. Some companies use different social media channels for different purposes. For instance, the main Starbucks Instagram account showcases its signature drinks. On the other hand, the Starbucks Jobs account highlights employment opportunities, education support, and employee testimonials.

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If you own a few accounts on a platform, each for a different purpose, make sure you list them all in your guide. For example, your customer service Twitter account will use a different tone from your marketing account.

Once you have all the data in one document, it’ll be easier to decide if any of them need a makeover. You may also identify accounts to deactivate, platforms to drop, or networks where you can establish a presence, like TikTok.

3. Set common formatting guidelines

Your guide should include a section for formatting.

Although you can’t control the fonts when writing social posts, you can control the fonts in images, videos, cover photos, and Instagram stories.

Decide on a style of pictures too. If you want to choose a filter that some devices or social media platforms offer – make sure you stick to it. If you choose to go #nofilter – be consistent and perhaps consider promoting it with a hashtag.

Different social networks have slightly different formatting rules. With Twitter’s 280-character limit and Instagram limit of hashtags as examples, make sure you consider this in your style guide.

There are some guidelines all your accounts should stick to:

  • Get to the point within the first sentence
  • Use a maximum of three sentences
  • Stick to sentence case across all networks
  • Shorten all links using a tool like
  • Use relevant hashtags and mentions wisely
  • Use media that adds value
  • Define the emojis you’ll use or avoid

When it comes to your company’s logo, decide where and when you will use it on social media. Most companies use their logo as their profile picture. Some businesses also add their logos to every piece of content they post.

4. Set guidelines on using media

Your social media style guide should also specify the types of media you’ll be posting on each platform. These could be images, infographics, video, audio, or links.

These guidelines can help you make decisions about the media you’ll post:

  • The size and length requirements for each platform
  • Color schemes and font choices
  • The use of logos or wordmarks
  • Filters you’ll apply to images or videos
  • Preferred stock image/video sources, if there are any

If you plan to use a social media automation tool, you may also include this information in your guide. You may also have specific guidelines for major social media holidays and other events.

5. Decide how you will engage with customers and competitors

Have you thought of how you should respond when customers ask questions? How do you react when someone shares your content or engages with your brand? Regulating this in a style guide will keep everyone on the same page and create cohesion.

Zappos is a good example of a brand that engages its social media followers. The tone of voice Zappos uses on social media is friendly and “human,” which leaves the customers with a positive impression of the brand. The brand also responds whenever someone tags them.

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The brand also likes to engage with its audience by conducting humorous polls, like this one from Twitter:

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Even if different people are managing your profiles, responses have to be consistent. You can list some responses for repetitive questions from customers, but in general, it’s not about answering like a robot.

Responding to every user the same way can result in people losing trust in your brand. This is particularly true when you start deploying chatbots on your social media accounts. You need to mix up your initial responses to customer inquiries to ensure that you respond appropriately to specific types of questions.

Finally, don’t forget to include a response plan for negative comments on social media. Even the best brands receive them from time to time. It’s best to have a procedure for dealing with these situations rather than risk turning off your audience with improper replies.

Final thoughts on creating a social media style guide

The purpose of creating a social media style guide is to keep everyone aligned and help you create social posts true to your brand identity. A well-defined social media style guide will help you establish your online presence and strengthen your engagement with social media users.

Hopefully, the strategy and tips in this article will help you create your brand’s social media style guide. Once you have your style guide ready, ensure your social media team follows it consistently across all social media platforms. Remember, though, that consumers’ preferences change, so you may need to update your style guide from time to time.

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