Where brand guidelines meet social media guidelines

This very public Twitter incident was a good reminder about the importance of social media guidelines. And it got us at sy-ENGAGE thinking…

Where’s the line between brand guidelines and social media guidelines? It’s a very important question for organizations today, for two reasons.

1. Personal brands are so strong. Everyone has a voice, and they don’t always know the implications of that voice/influence/power.

2. Brands are not set in concrete. This has always been true, but again, people have more of a voice than ever before and they have the tools (cameras, graphic design tools, communications channels like Facebook) to effectively create a brand.

It’s a tension between emergence and intention.

Branding says plan everything, be intentional about everything, be united about everything.

Emergence says be present, be scrappy, let the right patterns emerge at the right time and ensure you have the right structures in place to steer those patterns in the right direction. Have the solid intention but also know how to listen and follow.

Engagement (and service-dominant logic) also says people don’t own what they don’t create. Original works are interesting and valuable, but derivative works are often more interesting and arguably more valuable. Mashups or remixes, for example – are they piracy, or are they the best possible sign of brand loyalty.


For example, Camellia and Pooja’s variations on the sy-ENGAGE logo are not strictly “on brand” … is that a good or a bad thing?

So when we develop brand guidelines, there needs to be a seamless segue into social media guidelines. Because in the 21st century it’s not only the marketing department and the design company who create the brand. It’s everyone.

And it goes beyond the visual look and feel; it also includes:

  • What photos we upload
  • What words we use
  • What stories we tell
  • What behaviors we exhibit

It’s our entire culture, and culture is not prescribed from a document. The brand guidelines must be intentional but it must also come from an appreciative observation of reality. And it must address how we do what we do. It must be a living document, that lives, grows and learns with the company.

What examples have you seen of brand guidelines that help shape culture?This very public Twitter incident was a good reminder about the importance of social media guidelines. And it got us at sy-ENGAGE thinking…

Where’s the line between brand guidelines and social media guidelines? It’s a very important question for organizations today, for two reasons.

1. Personal brands are so strong. Everyone has a voice, and they don’t always know the implications of that voice/influence/power.

2. Brands are not set in concrete. This has always been true, but again, people have more of a voice than ever before and they have the tools (cameras, graphic design tools, communications channels like Facebook) to effectively create a brand.

It’s a tension between emergence and intention.

Branding says plan everything, be intentional about everything, be united about everything.

Emergence says be present, be scrappy, let the right patterns emerge at the right time and ensure you have the right structures in place to steer those patterns in the right direction. Have the solid intention but also know how to listen and follow.

Engagement (and service-dominant logic) also says people don’t own what they don’t create. Original works are interesting and valuable, but derivative works are often more interesting and arguably more valuable. Mashups or remixes, for example – are they piracy, or are they the best possible sign of brand loyalty.

Camellia and Pooja from the sy-ENGAGE team
For example, Camellia and Pooja’s variations on the sy-ENGAGE logo are not strictly “on brand” … is that a good or a bad thing?

So when we develop brand guidelines, there needs to be a seamless segue into social media guidelines. Because in the 21st century it’s not only the marketing department and the design company who create the brand. It’s everyone.

And it goes beyond the visual look and feel; it also includes:

  • What photos we upload
  • What words we use
  • What stories we tell
  • What behaviors we exhibit

It’s our entire culture, and culture is not prescribed from a document. The brand guidelines must be intentional but it must also come from an appreciative observation of reality. And it must address how we do what we do. It must be a living document, that lives, grows and learns with the company.

What examples have you seen of brand guidelines that help shape culture?

One thought on “Where brand guidelines meet social media guidelines

  • Amar Trivedi

    Nice one! Just want to add… Brands are not built by companies anymore. They are shaped and defined by consumers.

    To paraphrase, your brand is not yours i.e. not what you want it to be. Rather, your brand is what consumers wants it to be, and will eventually become what they collectively perceive it as.

    The empowered consumer is in control of your brand – that’s the new reality of the social media-enabled internet. Welcome to Web 2.0!

    Reply

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