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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: brand consistency matters. A lot. On average, it takes 5 to 7 impressions for a person to remember a brand, but if your brand looks different every time, they’ll have nothing to remember. Something else that matters a lot in terms of brand success? Social media. But staying consistent across social media platforms presents a unique kind of challenge for brand managers, one that requires both a high level understanding and attention to detail, that thinks long-term while allowing for the impromptu, and that takes the task seriously without being too, well, serious. It’s a tall order. Here’s how to nail it.
The rise of social media offered brands an exciting avenue through which to connect directly with existing and potential customers. Through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, brands can build community, engage in conversations with fans, and respond directly and in real-time to their customers. It’s a huge opportunity. But the very qualities that make social media such an exciting landscape also make it a difficult beast to manage when it comes to brand consistency.
Here are some of the unique brand consistency challenges that social media presents:
When your brand creates an ad or a product launch or a press release, the brand manager has their hands on every step of the process and gives final sign-off. But usually, they’re not involved in the day-to-day of social posts, which are often handled by a more junior team member who may not have an adequately deep understanding of brand identity. What’s more, employees and customers can post things that reflect on your brand without being properly aligned with the identity you want to project.
Successful social media profiles are authentic, responsive, and engaged in real-time. That means that posts created weeks in advance at a boardroom table are not going to fly. Social media users demand humanity and true conversation, even from brands. This means there’s not time for an approval process for many posts, nor can each one be polished to perfection. The same qualities that will make a social media profile successful are those that could undermine brand consistency.
Every social media platform necessitates a different style of communication, which means that you can’t just establish one set of guidelines for social media and call it a day. You need a different approach for LinkedIn, say, than you would for TikTok. This adds yet another layer of complexity.
If you want to succeed on social media, you need to post regularly. This means daily, at a minimum. That’s a big burden to content creators, especially when they must not only think of and create a massive amount of content, but also ensure that each thing they create is aligned with the brand.
Indeed, achieving brand consistency on social media is a challenge. But it’s one that cannot be ignored if you want your brand to thrive today. Thankfully, there are best practices that will guide your way to success:
With each post, ask yourself if it supports and reflects your brand’s mission. If it does, go for it! If it doesn’t, delete it. Anyone who touches your brand’s social media needs to have a solid understanding of what your brand stands for, and make sure that every single thing shared on social media has something in it that relates back to the why of your brand.
As we mentioned, each social media platform calls for a different style of communication, as each one comes with a different type of audience and different content expectations. To help you better understand who you’re speaking to where (and what they expect from you), dig into the analytics and engage in social listening for each platform on which your brand has a presence. This will help you understand how to tailor your content so that it meets the expectations of followers on different platforms. However, be sure to never post anything that’s unaligned with your brand identity just for the sake of matching the tone of a certain platform. It may be that for some platforms, it makes sense for your brand to have no presence at all!
Invest in projects that equip both employees and fans with the visual assets and language they need to post about your brand in a consistent way. With employees, you can do this through social media guidelines and shared files with approved visual assets and language; for customers, you can do this through hashtag campaigns or shareable assets. For instance, if you’re a meal subscription kit company, maybe you create a shareable photo frame that looks like a dinner plate, and encourage people to post their completed meals in the frame with a certain hashtag. Supplying on-brand, shareable content empowers all your brand’s supporters to express their feelings about you in a consistent manner.
Just as the message of what you post must be consistent with your brand, so must the way that message is presented visually. The look and feel of your social media posts should be consistent, with a well-defined color palette and style that’s instantly recognizable to people quickly scrolling through their feeds. When you’re defining the look and feel of your social media presence, make sure it reflects your branding elsewhere and aligns with how your brand makes people feel (i.e., if you’re a meditation app, you might choose light, cool blues and greens that evoke a sense of calm).
While you’ll adapt specific posts and how you engage with your audience depending on the platform, there are certain things that should be identical across all social media channels: logo, tagline, which link or campaign you’re driving people to, profile photo, and handle (if you can’t get the handle you need on one platform, create one as close as possible).
You can’t have consistency of content without a little planning. There are lots of tools, like Hootsuite and Sprout Social, which allow you to map out months-worth of your social calendar in advance. Looking at a 30-day view of your content will help you see any visual inconsistencies as well as ensure a good balance and cadence of content types. Of course, it’s also essential to allow for flexibility so that you can share more spontaneous posts if, say, there’s a viral trend that it makes sense for your brand to jump on, or a big news story on which you should weigh in.
Hashtags can be an important tool for joining conversations and attracting new followers, but they can also make a post look cluttered and clunky, and are an easy way to accidentally go off-brand. For best practices, have an established list of hashtags that your profiles use, as well as the number of hashtags to be used for any given post.
Just like your own personality is consistent in social settings, your brand needs to be consistent when it gets social. Put some thought and time into developing your social media strategy and process, and perfect brand consistency is sure to follow.
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