Take a few seconds to think of your favorite company. What comes to mind? Perhaps you’re imagining a specific logo, a color, or even a slogan. It only takes a quick thought to visualize the company, but what is the key to making it so recognizable? The answer is a style guide that bundles a brand’s identity into one rulebook. Yes, having a “rulebook” for your brand may sound intimidating, but a style guide is a foolproof foundation for building brand consistency.
What is a style guide?
A style guide is a reference document that specifies all visual aspects of your brand. It provides universal instructions on how your brand should (and shouldn’t) be portrayed to your audiences. Key components of a style guide include colors, logos, typography, and imagery that aligns with your brand’s identity. A well-executed style guide also identifies the intended tone and voice of brand messaging, encompassing all aspects of your brand identity.
Your style guide gives direction to any type of content for your company, including presentations, business cards, social media posts, and more. Your style guide should not only be used internally by employees but also shared with external partners to ensure that they are representing your brand correctly.
Why should your company have a style guide?
Consistency is key when creating content for your business. A recent study reported that consistent presentation of a brand has been seen to increase revenue by 33%. A style guide that outlines the standard visual elements of a brand can ensure that all your company’s content maintains a cohesive look and feel. Keeping your branding consistent also increases the awareness of your company. If your content conflicts with each other, your customers may feel confused and less acquainted with the brand.
Remember how it only took a few seconds to visualize your favorite company? Consistent branding plays a crucial role in audience recognition. As a small business, building brand awareness can be a challenge. A style guide is the first step in making your business identifiable to your customers.
While developing a style guide may seem like a tedious process, it will save you time in the long run. Having a style guide will streamline your content creation. When visual guidelines are clear to your employees and partners, there’s more time to focus on creative content rather than spending time deciding what design elements look best every time.
Components of a great style guide
Brand Story: Include a summary of your company, its offerings, its mission and vision statements, and its core values. Your brand story can also introduce tone and voice, intended audiences, and explanations behind the company name and tagline. Putting this information at the forefront of your style guide establishes the brand’s foundation and helps users understand the basics of your company.
Logo: It’s important to specify guidelines for perhaps the most iconic part of a brand. Include all approved versions of your company logo in your style guide along with proper sizing and proportion information. Give clear directions on how much spacing the logo needs in relation to other visual content. If you offer your logo in different colors, make sure to include the correct usage of each variation.
Color: Your brand should have no more than four primary colors. In addition to adding color swatches to your style guide, you should also add all information needed to reproduce the colors accurately. This means including RGB and HEX codes for digital assets, CMYK codes for print assets, and Pantone values (though Adobe is making it difficult to use these).
Typography: Like colors, your number of brand fonts should be limited. In your style guide, note the fonts and their usages. What font should be used for headings? And for paragraphs? What sizes should be used? There’s a lot that goes into typography choices that a seasoned designer could assist you with.
Imagery: Define the genre of images and illustrations that you want your brand to utilize. Whether your company is represented by dramatic action shots or family-oriented portraits, it’s important to outline best practices for these types of visuals. To do this, you should include photos your company has used in the past. You can also display stock photos that represent your brand identity.
The “Don’ts”: Including how NOT to represent your brand can be just as helpful as outlining what you DO want. Don’t be afraid to specify incorrect usage of your logo, color palette, typography, or imagery so those mistakes won’t manifest in your content.
The above are the main components of a good style guide, but the contents don’t have to stop there. The more specific your style guide is, the more consistent and efficient your content strategy will be. Keep in mind that implementing a style guide doesn’t happen overnight. The guide should be enforced throughout your company, both internally and externally, to guarantee success. Make it a habit to refer to the style guide when creating any type of content. Then, you’ll be one step closer to achieving the brand awareness that your company is looking for.
Interested in creating a style guide for your company? Book a call with Sarah today to learn more.
So you’ve got a great idea and want to start a business. You just… start, right? Not so fast. If longevity is what you’re after, you need to work on branding.
Branding is a general term that encompasses many moving parts relating to your business. It establishes your identity beyond just the products or services you sell. It gives your customers something to remember you by, something to engage and connect with. It’s what makes your company memorable and stand out among the competition.
There are so many things to consider when it comes time to brand a business! It can be overwhelming, with so many do’s and don’ts out there. I’ve put together my 10 commandments of branding to try and organize all the best advice I’ve heard and learned by experience.
1. Thou Shalt Not Put the Cart Before the Horse.
Before you think about designing a logo or coming up with a catchy tag line, you must identify your brand’s core. This is typically made up of the following parts:
- Mission/Purpose—What the brand aims to accomplish for its audience
- Vision—The ideal world the brand is trying to reach for
- Values—What the brand believes in and stands for
This core is the underpinnings of your brand culture and should guide everything you do. (No pressure, right?) You should be considering your core when creating your visual identity, defining your brand voice, and creating any content moving forward.
When creating your core, make sure you consider your organization’s past, present, and future to make sure you’re positioning correctly. You don’t want to create a brand now that you will outgrow later. (Design is one thing; you can always “rebrand” visually. Your mission, vision, values—those should be long-term and lasting.)
It’s perfectly OK to let emotion guide your core! The best brands take a firm stand for what they believe in and uphold their promises to their audience. Studies have shown that people are more brand loyal to those that share their values, so be clear about what exactly that is.
