Designing Your Social Media Presence
You may have noticed a change in many of your social media profiles lately: LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Facebook have all shifted their look to put visually interesting imagery and videos at the forefront of their platforms. The reason for this? It keeps you engaged on that platform longer.
In the grand tradition of “why stand when you can sit?” the web is transforming itself to deal in visual currency more often than the written word. That’s not to say words have no bearing on what gets shared; it’s just that visuals can draw a reader to that material easier and better than the word alone.
What this means for you and your organization’s brand is that you have to start thinking about your visual identity online in a way you haven’t had to previously. Your Twitter page needs to be as interesting as any other collateral your brand produces. Your social media presence also has to be dynamic and reactive to the environment, like a “human” account would be. Don’t be afraid to grab on to themes and seize popular bits from internet culture (which generally are highly visual).
When brands began to flood social media, they hit a creative bottleneck. Brand managers, eager to make their presence as “informative” and benign as possible, ended up with the worst of both worlds: boring, dull social media, both content-wise and design-wise. Now companies like Velveeta and Denny’s are making their brands’ voices interesting and quirky, and other brands are sitting up and taking notice.
How do you move your brand toward this inevitable visual web future?
Concentrate Less on the Old Brand Guidelines, More On Human Connection
Rules are very important when you are making ads or when you are doing branded partnerships, but social is an essentially human medium, and humans, generally, are visually oriented and their personal expression changes with seasons, special events, and other influences. It’s important to treat your social media’s visual style like a content calendar. Make sure you’re “celebrating” events that are on-brand in a visual way. Consider changing your backgrounds or splash photos to leverage holidays, sporting events, entertainment events, and world celebrations. This will keep your visual identity fresh, and delight your fans and followers (consider the impact of the Google Doodle).
There is an opportunity to also help make your fans or followers famous. You can run contests for “brand ambassador of the month,” asking fans to submit unique photos with your product, and select one regularly to incorporate into your social media designs, or use an existing program like Twilk to create this type of background easily.
It’s not easy for most brands to give up their inclination to over-explain, since their usual thinking is “how will a visitor know about _____?”. But, it’s important to remember that good design is communication in and of itself. Most visual memes that quickly spread across the internet have very few words and no clear explanation.
A good exercise is to list all of the information you would normally include on a brand page, and then take each piece and assign it a priority: 1 for most important, 2 for semi-important, and 3 for least. Only put up the items from Group 1 on your page, but only after you write those items out in language that is as succinct as possible. This exercise will help you focus on themes and the most crucial information, which will help make your visuals sing.
The Importance of Themes and Change
It’s natural to get approval for one unifying theme for all social media, and stick with it, but you are losing an important point of brand expression by doing that. Consider not only changing your designs for seasons, special holidays, sporting and entertainment events, but also special one-off, quirky days like “National Hot Fudge Day” or “National Wood Chair Day.” Consider the role of fandoms in your followers: Are your fans really into a certain TV show, movie, or band?
Social media cannot exist in a vacuum. Changing your visual themes to reflect tastes and popular culture makes your brand look more human and encourages follows and engagement.
Nature Valley Granola Bars recently discovered a lot of their fans are into anime. Now fans regularly submit anime fan art incorporating Nature Valley’s iconic wrappers into their images. The result? Free visual content that leverages the community for Nature Valley.
Measuring the reactions of fans to new content is important. It helps you see trends in your followers’ tastes and can help you reach them better.
In a world where we spend hours looking at different types of screens, it’s important for brands to evolve a visual shorthand easily adaptable to changing themes and tastes of an evolving fan base.