You may thinking that branding for social media is picking out a cover photo, choosing a color scheme, and maybe settling on a brand voice. While these are all components of your social media branding, it is actually so much more than that.
Your brand is what makes you, "you".
If you could describe your business in 3-5 words, what would they be? If you asked (and I recommend you do ask) your customers how they would define your brand, what would they say? Are your descriptors about your product or your service? Are they about your interactions and behaviors? Are they self-serving or outwardly focused?
Your online brand is whatever you do on social media. Or fail to do. Or what others have to say about you online.
All of these components matter a great deal to your brand. And we'll talk about this more in a bit...
If you're going to create a viable "brand" on social media, yes, you have to think about the aesthetic things (and we'll talk about those), but you have to think about a lot more than just that.
So, let's start with the pretty things:
Your Style and Theme
When it comes to defining your style and theme, a variety of factors contribute to this:
- Your brand colors - these should be consistent across all of your marketing. If you're using blues and greens on your website, your Facebook page and Instagram account shouldn't be littered with red and orange images.
- Image tone and saturation. Is your style light and airy? Your imagery should reflect this style and be similarly formatted. You would want light backgrounds and high levels of brightness, not heavy saturation and bold colors.
- Thematic undertones. If your brand is built on a specific mission or theme, that should carry through your social media content. For example, if you're affiliate with animals, your content should regularly relate to animals and similar topics, not consistently go off into other realms of content.
Your Content Type
You might not realize it, but your choice in content format will determine the audience that follows you.
To put this in perspective, I'm a blogger (shocking revelation, I know!). But I create and share a lot of written content - articles, links, long form text updates, etc. I have built my audience as one that likes to read. Therefore, when I create video content, it doesn't typically perform as well for me. In external shares, sure. But within my audience, videos don't typically perform very well. Because my audience are readers, not watchers.
This will apply to your audience online as well. The type of content you create and share will help shape the audience you build.
Your Content Strategy
Beyond just the type of content you share, the purpose behind that content is important too. There are essentially three categories that you could fall into:
- Educational content
- Entertainment content
Educational type brands don't have to be boring, but they typically focus more on sharing content that is value-based, provides information, or acts as a resource for their audience. A great example of this is CBRE on Instagram. And General Electric on Instagram is another good one. They both teach, educate, and inform their audience, while creating beautiful content.
For entertainment type brands, think of those brands that seek to make people laugh or share content that draws on emotional reactions. One of my favorite examples of an entertainment brand is Charmin. You can see their Facebook page and how they create fun, witty, tongue-in-cheek content that entertains their audience.
And, when it comes to combining these two, Merriam-Webster on Twitter has this in spades. Yes, they educate and share definitions for trending words or unusual words. But they also include humor, snark, and sass into their content. Their audience is getting a dose of education via an entertaining vehicle.
Your Brand Voice
Now we're starting to get into the more definitive and significant branding components.
Your brand voice is paramount to the audience you attract! It can be whatever tone, style, and personality you choose - but it must authentically match your real life brand.
Of course, if you're a solopreneur or small business where you run everything, finding your voice is easy - it's your voice! But if you're a bigger brand or have multiple employees interacting at the forefront of your online activities, defining this voice may take a little more effort.
You could be any combination of these things:
- Happy and upbeat
- Loud and obnoxious
- Funny and humorous
- Professional and precise
- Casual and relaxed
- Witty and sarcastic
The key is that if someone "meets" you online - following your social media profiles and whatnot - and then come to your business or hire you, the persona they know online should be the same thing they get when they walk in the door. Think about it. If you're a fitness instructor and you put out there a voice that attracts flower-crown-wearing, kumbaya-singing women, then that's what they're going to expect when they show up to work with you. They don't expect to get a drill sergeant yelling at them and commanding them around.
Or, you can probably relate to knowing people online who seem a certain way, but when you meet them in real life, realize they are the total opposite! How do you feel about them at that point? You probably feel confused and skeptical. You're not likely to refer them to anyone else or recommend them now, right? The same thing applies to your business and branding.
Your brand voice and how you talk to your audience is key.
Here's where branding takes on so much more than what we've already talked about. Because, to be honest, you could have the best color scheme, cohesive styling, hilarious brand voice, and all the right content, but if you aren't interacting with your audience, then all of this is worthless.
Your engagement, or lack thereof, is really the only branding that matters.
If you're posting but not taking time to respond or answer questions - your brand is one that people will begin to ignore. If people have technical questions or need support and you aren't there for them, they'll go somewhere else in the future.
BUT, if you are consistently present, happily helping, resolving issues, and having real conversations with your customers, then your color scheme can be so-so and no one will care. Because what they really care about is that interaction and presence from you as a brand.
To prove this, you need only look to Wendy's (on Twitter especially). People will actually ask Wendy's to roast them. Publicly. They ask to be shamed by a huge brand! This is counter-intuitive to all branding and marketing. But it works. Why? Because Wendy's takes the time to respond and engage. And, really, that's what people want.
Really though, why does all of this matter? You have so much to do in your business, why should you have to worry about this too?
Well, because social media has officially disrupted the traditional sales model.
I'm a Coke person. Not Pepsi (yuck!). I will literally order something else to drink if a restaurant has Pepsi and not Coke. I'm that person. I've always had that preference. That's not going to change. Ok. But that's something I've had a preference on for nearly 40 years now! But what about something new on the market that I don't have a loyalty to? What's going to get me to be loyal to a new brand?
Sure, a quality product or perfect solution is a likely winner. But what if there are two equally great products or solutions? Or what if one product is significantly better but their service, interaction, and brand reputation sucks? This is why branding is so important.
Brand loyalty and brand experience are catalytic in the sales cycle now.