Design 101: Social Media Branding For Small Businesses

Social media is essential for every business, no matter its size. But small businesses in particular can benefit from its power to increase brand awareness and engagement at a relatively low cost. And that’s why it’s important that they master social media branding.

Before we get into discussing branding and social media branding in particular, let’s look at some of the stats on this marketing powerhouse. 

  • By 2020 it was estimated that there were over 3.8 billion social media users around the world. 
  • Over 80% of consumers say that they’re more likely to consider products and services from the brands that they like and follow. 
  • Almost 90% of marketers have found that social media improves brand exposure and 75% say that it has also increased the amount of traffic. 
  • More than 50% of marketers who have implemented the use of social media marketing for a period of at least 2 years have said that it has improved sales. 
  • 77.6% of small businesses use social media for promotions.

Across the board Facebook and Instagram seem to be the most popular platforms for small businesses. But depending on your niche, and where your audience prefers to hang out, you may prefer to tackle a few others too. Whatever your social media stack ends up being, social media branding is the key to increasing your brand awareness, driving sales, traffic and more. So let’s take a look at the best practices, tips and strategies to keep in mind.

What is branding all about? 

Before we get into the specifics of social media branding, let’s take a step back and look at branding as a whole. When you hear the word, the first thing that may come to mind might be your logo and how you use it. But it’s so much more. Your branding refers to all the parts and processes that tell your story to your customers and potential customers.

And it leads to them perceiving you, and what you have to offer, in specific ways. And whether you’re working on branding for a person or a business (of any size) this rule still applies. Through branding, you have the power to create the perception people will have about your brand.

Source: Medium

Strategies and best practices for social media branding 

Now let’s start looking at the different ways in which you can build and reinforce your brand through social media. 

Choosing the right networks 

In order to build and capitalize on social media branding, it’s important to choose the right platforms to set up shop on. Even with great branding and engaging content if you’re not on the platforms your audience is you won’t be getting much of an ROI. At the same time, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin if you’re not realistically going to be able to post across a few platforms. As a best practice, try this approach:

  • Set up profiles across different platforms, and upload your profile picture, bio, and cover image if applicable. This way you’ve secured your desired username across different platforms and have accounts ready to use should you.
  • Focus on a couple of platforms that your audience and competitors are most active on, and actively post there. On the other platforms, you can include a line in your bio/description to mention which platforms you’re active on.
  • When you have enough bandwidth, try posting to the platforms you’re not typically active on to see if you can connect with new audiences and potential customers.
  • If you’re B2B then LinkedIn is always a good choice to reach businesses. And Facebook and Instagram can be very effective across the board, and for ecommerce brands in particular.

As your brand grows you may eventually want to have multiple accounts on certain platforms. For example, a Twitter account for marketing. And another for customer service. Or ones which are targeted towards the different audiences for different product lines. Or even a separate account for a beloved brand mascot.

Source: Ripl
Stay consistent on social media 

Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. What would you think if you saw a brand presenting itself in different ways across different social media platforms? Confused? A lack of trust? Likely the case because everybody likes consistency. When your social media profiles are consistent, it’ll help build up a more positive impression for your target audience. To that end, 60% of US millennials like and expect consistency when they deal with a brand whether it is on their phones, in store, or online. Here are few ways to achieve this:

  • Choose a professional profile image – your logo is a great option. And use it across platforms. Just be sure to size it according to each platform’s specs. 
  • Use the same imagery, colors, shapes and elements, as well as fonts. Though you can have variations of the same design for your cover, you want to remain consistent in the parts that make up the whole.
  • Stick to the same types of phrases and tone. Though you may need to change your caption length and style based on the particular platform, you can still build a strong connection to your brand. 

The important thing here, across the board, is that you’re trying to embody and reinforce your brand values.

Optimize for each platform

Now as much as you want to be consistent in how you represent your brand, there is a small catch. You also need to tailor your profile and creatives based on each platform to a certain extent. They each come with certain restrictions and guidelines. When it comes to things like your bio, and describing your brand and business, each platform will vary slightly. So you’ll need to make sure that you’re getting everything across no matter how low the character limit is. When you’ve got less room to explain, keep your bio high-level. And where you can expand, try to add in a bit more about the value you create as a brand.

This will also occur with your visuals. Some brands choose to slightly alter the style of their logo, for example, based on the given specs for a particular platform. They may also do so to better speak to the interests of the different audiences they’re trying to engage. No matter what you play around with in your social media branding, try to make sure that it still clearly represents your brand. You need to maintain that common thread so that people can immediately identify your brand across platforms. The unmistakable logo and branding strategy of Nike is a good example for small businesses to learn from. They may be a very large scale business, but they got there by maintaining consistency.

