Many organizations have brand identity guidelines for designers, art directors and writers in traditional media. Yet social media professionals operate in a less static more personal medium. They need an extension of these standards that recognizes the more personal, conversational, social aspect of marketing in social media. In this new medium brands are acting like and interacting with people. Because of this I have created a model for social media brand identity with elements drawn from the concept of personal identify in psychology and social identity theory. You can use the template below to develop your Brand Social ID that will help to guide the visual and written brand narrative told through brand social media channels.
In psychology, Identity (ID) is the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and expressions that make a person or group. In this case, your Brand is acting as a person so you first want to assign it a Personal Identity made up of these elements. Then identify the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and expressions that make up your Buyer’s Identity (ID). Obviously, these should be compatible. They don’t have to be an exact match, but there should be enough connections to form an attraction like in a real personal relationship – the social aspect. Psychologists describe personal identity as the things that make a person unique while, sociologists describe social identity as the collection of group memberships that help define the individual. Brands that become communities can become one of the memberships that help define their audience or buyers.
When social media strategist and content marketing creators understand these two Personal IDs they can form a bond through consistent visual and written story told in the social media channels where their buyers are active. Psychologists believe stories are fundamental to social interaction so these meeting places and exchanges will begin to form connections. Micro connections through the narratives customized to each social channel overtime establishes a group Social Identity built around brand community. When you connect and co-develop stories with your buyers in this way the Group Social ID can build strong brand loyalty. Perhaps this connection could grow to become “loyalty beyond reason” as Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi calls brands that are Lovemarks. It seems that we keep rediscovering and have to remind ourselves of the power of stories in a business context.
This Brand Social ID model follows a three-step process explained in social identity theory (illustrated at the bottom of the template). Social Identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group memberships. The groups people belong to are an important source of pride and self-esteem giving them a feeling of belonging. To increase self-image people are motivated to enhance the status of the group. To do this they Categorize groups, Identify with one and then Compare and favor that group over others in the same category. This can happen in many ways including abilities (artistic versus scientific), design preference (contemporary versus country), team loyalty (Eagles versus Cowboys), and brands (Apple versus Microsoft).
A Brand’s Social ID should be informed by the organization’s vision, mission and goals to make up the personal identity of the brand. What are the distinctive characteristics or attributes of the brand? These make up a brand’s Qualities. What are the opinions or convictions of the organization that instill confidence, faith and trust in employees, investors and customers? These are brand Beliefs. What organized pattern of behavior would best convey the character of the brand? This is brand Personality. Are there important visual elements of the brand such as colors, logos, fonts, image style? These are visual components that make up brand Look. How would you describe brand voice or manner and form of words and phrases in written communication? This is brand Expression. Finally, capture main offerings as explicit proposals to specified people. These are brand Offers.
The Buyer Social ID is similar, yet from a slightly different perspective. This is informed by the target audience’s personal vision, values, mission and goals in a business to consumer context (B2C) or informed by their organization’s vision, values, mission and goals in a business to business context (B2B). Describe the distinctive characteristics and attributes of the person (Qualities), the things they feel are good, right or valuable (Beliefs), signs of their character or patterns of behavior (Personality), favored qualities in style and appearance (Look), and preferred manner or form of communication (Expression). Capture the clear requirements that are necessary or very important to this buyer (Needs). Often needs come out of complications, obstacles or pain points that cause tension. Building your brand narrative around these and positioning your products and services as a solution to release that tension can be very powerful. I suggest following a Five Act formula that my colleague and I have found to be effective in Super Bowl Ads and Viral Marketing Videos. If you have a completed a buyer persona this could be helpful in completing the Buyer Social ID.
Does your Brand Social ID match your Buyer Social ID? If these are significantly off in key areas you many have to adjust the personality elements of the brand. Or perhaps you need to realign your target market to buyer’s who have more elements in common with the brand. As brand social media strategist and content creators follow this Social Media Brand ID they will help the consumer move through the three-step socialization process. The brand narrative in social media will lead potential customers into Categorizing the brand personality and offering, Identify as belonging to the brand community, and as a member of that social group start to compare the brand favorably over competitors. Having a Brand Social ID will help to guide all social media content creation and buyer engagements setting a standard of authentic brand communication. It should serve as guardrails in keeping social talk “on brand” and out of social media identity crisis.
Have you thought about brand social media identities or translating your current brand identify guidelines into brand social media standards? Do you find this template helpful? How else could brands approach this?Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.