Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of my friends creating their own brands and launching online shops and services. If you’re working to build a new company, you need a presence on social media. When my friends talk to me about their plans, I’ve been asking them:
“What’s your social media strategy?”
One of the fundamental steps for developing a social media strategy is deciding on your brand’s identity, since this will shape aaaall of the content that you post relating to your business. The visual aesthetic, the tone of your writing, and the content that you offer to your followers are all part of your brand identity.
Let’s put it this way: Have you ever found a small business where you love their products or services, but won’t give them a follow because their content just isn’t all that? It’s probably because they don’t have a strong brand identity.
So how do you establish your brand identity?
Determine the message that you want your brand to convey
I’ve watched enough Mad Men to know that marketing is all about story-telling. What story are you telling through your content? What does your brand “say”? When someone scrolls through your Insta-feed, what will they understand about your brand?
Let’s pretend we have a skincare company: the primary content of our posts will be the products that we sell. It’s the secondary content that tells the story of who our brand is. We could use plants and nature imagery to show that our brand is focused on natural ingredients, sustainable products, and clean living. We could use close-ups of manicured nails holding our products, flatlays with gold accessories, and emphaizing the packaging to show that our brand is luxurious.
The images below are pulled from a stock photo website, but show how the same product can be represented in varying ways to establish different brands.
Our company can convey different messages depending on the way we choose to market our product. The message that we choose to convey becomes our brand.
Outline your target audience
Part of determining your brand is deciding who you want to buy your product. The best thing about social media marketing is that you don’t have to have wide marketing appeal – you can target a particular niche and make that your brand.
Imagine the type of person that would follow your brand on social media, and the type of person that would buy your product. Create a profile for them. Are they more male or female? What age range? What professional field are they likely to be in? Where do they live? What are their hobbies and interests?
Let’s go back to our skincare company. Brand A will be our nature-based brand, and Brand B will be our luxurious brand. With skincare, we can assume that our primary buyer demographic will be women. Brand A might appeal more to an older demographic, who are concerned with what ingredients are used, and have more interest in sustainability and clean living. Brand B’s luxury marketing could appeal more to teens who are interested in aspirational lifestyle and social media trends. While these are generalizations, they still give us an idea for our target demographic. You be as broad or as specific as you want. Brand A’s buyer probably owns house plants, and is likely to be vegetarian or vegan. Brand B’s buyer might have a skincare Instagram, and does face masks while watching teen dramas on Netflix for #SelfcareSunday. You get the idea.
The more you know your target demographic, the better you can establish your brand within their niche.
Use the info you’ve gathered to outline a style guide
Once you’ve got an outline of your brand’s message and target demographic, you can start developing a style guide. I’ll be sharing a post soon about what a Social Media Style Guide is, but here’s the Cliffnotes version: It’s your visual and written “aesthetic”.
Visually, it’s the subject matter of your content, both what‘s being pictured and how it’s pictured (colour scheme, photo composition, filter). It also includes fonts, colours, logos, and graphic style. All the content needs to feel like it is part of a cohesive unit, contributing to the same “story” that your brand is telling (as mentioned at the beginning of this post).
In writing, it’s the way that your brand “speaks” to its audience. Tone of voice is a big part of this – are you peppy, sarcastic, informative, conversational…? Also consider what language is acceptable for your brand (do you swear?), how you use punctuation and emojis, and any other elements of text that you find relevant.
Once more, let’s look at our skincare company: Brand A uses lots of nature imagery, and a dominant colour scheme of greens, blues, and brown. Maybe they use a filter to saturate their pictures with rich colour. Their captions are informative and approachable, and they don’t often use emojis (remember the older target demographic?). Brand B’s luxury visual branding is emphasized by a dominant colour scheme of white, gold, and beige, which we often see in branding for luxury goods. Their pictures havev the exposure hightened, and maybe a trendy filter added. Their captions are also informative, but maybe a bit more detached. Maybe they throw a “bitch” into the caption every now and then, but never in a derogatory way. They use emojis, especially the crown.
There are a lot of elements that go into creating a brand. The accessibility of social media marketing means that, for small businesses, it’s likely to be the only form of marketing used. We’ve seen how social media has allowed businesses to boom purely from online word of mouth. Glossier has achieved cult status purely from tapping into digital communities, and The Ordinary has harnessed Tik Tok and Instagram trends to become a staple in skincare routines. By establishing your business on social media with a strong, cohesive brand, you will be better equipped to build the online following that your business needs to grow and succeed.