Ask social media managers about “brand standards” and you might elicit some uncomfortable expressions. Brand standards, created to ensure uniformity with brand messaging and imagery, can sometimes feel like restrictions for creative social development.
“Do I really need to include all these brand logos and elements in every social message?”
The answer (most often) is yes, but don’t let this dampen your spirits. Maintaining a consistent brand identity is vital for long-term business growth, and you can still flex your creative social muscle within brand guidelines. Here are some tips that can help you stretch your brand’s identity to its creative peaks:
Expand on the brand’s story
Remember that the brand’s identity is more than just logos and images. The brand’s narrative must weave throughout any social campaigns, with each message calling back to a larger initiative or point-of-view. Focus less on the message-specific requirements and more on the overarching story.
Creative strategist Todd Metrokin argues that companies don’t own their brand stories, but add to them. Marketers are valuable assets in expanding that story without jeopardizing the brand’s identity with its customers.
Consider these story-expanding ideas when building your social campaigns:
- Create a campaign around a specific feeling. What emotions are directly tied to the brand’s identity? Do they appear confident in the face of uncertainty? Play on that emotion within social, and don’t be afraid to challenge the customer’s preconceptions about industry topics.
- Show the aftermath. B2B businesses are adept at sharing case studies and whitepapers, but the narrative is also strengthened through direct response with satisfied clients. You can still direct users to brand-approved assets, but you’ll also open your networks to new followers by including previous clients within your messaging.
Provide a channel-specific experience
While the brand’s identity must be maintained across all social platforms, there are still opportunities to craft channel-unique experiences within brand standards. How the brand is perceived on Twitter shouldn’t be the same as on Facebook or LinkedIn – so don’t post the same content across all channels.
Social media strategist Chris Syme notes that “social media channels have develop specific personalities – not because marketers have made it so, but because users have made it so.” Even if the landing page content is the same across the social campaign, each message should align the brand’s voice best for the specific social network.
Try these tips to promote variety between channels with branded content:
- Create variety in visuals. Twitter content can be supplemented with vibrant images, while LinkedIn posts would benefit from a companion SlideShare presentations. Take full advantage of each network’s visual capabilities with branded imagery.
- Cross-promote to build network awareness. If the brand content is exactly the same on all channels, your customers only need to engage with one of them to receive the complete story. Instead, tease content between channels – the audience might appreciate seeing a new side of the brand.
Recruit internal ambassadors
Brand voice isn’t limited to the social communications from company accounts. It flows throughout the company’s workforce, and every internal subject expert can influence it. Socially-active internal influencers are likely already aware of brand compliance standards, so they require less upfront training before publishing brand-approved content.
IBM’s Bill Chamberlin notes that any employee social advocacy program should be long-term and sustainable. “With employees being the most trusted sources for customers, it’s vital that your company’s employees are encouraged to participate in advocating for your brand,” Chamberlin added.
Keep these thoughts in mind when recruiting internal ambassadors to share your content:
- There will still be training. Even if your ambassadors go to sleep with the brand guidelines each night, there will still be need for training on how your social strategy maintains brand compliance.
- Ensure their accounts are also brand-complaint. If they are to become official spokespeople of the brand on social, audit their accounts to weave in brand voice. There are also new FTC regulations governing disclosures from personal accounts, so make sure your ambassadors know the rules.
Brand guidelines might initially present a tactical hurdle to social media execution, but that doesn’t mean your strategy should also be limited. Instead, challenge yourself to expand the brand further with social – you might even convince the company to embrace brand fluidity over time.
Have you developed a social campaign under strict brand guidelines? What did you do to promote creative content within them?