Three Steps To Maintaining A Consistent Brand Experience On Social Media
Take a look at the most effective brands on social media and you’ll notice a common thread – consistent messaging and branding. It’s part of what makes them so effective. Unfortunately, that’s not always the norm. We see marketers struggle with this all the time. The experience from one social network to another can often feel disjointed, which isn’t surprising. It’s difficult to present a cohesive message across all social platforms, because the strategies required to excel on each of these networks are very different.
And while a cohesive message can be difficult, it’s necessary. Strong consistent branding reinforces your identity, influences positive sentiment and contributes to brand affinity – all critical components affecting your customer’s decision-making process.
Consistent brand experience does not mean all your communications need to look identical, but it does mean your key messaging and visual branding should be clearly identified and your company’s tone, message and image are consistent throughout not just your traditional media outlets, but throughout your entire media ecosystem.
So how does this look in the social space? Let’s look at three steps you can take to help you master a consistent brand experience in social media.
Know Your Audience
The first step is to recognize and understand who your audience is. Ideally, you’ve created audience personas to help you identify who you’re talking to and what they want. These personas should pinpoint which social media they use, how they communicate and the tone, frequency, style and other characteristics that influence them.
For example, there’s something about the Starbucks brand that goes beyond “coffee shop.” Starbucks is selling lifestyle just as much as it’s selling coffee. And Starbucks recognizes that social media, and in particular Instagram, is the perfect vehicle to communicate lifestyle. When was the last time you opened Instagram and didn’t see a picture of someone’s coffee cup? Instagram is rich with 18-29-year olds who identify with the artsy, intellectual, progressive lifestyle Starbucks is selling. Starbucks has capitalized on this and taken Instagram by storm with almost 16 million followers to date.
Not only is Starbucks posting/regramming pictures on Instagram, it’s carrying that “Starbucks lifestyle” through on Facebook and Twitter with similar photos, messaging and feel. So even though other platforms push more written content, consumers receive the same brand experience.
Choose a Brand Voice
Simply put, your brand voice is how your company “expresses” its messaging. Although it’s important to create great content and publish regularly, without a cohesive and consistent brand voice, you may just end up confusing your followers or discouraging potential consumers. Knowing your audience (see step 1) should make it easier to decide what type of voice your brand should have. Be sure whatever voice you choose appeals to your target audience and that you use it consistently across all social media platforms.
Take for example Airbnb. The brand has positioned itself across all its social platforms as a storyteller, there to share travel and adventure stories and encourage others to do the same. While the end goal is certainly to encourage users to book an Airbnb, their social posts often feel more like following a travel blog than being sold to by a brand.
And while the messaging length can vary throughout the different channels (longer captions on Instagram compared to the very short copy on Twitter), the overarching voice is consistent, encouraging people to explore and be adventurous using Airbnb. This is a great example of a brand that knows what its audience wants to see and keeps its messaging light and simple, always including vivid imagery to showcase the world’s destinations.
Create a Familiar Look
Your profile and header images are likely to make the first impression when consumers see you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks. We suggest you select two or three similarly themed, key images to use consistently across social networks. This will contribute to a consistent brand experience. You want people to instantly recognize you regardless of the platform on which they see you.
If you’re not sure where to begin, try creating a social media style guide. You should already have something similar for your traditional marketing materials, ads and web design – something that outlines everything related to the way your brand is presented, from the required minimum clear space around your logo to your approved typefaces. This should be the foundation for your social media style guide. The look and feel of your social platforms strongly speaks to your brand’s personality, so ensure the imagery put forth on behalf of your brand is coherent.
For example, Nike brands its social networks simplistically with the “Just Do It” tagline and Swoosh trademark graphic the brand is famous for. Maintaining this simple consistency across platforms ensures that consumers have no trouble recognizing the brand on any platform.
Being consistent at anything in life requires proper preparation, active experimentation and commitment by everyone involved. Make sure anyone who will be a part of your social media efforts is trained to understand how to maintain your business’s identity. When a business is noticeably consistent, customers begin to trust the brand and, in turn, are more likely to buy the brand.
Is your brand experience consistent throughout social media? How are you doing it? What are a few ways you think your brand could improve?
This article was originally published on May 14, 2015, and has since been updated.