Avoid frustration with our Social Media branding guide

Let’s face it: many of us need a social media branding guide.

The internet has made business portable, efficient, and fast. We transact at the speed of light. Well, at least at speed of our internet connection (let’s not forget dial-up).

But some days, it feels complicated. In the beginning, there was Friendster. Then MySpace… until it withered. Facebook arrived for college students. Then, it took off like a rocket, eventually winning over our parents and grandparents (awkward). Twitter made us holler, laugh, cry, and jump on soapboxes with no more than 140 characters, including hashtags. Instagram made everyone a photographer of kittens, puppies, babies, and selfies.

It didn’t stop. Evites slowly faded from memory. Now, we can have followers on Yelp? And what the hell is Ello?

If you feel overwhelmed by options, you’re in the right place.

To help orient you in this growing, changing environment, here’s our social media branding guide for some of our favorite sites. We’ve also including traffic based on monthly visitors for comparison.

1. Facebook (1.71B monthly visitors)
This platform allows us to connect with friends, family, and strangers. We can create events, share photos, videos, links, and files, as well as send messages. One drawback: an ever-changing array of privacy settings.

Tip: Brands can create “pages” that allow business and consumers to connect with each other and share content. It’s helpful for a growing business when it can assume all of its U.S. customers use Facebook.

2.YouTube (1B monthly visitors)
YouTube allows users to share videos while letting viewers comment and thumb up/down the clip. YouTube shares each video’s number of views, which helps provide a self-promoting function: how much more likely will someone watch a video with 50M+ views compared to a clip with only 50K?

Tip: Brands can create ads that are are uploaded for free and shared by consumers, often with great success. Miss the funny commercial that aired once during the Superbowl? It’s likely on YouTube. Due to the lack of content-based restrictions, brands are also able to be a bit more, shall we say, off-color and less formal.

3. Instagram (500M monthly visitors)
Instagram (owned by Facebook) allows users to share photos and videos with each other and through other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr.

Tip: Instagram offers an underutilized opportunity for brands to explore and expand their visual identity and personality, with some great suggestions here. Whether sharing behind the scenes photos or creating contests, Instagram offers a more informal environment for brands to play.

4. Twitter (313M monthly visitors)
Brevity is indeed the art of wit with a tweet that can inspire or anger a group of consumers. Users “tweet” text and images in 140 characters or less, and may tweet “at” someone with a simple use of the “@” sign. Keep the tags brief, however, because they count against your character limit!

Tip: The power of a tweet can be impactful, and one key to success is ongoing engagement. In other words, don’t create the account, tweet, then ignore consumer tweets and retweets! For examples of brands successfully engaging with their base, check out this post.

5. Reddit (234M monthly visitors)
Effectively an online community bulletin board, reddit allows users to share and organize links and content. Users rank and vote on posts, which changes the order that posts appear.

Tip: Because users control how content gains momentum, this is a tough market for branding. But it can be done well. The key is quality content that appeals to your customer, whether through reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” or using humor to appeal to your consumer base. Because success depends upon the online community, perhaps it also requires letting go of the outcome.

6. Vine (200M monthly views)
Ever think a 6-second looped video would catch on? Well, that’s exactly what this platform (owned by Twitter) allows, usually through a series of separate instances that are then stitched together into a six second loop. It collapses time-lapse video into short bursts. For a quick tutorial, check this post.

Tip: This platform is for short, sweet, direct messages. Or not, as Airbnb showed with a film made entirely of user-submitted vines. One benefit is Vine’s focus on visual imagery and sound instead of text. Plus, the barrier to entry is low: viewers do not anticipate 6-second clips to be heavily produced. In fact, ask your customer base to contribute, as Airbnb did. For other ideas, check out this post.

7. Tumblr (115M monthly views)
Considered by some to be a micro-blog, this platform allows for sharing any content in a format that can mirror a simple website. It allows for “followers” and messaging, as well as some basic sorting of account content.

Tip: For some startups, tumblr might serve as a low-cost informational website until you are ready to build a stronger presence. Beyond that, its flexibility and audience of creative users allows you to supplement your visual identity, particularly through photography, video, and more off-the-cuff, experimental content that might not appeal to consumers on a more traditional social network.

8. Flickr (112M monthly views)
Flickr is one of the original photo- and video-sharing platforms whose purpose is to make image-oriented content as widely available as possible. One fun aspect is how Flickr allows viewers to create notes and tags on other users’ content which provide an alternative method for searching. This feature gives the public, similar to reddit, some control over the way content is distributed.

Tip: Flickr has provided some of its own helpful suggestions for businesses using it to create a web presence. One suggestion is to show your brand’s informal personality (similar to Tumblr and Vine). This is not the place for highly produced content, or an online catalogue.

9. LinkedIn (106M monthly views)
Considered to be a “professional Facebook,” LinkedIn is used to build an online professional identity and create professional networks. Users create profiles that often resemble resumes, listing education, skills, employment history, and accomplishments. Users may post articles, and companies create profiles and distribute content directly to business professionals.

Tip: Although one might question whether any one actually reads articles posted on LinkedIn, think again. According to one report, Coca-Cola’s digital magazine has a greater click-through rate than content posted on Facebook. Of course, the audience and content are different: more professional, business-oriented content is appropriate for LinkedIn, while social content and funny memes should be saved for other platforms.

10. Pinterest (100M monthly views)
Pinterest allows users to share images and videos by “pinning” content to their own “board” or their friends’ boards as way to “save” ideas, including recipes, design, fashion, architecture, travel, parenting, wedding planning, and even taxidermy. Similar to the way reddit and Flickr function, Pinterest users control movement of content through sharing.

Tip: For brands of consumer goods, this is an incredibly useful platform. According to one study cited here, 87% of Pinterest users have purchased something because of something on Pinterest. A business doesn’t actually need a Pinterest account, but simply allow images on their website to be pinned on Pinterest.

11. Snapchat (200M active users)
Okay, so we cheated slightly with this one. Snapchat is a messaging app, similar to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, except with Snapchat, messages and images disappear after a few seconds of being read. This makes the messenger popular with teenagers (and not parents).

Tip: When you need to reach a younger audience, pay attention to a platform popular among that group. For now, it’s Snapchat, so snap on it and explore content that will connect with your younger audience. For one idea, take note from 16 Handles, which used the platform to distribute coupons.

By providing a list of options in a social media branding guide, we do not suggest that your business needs to be on every platform. Start with a focused efforts on 2-3, while knowing what else is available as you grow. When exploring options, a great tool that we love is Namecheckr. This fantastic site will tell you instantly whether or not a particular name is available across multiple social media sites. This removes a lot of pain so you can avoid searching across platforms one by one.

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