Learn how to create a social media style guide an essential tool that will help you ensure all your online content is created according to a single consistent style.

Think of the most successful social media accounts, and even your own favourites, and you’ll likely see that each of them has a fairly consistent style. Often, you can recognise the origin of the content before you even see the by-line. This is due to consistency of style, one of the cornerstones of a thriving social media account.  A style guide is an essential tool that will help you ensure all your content is created according to a single consistent style, no matter who is creating it.

Key Components of a Social Media Style Guide

There’s no single right way to create a style guide. It all depends on the kind of content you create, who your audience is, and what’s important to your brand. Including the following core components is a good start.

Note that when writing a style guide, it’s important to be thorough and descriptive. Remember that one of the goals of the guide is that anyone should be able to read it and then write social media content that fits with your brand persona. They need as much information as you can give them.

Also, be sure to include notes that are specific to each different platform you’re using, as your style may change slightly on various sites. For instance, emojis and hashtags are great for Instagram and Twitter, but not so much on LinkedIn.

The key components of a social media style guide include:

Brand voice and tone

Spelling, grammar and punctuation

Content formatting

Multimedia content, colours and fonts

Emoji and hashtag usage

Brand voice and tone

How do you want your brand to be perceived? The answer to that question should set the voice and tone for your social media accounts. For instance, think about whether you want to be seen as:

  • Young and hip, or mature and steady
  • Casual versus formal or professional
  • Cheerful and upbeat, versus deadpan, sarcastic, or cynical
  • Adults-only, or PG

Not sure how to approach this question? Have a look at the content you’ve published in the past, and consider what you like and don’t like about it. Another option is to look at competitors and other accounts you admire for hints—but avoid copying another brand’s style too closely. It’s important to establish your own unique voice, rather than be seen as a copycat.

Some brands adopt a parody style, such as Lidl in their counterpoint to the John Lewis Christmas advert.

It’s important that your online and offline communications re consistent and share the same brand voice and tone, so ensure your organisation looks and sounds the same online as it does offline.

Spelling, grammar and punctuation

This section of a style guide is typically brief and to the point, rather than being descriptive. All you need here is to make a few simple decisions and then list what you decide. Don’t forget that grammar and punctuation, in particular, can affect your voice and tone.

  • UK spelling versus US
  • Use of prepositions. For instance: Who do you work with? versus With whom do you work?
  • Oxford comma: yes or no?

Content formatting

Developing a consistent format helps is important because it helps with the instant-recognition factor. Formatting is mostly about what your content looks like on the page, rather than what it actually says.

For instance:

  • When to use title case, lower case, or caps lock
  • Length of sentences and paragraphs.
  • Where emoji and hashtags are used; for instance, at the end of sentences or paragraphs, or at the end of the content.

Multimedia content, colours and fonts

Social media content is highly visual in nature, so this part of the style guide is particularly important. Multimedia typically includes images, video clips, and any other visual content you include in social media posts.

This is likely to include:

  • Guidelines for colours and fonts used in infographics.
  • Use of colour in images and graphics. Are you going for vibrant and colourful, or a more professional aesthetic?
  • The types of people you want to depict. For instance, adults, teens, or kids, depending on the age group your brand is for; or executive style versus street style, if you’re in fashion. Within your range, also remember to be mindful of diversity when including images of people.
  • Whether or not user-generated content is highlighted. If you’re sharing content from fans and others, how closely does it need to conform to your style guide?

Emoji and hashtag usage

Emojis are great for adding some fun to your social media content and hashtags are a handy way to both categorise content and help boost your visibility. In both cases, it’s important to be consistent and thoughtful about how they’re used.

Liberal use of both emojis and hashtags can help your account seem more friendly and approachable, but it’s easy to veer into looking disorganised with this approach. On the other hand, avoiding them altogether might make your brand seem staid or severe.

For hashtags, be sure to keep a list of all hashtags that you’re using in brand campaigns and other advertising and update accordingly when older hashtags are retired.

Keep it Up-to-Date

Your brand will evolve and change over time, so remember to update your social media style guide accordingly. Think of this as a “living document” that evolves just as your brand does, to ensure it always meets the needs of both your brand and your customers.

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