Source: Brafton
Use colors strategically 

We’ve often stressed how important color psychology is in branding and marketing. And while your brand may have set colors, it’s important to consider the additional colors you’ll use to create a palette for your social media. The colors that you choose will inevitably evoke certain emotions. And create certain impressions about your brand. So it’s important that you make your choices intentionally. Consider these questions:

  • What is the tone you want your social media profiles to have? Warm and friendly, perhaps? Or formal and professional?
  • Which colors will complement the types of images you’ll be focusing on?
  • Do you want your feed to have dynamic pops of color, or to be consistently monochromatic?
  • Who is it that you’re trying to connect with and sell to? What colors resonate most with them?

Now you can’t use every color on the color wheel, but you can shortlist the ones that help create the impression you want to make. And then you can play around with different combinations until you land your palette. No matter what colors you choose to go with, stay consistent across all your platforms. And, remember this needs to apply to both your online and offline presence so that you are always reinforcing your brand identity.

Source: London Image Institute
Know your audience 

When it comes to social media branding, a huge part of being successful is knowing your audience. This allows you to build a branding and content strategy that will resonate with them. Otherwise, you’d just be using a blanket strategy that could prove to be a hit and miss. And a huge waste of resources. As a small business no doubt you’re looking to be as efficient as possible. 

So consider each of the platforms you’ll be setting up profiles on, and posting actively to. And consider your goals for them. Who are you trying to connect with on Twitter vs Instagram, for example? While you’ll still want your social media branding to be consistent overall, you can tweak your tone and messaging to be tailored to each platform. Your Twitter account could be used to target millennial parents for instance. And your Instagram account could be used to network and collaborate with other brands. 

The post above is an example of how Chipotle uses engaging memes on their Instagram account. They do this because they’re trying to reach a particular type of customer on Instagram – one that loves humour. By thoughtfully creating each meme they build up anticipation for them, and engagement. 

To create your own social media personas, so that you can post content that connects, try the following: 

  • Jot down the different types of people who follow and engage with each of your social media accounts. Be sure to include notes on their characteristics. If you don’t have much of a following you can take reference from competitors and other brands you want to emulate.
  • Try asking questions in the form of surveys and polls through Story posts to gather more insight on your audience.
  • Evaluate which of your audience segments is the largest on each platform and will be most worthwhile in connecting with. Try tailoring your messaging to them.
Keep your content branded but unique

Automation goes a long way to help you run your social media profiles more efficiently. For example, scheduling posts and developing and using branded templates can be big timesavers. But they can make things seem less engaging too. If there’s not enough thought put into the actual substance of each post everything will start seeming very cookie cutter.

So be sure to mix up your post types and to try out different types of content from time to time as well. By experimenting you can figure out what really resonates with your audience and then focus on creating more of that kind of content. And you can do this all while keeping things consistently branded. Whether that means subtly including your logo, or incorporating branded layouts that use certain elements, shapes or images.

Quality over quantity 

When you’re working on developing your social media branding it’s important to be laser focused on your brand identity and your target audience. You can’t be everything to everyone. And you shouldn’t try to. A massive social media following doesn’t amount to much if your followers are not engaged. As a small business brand, remember that your most important goal is to leverage your social media to build connections with customers and prospects. Not just followers for the sake of followers. 

So rather than looking at vanity metrics like the number of your followers, focus on the quality of followers that you gain. Are they engaging with you? Do they really appreciate your brand? Are they buying from you and introducing your brand to more people? There is no doubt that having a large number of followers can get you business. But only if they are genuine followers who want to buy from you or promote your brand. When you have a following that is highly focused on your brand, you’ll also get more out of each post you publish. Because you’ll be catering to an audience that wants to hear what you have to say and wants to know what you have to offer.

Source: Brafton
Audit, tweak, repeat

Social media branding like any other kind of branding isn’t about one offs. You’ve got to keep returning to your social media strategies every so often to measure what’s working and what isn’t. And then keep course correcting from there. If you can set some time aside to do a deep dive into your social metrics once a quarter, you’ll be able to get a clear sense of how to tweak and tailor your social media presence to increase engagement. 

And it’ll also give you some time to look ahead to upcoming special events and occasions that you can build campaigns and content around. For instance, when a particular holiday is coming up it’s a great time to temporarily update your profile and cover images. Apart from the content that you’ll be posting, updating your profile will signal to your followers that your brand is dynamic and in touch with things that resonate with them.

A few things to keep in mind when doing a social media audit:

  • Make sure that your profile images, cover images, and posts are consistent with your brand style guide. And look for ways in which they could be improved. Rather than relying on personal hunches, look to your data on the content that performed best/worst.
  • Read through your bios, and descriptions to make sure that they all still ring true. And see if there’s anything you can make more concise or compelling.
  • Take a look at your post schedule and see when you’re getting the most engagement. Tweak as needed.

Social media branding will increase your ROI 

Regardless of the scale of your business, devoting some resources to developing social media branding will go a long way. The most successful brands out there are proof of this. And if you are just getting started, don’t be put off by how much effort all of this may seem to take. While the bigger milestones may be a ways off, you’ll be seeing increases in everything from brand awareness and engagement, to customer loyalty sooner than you think!