I once attended an hour-long panel on brand management for small businesses, and at the end of the panel, no one had been able to clearly define a brand. People had great advice for how to apply a brand to your business, or how to ensure no one corrupted your brand. There were in-depth discussions about whether or not you should tie your brand to a single person or to the business in general. But no one was able to articulate just what the heck a brand actually was.
This is not to vent any pent-up frustrations about my time at the panel; it’s simply to say that the word “brand” is a little vague. Google it and you’ll get several different definitions. Instead of trying to give you a definition of my own, I prefer to think of a brand as a sum of either/or scenarios. For example, your brand could be funny or serious. You could be professional or laid-back. It could be streamlined or creative, fact-based or story-driven. Sometimes it’s just easier to describe what your brand is not instead of the translucent “it’s the feeling people get when they think about your business.”
Two aspects of brand management that are especially relevant to social media, however, are content and design. In order to look professional, you need to have consistent content and design branding on all social media channels. Again, this topic can get a little vague, but hopefully, I’ll be able to provide some tips on the how-to side of things.
Design is easy to homogenize on your social channels, because as a marketer, it makes sense to use the same picture for your Twitter photo as your Facebook photo. It’s more efficient than recreating a new logo.
I won’t berate you on good design strategy because a lot of it is common sense. If your website design includes rounded shapes, so should your Facebook and LinkedIn cover photo. Pick a main color, a secondary color and an accent color for all designs on all social networks. If you create infographics, use these same three colors. Do the same thing for promotions or advertising graphics.
To save time and stay consistent with your branding, you can use the same picture for the following groups:
- Profile pictures for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube/Google Plus
- Cover photos for Facebook, LinkedIn and your blog’s homepage
- Everything else (such as Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest content and additional blog post photos) can be more applicable to the content, but keep the three main colors in mind.
Consistency is key – Consistently creating or posting content is slightly harder than design. If you want to go through a round of updates (G+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blog) you can use the same piece of content for each one, but it needs to be specific to each platform. Breaking a few grammar rules on Twitter is acceptable, but it’s not on the other platforms. (Note: breaking grammar rules on Twitter is becoming less and less acceptable, so you may not even want to do that.)
Don’t be lazy – What you don’t want is for someone to realize your Facebook statuses are simply recycled tweets. As a former boss of mine always said, “You have 2,000 characters to use in a Facebook status. Use them!”
Use a flow chart – I once found a really helpful flow chart marketers can use to produce social media content. Most content will be one of three things:
- Company announcement, such as a milestone or promotion
- Link to an industry-related article to establish thought leadership
- Piece of authored content, such as a blog post or YouTube video.
Link it all together – Be sure all of your profiles are linked together. Twitter’s a little tricky because of limited space, but your other social bios or “about” sections should list links to all other social networks, including your main website. Also, be sure to put contact information in every bio. Never make it hard for your customer to figure out how to get in touch with you.
Use consistent hashtags – Keep your hashtags the same on all platforms, especially if you create a hashtag for a specific event. Nearly every platform allows the use of hashtags now, even LinkedIn.
Spread the word – To help spread your content across the Internet, encourage followers and fans to share your content among their networks, especially if it’s something you authored, such as a blog post or video. Remember, content should reflect what your target audience wants to see, and not what you want them to see. Keep things interesting and not “salesy.”
Remember your brand style – Also, remember your sum of either/or’s. If your brand uses humor, post jokes, funny pictures or Internet memes. If it’s not, link to industry articles comment in relevant discussions. If this were a literary class, I’d tell you to write in the same tone across all channels.
While attending N.C. State, I interned for the marketing department of one of the main schools and quickly became familiar with the idea of “consistent brand management.” At first, it was overwhelming trying to make sure I wrote everything in the same voice and used the same color palettes in all of our designs. But eventually things got easier. I figured out I could easily repurpose content as opposed to create it from the start. News releases often were conglomerations of brochure copy and previous blog posts, and vise-versa.
Once you’ve got a strong hold on what your brand is, it’s very easy to keep the ball rolling. Just make it consistent and platform-specific, and you’re good to go!