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A social media style guide is only necessary in a narrow technical sense, as much of what the other style guides include applies to external / public communication, of which social media is a mere element. However, it is always useful to have particular protocols and concrete guidelines so there is no confusion.
Social Media What, Where, How
First, the value of social media is the conversation thread. Anything that can encourage these to generate and for customers, stakeholders, and the public to participate is usually good. Of course all other style guidelines should prevail.
The what of social media is more of a which, and that is usually best determined by goals. The most relevant goals, from an SEO perspective, should be relevance and access. This means those social media for whom others can easily discover and engage, and of course, that show up in search engine results pages.
This usually varies across organizations, but there is a range of 1-6 networks and/or platforms that make sense. As well resources are needed. The media can be categorized by various functions, such as: chat, image/video sharing, audio/video calls/conferencing, blogging, status/link updates/general social, etc. Obviously there is overlap and many platforms trying to add the functionality of their rivals in other categories.
The most common platforms (and therefore the most relevant in terms of raw numbers, though market demographics may indicate better foci), include:
- Facebook Messenger
- Google Plus
Relevance, Relevance, Relevance
Relevance for the potential customer means acting appropriate for a brand, which means occasional, relevant messaging and also availability for interaction. The content needs to be brief and in context. Talking for the sake of talking won't work out well. Not being authentic in communication threads also turns off people and may develop brand backlash. Here are some findings/guidelines:
- For Image/Video sharing there needs to be very good creativity, very brief messages, in context and relevant. This may be the most difficult social media category to perform well in, but it can pay off in widespread messages.
- For Chat/Calls, brands are accepted if they keep their messaging one of pull, not push. Being available for Skype or Line messaging can be convenient for potential or actual customers, as long as the focus is on transactions rather than social.
- For Blog/Status this is usually acceptable since people seek out affiliation. Careful with advertising on these platforms as they will not be cost-effective unless focused. But keeping a well-stocked facebook page or Twitter account can be effective at displaying professional behavior.
Answer the Phone
If accounts are created, and more importantly, listed as ways to communicate, ensure that the chat message or phone call is answered in a reasonable amount of time. One can accept only text and does not have to support voice or video calls for these platforms, and therefore effectively use chat as another asynchronous textual communications channel (second to email).
Check your Email
Turn on email alerts for specific kinds of communication, such as messages addressed to the organization's social media account(s). Don't rely on apps providing alerts, but have some secondary messaging system in place, which could be email, chat (.e.g, a Telegram Bot), or something else.
Text, Text, Text
The text is the key part here, even with voice being popular. For example, maybe it isn't a habit to have Skype on all the time (and it certainly drains batteries), but configuring skype to forward inbound text messages as SMS to a phone, and be able to reply via SMS, is a great way of being available through a channel potential customers may want to use.
SEO Longform and Links
Of special interest is the kind of link-building and link-following from content (either URL or complete) that is posted to social media.
- Links to Articles (posted on organization website)
- Facebook status update (and sponsored post), Twitter status update, Google Plus post
- Article reposts (copied/pasted with some edit on 3rd party websites)
- LinkedIn, Medium, WordPress.com
Duplicate content -- to Google at least -- is not the same content on different websites but the same content on different pages of the same site. Therefore the key is to ensure Google is aware which copy of a given piece of content is the canonical one. They simple way is that all non-canonical copies link back to the original, with text such as:
Style guides are just that, guides or guidelines to maintain a particular style of presentation. Guides instruct on correct usage. They are essential for maintaining consistency of an organizations and brands presentation across various media. Because of a proliferation of media, as well as media-specific goals on the Internet (aka search and social discovery), style guides have increased in importance and complexity. I prefer to include technical detail in style guides as it can help provide information that makes all the difference in achieving the implementation and ongoing relevance and adherence to the desired style guide.
Complete Set of Style Guides
Jump ahead if you are looking for something in particular, otherwise the discussion continues below.
Note: these style guides are incomplete and in-progress (continually)
- Contact information
- Identity style guide
- Image style guide
- Social Media style guide
- Usability style guide
- Video style guide
- Writing style guide
Background and Discussion
There are a variety of style guides for brands and organizations (that is, organizational brands and brand brands). The most well-known kind of style guide is a writing style guide, including punctuation, English preference (American, Commonwealth, etc.), voice, capitalization, place names, etc. However, corporate or brand style guides are now well known in terms of basic brand imagery, colors, typography, logos, etc. Beyond that we can focus on things like image style guides, video style guides, as well as usability style guides.
Brand Style Guides and Organizational Information
Style guides are internal information which help shape both internal and external communication and as such are a part of corporate communication. I taught many semesters of Organizational Communication courses at the university level and found Paul Argenti's take on it the most comprehensive and clear, from a single source. Unfortunately his book Corporate Communication is ridiculously expensive, and to be frank I haven't looked at it in 10 years, so who knows if we've fundamentally changed as a species (likely not). The third edition worked for me, and one can pick up a copy for about 0.01 USD + 5.00 USD shipping on Amazon. Just be sure to supplement with a reasonable approach to social media and Internet marketing in general. For the more academically inclined, he has published over the years as an academic.
Style Guides and SEO Guides
Modern style guides, as intimated above, need to be aware at a fundamental level of the search and social optimization requirements. This needs to be baked in and can also provide useful information as to not only the how but the why in terms of style choices and adherence to guidelines.
Style Guide-Driven Development (SDD)
There is even now a thing called Style Guide-Driven Development (SDD) which basically helps a designer and developer out quite a bit, as generally shrinking the design exploration space is a huge help when trying to get something done.
I would suggest even more so, that a styleguide acts as a strategic as well as tactical guide (though it can also be informed by strategy, and thereby evolve incrementally or evolutionarily. All device and interface development as well as any new initiatives should be informed by style guides at various levels.
Style Guides and Web Design and Redesign
Brad Frost makes a compelling argument for style guides in terms of web design. He has a slightly different list, but makes pretty much the same argument in the following video:
List of Style Guides
I'm going to put my style guides up on the web. This is normally something closely held, but it may help others and frankly organizational change is normally so difficult. Even if someone were giving out gold, if only an organization would change its business process and workflow, most organizations would be too hidebound to take advantage.
The first on our list of style guides is not a style guide but core metadata of an organization, namely an identity and contact guide. After that the normal identity/brand style guide, writing style guide and other issues.
Note: these style guides are incomplete and in-progress (continually)
- Contact information - This has basic textual information in terms of names, numbers, addresses and the like
- Identity style guide - This is the core brand persona in terms of names, logos, colors, typography, as well as taglines, basic brand and/or organizational values and goals
- Image style guide - All images, diagrams, figures, including photography guidelines
- Social Media style guide - And we wouldn't be complete without a social media style guide. In this case how to interact on other sites that are generally social
- Usability style guide - This sets the tone for tradeoffs between functionality, usability, simplicity, etc., and may include specific technologies or techniques
- Video style guide - Guidelines for video production and the outcomes objectives
- Writing style guide - All writing in whatever format (from brief text ads to complete manuscripts)
Note that all style guides must be regularly revisited in the face of changes which are taking place within and outside the organization.
According to Freire (2007) there are Five Archetypes of Organizational Culture. Naturally, these cultures are based on, developed and perpetuated by leadership. Those he names: Customer-Centric - The Customer is everything One-Team - Oneness is everything Innovation - Learning is everything Achievement - Getting the job done is everything People-First - Our people are everything […]