A few weekends ago, I decided that my online presence was a mess. Visual brand consistency was non-existent.
I have several different blogs and associated social media accounts, and they were all in a disarray. Accounts didn’t look the same. They had different tag lines and graphics and information and the overall effect was that they were separate entities.
That was a serious failure on my part.
Why Visual Brand Consistency Is Good
What’s the big deal about my social accounts looking a bit different?
If you visited my Facebook Page, and then my YouTube page, and then Twitter…there was nothing about them that suggested they were related, active, or cared for. There were no visual cues that said “we’re part of this larger family.” They could have been owned by separate people and happened to have the same name, for all readers might have known. The look was unfamiliar, and unfamiliarity is a negative experience for your readers.
When it’s clear the owner of social properties hasn’t bothered to update, change, and unify the appearance–or even keep things in line with what new network updates require–it makes people a bit less likely to get involved. Those lacking visual cues on a social media property make it seem as if it has been forgotten.
Simple Tweaks To Better Brand Consistency
How do you keep your social media accounts in shape and make sure the visitors to them don’t feel like you’ve neglected them?
There are lots of detailed (and complicated) guides on achieving brand consistency freely available online, but really, the simplest and most obvious things are the most important. These are the things you need to do first.
Use Uniform Colors
Use the same color combinations everywhere, across all of your online accounts. Colors are identifiers.
I have a set color scheme that I use on my blogs and across social media platforms. To make it easy to create and manage a color scheme, I use Adobe Kuler. It makes it easy to open up a tab, grab the hex color, and use that for my accounts. A few places where I use those colors are:
- Customizing my WordPress theme colors.
- Twitter background and link color.
- Custom graphics for Facebook views and apps on your page profile.
- Any “standard” graphic layouts I do for images posted to social networks.
Create Uniform Images
The images you use in your icon and cover art on your social profiles are the first way your audience will learn to identify you. As usual, we see pictures first.
While each network is different, I tend to think of it as follows:
- Icon remains the same. Clear, crisp, and simple. Must look good in either a square or round format (some social media networks use a square for the icon, others are round). Design accordingly.
- Cover image is the same, but in multiple sizes. Each social network uses a different ratio when it comes to the size of the cover image. Choose an image that will work well across all of them no matter how it is cropped, or design an image specifically for each network to fit their specifications. And also, consider that your image may adjust and change size for different screens.
I often change out the main image to fit the “seasons” or for other reasons. I usually use a photograph instead of a custom designed graphic because that same photograph gets used on my blog as a background. In other words, I try to connect the images I use on my website to those used on the different social networks. The image becomes the motif, while the profile icon becomes the identifier. You may have custom graphics that you use, instead of a simple photograph, and that is perfectly fine. The main thing is that the imagery matches across the board.
And what does it look like when the images aren’t the same across all of the different networks?
It looks pretty crazy.
For example, check out my personal social media profile images below. It’s all over the place.
Am I a world traveler? Do I like nervous cats? Am I a big fan of Godzilla? Am I a cartoon character? Maybe I can get away with having fun on my personal social networks, but for a blog that’s focused on creating a platform, definitely not. And, considering Google Authorship…maybe it’s time I rethought my personal consistency, too. At the very least, I don’t have the default Google+ rainbow paper for a cover image, which suggests that someone either never visits Google+, has an account and doesn’t care, or couldn’t be bothered to take the time to upload a basic photo.
Choose Uniform Templates
On some sites you can make decisions to try and mimic your reader’s experience on your “home base” blog.
Tumblr is a good example because it allows you to choose from a variety of templates. I chose one that was reminiscent of my main WordPress blog’s design, and then set it up with graphics that mimicked it and the other social accounts as well. Either choose templates the reflect each other, or have them custom designed to look related.
Some of your audience may only know you through these other social sites, but if they follow through and visit your own website, the experience can be as similar as you can make it.
Again, it’s about a sense of familiarity. The less you force people to reacquaint themselves with how things look and work, the more time they have to focus on their content. Remember websites, years ago, where the look across the site varied? You’d click a link and the design would completely change despite being on the same website. Applying that sense of “same site” across social networks prevents that same feeling of confusion that those early websites had.
Write Uniform Taglines
While a tagline isn’t as visual as the graphics and template designs you choose, they are both easy to forget and easy to fix.
Some social sites allow you to do a summary of who you are. While the length and output varies, you should try to have similar wording across all of your social networks. I realized that on mine, I had a different description for my blog on every single social media account. That’s very confusing!
I promptly wrote a brief paragraph that started with a short introductory sentence, then a bit longer paragraph after that. This way, I could split this standard information to fit what each social network allowed for. It went a bit like this:
- A simple one-line summary of what my blog was all about. This was a bit tough, as it was not a niche blog, but a general/personal blog.
- A two-sentence paragraph that added an explanation. This was still brief, but it gave a few more basic details.
- Several in-depth paragraphs with detailed descriptions. This is where I went into great detail outlining the different blogs, what they were about, and even had links.
While most of these social sites don’t have room for all three (though Google+ certainly does), it is very helpful to create a document where you keep this kind of information. For one thing, it forces you to figure out what your purpose is, or what your blog is, but also it makes it easy to keep this information uniform across all of your social networks and any new ones you might find yourself on. Having three levels of detailed summary gives you a flexible option for social networks that have different limits on length of content.
This simple blog post was meant to prod you to review your social networks and see if they haven’t gotten away from you a bit.
It’s tempting, when you have great tools like CoSchedule, to publish to these networks and forget to actually go over there and check things out on a regular basis. The problem is, sometimes (Google+, I’m talking to you) they make an important change to how big an image should be and you might miss it for a few days or weeks. Staying on top of things, visiting your social accounts regularly, and being aggressive about uniformity is the best plan.
Plus, I like visiting a site, and a social account, and seeing it all matchy-matchy. It means I’m supposed to be there.