After your core is defined, it should be much easier to find your unique selling proposition (USP). This is what sets you apart from your competition and encompasses the benefits and value you bring to your audience.
2. Thou Shalt Keep It Real.
Instead of putting on a show and trying to be something you’re not, you need to strive for authenticity in your branding. This means walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. I know it’s scary—wearing your heart on your sleeve is a sure way to get it crushed. But top brands know that people want genuine connections instead of salesy, immediate-best-friend vibes.
A big part of authenticity is making sure everyone involved in your brand understands the core mission, vision, and values and embodies those principles. If you walked into a Patagonia store and someone was wearing leather pants and drinking from a single-use water bottle, there would be a major disconnect.
Think about Disney World, for example. Every experience on a Disney property is carefully constructed to seem magical. Every employee is chosen to continue this experience, no matter how small the interaction is. Cast members are never to be half-dressed in front of patrons. All this makes sense when you find out their brand core principles:
- Mission: The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.
- Vision: To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.
- Values: Optimism, innovation, decency, quality, community, and storytelling.
That magical experience is a form of storytelling, which entertains and inspires people en masse. And you want to talk about community? How many people do you know who are die-hard Disney fans? They meet someone else wearing a Disney shirt or with a Disney bumper sticker and immediately know they’ve found a kindred spirit.
Being authentic goes beyond the customer experience, though. Your brand’s interactions should be genuine and positive for your employees, too. Without their belief in the brand and participation on its behalf, the company will not be able to pull off the type of customer loyalty brands envy Disney for.
3. Thou Shalt Not Try To Please Everyone
Being all things to all people is impossible, and trying is going to make you spin your wheels with no traction. You need to identify your potential customers, aka your target audience. These are the people you need to relate to, speak to, and identify with.
Some questions to help you identify your target audience:
- Who would benefit from my product or service?
- What are their pain points (problems they need solved)?
- What are their characteristics and demographics?
- Are they formal or casual?
- Do they take a long time to make purchasing decisions, or will they hop on to a trend?
- Where do they hang out online (or even IRL)?
The best way to relate to your target audience is by conducting market research. This can be difficult if you don’t know where to find your potential customers, but do as much investigating as possible.
Once you’ve identified your target audience and learned all about them, it’s time to figure out what kind of relationship you want with them.
4. Thou Shalt Have Personality
Don’t know what a brand voice is? It’s your brand’s personality and the way it speaks and relates to your audience. Is your brand quirky, like Dollar Shave Club? Is your brand formal, like De Beers? Is it comfortable, like Ikea?
Timing-wise, establishing your brand voice should come after you define your core and define your target audience. But make sure you figure it out before you release messaging—and probably even before creating your visual identity. All branding elements are tied together, so you need to show your personality throughout.
Whatever your brand’s personality is, make sure you choose messaging and content formats that convey it clearly. For example, I doubt De Beers is on TikTok… it’s not a formal platform and doesn’t scream “luxury” to me. (Yep, just checked and they do not have an account.)
On the other hand, Dollar Shave Club has a quirky and hilarious TikTok channel with relatable—did I mention funny?—videos. Sure, they promote their products, but they do it in an entertaining way that keeps their brand’s voice and personality on center stage.
Don’t forget to incorporate your brand’s personality into all aspects of the customer experience! Even if it’s a transactional email like a receipt, these are touchpoints where you can interject some fun details that show who your brand is.
5. Thou Shalt Not Operate In a Vacuum
In a perfect world, every business would only have to worry about themselves and their own strategy. Since we live in the real world, you cannot make the mistake of ignoring your competitors! You MUST assess other companies in your space and figure out how you fit into the industry.
This is not permission to get hung up on your competition and try to copy everything they do, though. You still should be doing your own thing, but you need to take into consideration what else is being offered, promised, and delivered by others.
And as confusing as it sounds, you also have to consider who COULD be your competition in the future. Take Corning, for example. It’s a glass company that is known in households everywhere for their bakeware. Guess what they provide now, though? Touchscreen glass. They saw an opportunity when screens were becoming ubiquitous and acted on it. No one could have predicted that move, but other glass manufacturers probably wish they had seen that opportunity earlier.
You also have to be able to recognize trends in the marketplace. Trends become that way because they seem like a good idea, so everyone jumps on. Do you want to be a pioneer of trends, or a follower? It’s OK to follow a trend as long as it upholds your brand core. However…
6. Thou Shalt Consider The Consequences
You have to be careful with trends! There is a bigger picture, and you have to consider all angles.
The key is to remain consistent. “But wait, you just said it’s OK to join trends?” It is possible to join a trend while remaining consistent with your branding. Take the “debranding” trend that’s happening now. Major brands are updating their logos to be more streamlined and simplified. Everyone from Burger King to Burberry has been removing details, shading, and unnecessary elements from their brand identity.
Ben Schott of Bloomberg says that this is in part due to the need for mobile-first design. When you’re looking at a tiny screen, all those details just muddle your logo. Simpler is often better.
To ensure consistency, make sure everyone in your organization knows your brand’s mission, vision, and values. Creating a brand handbook is a great way to keep these top of mind. You can add guidance on visual identity, a glossary of terms and phrases to maintain your brand voice and personality, and tips for keeping your messaging on point. Circulate it to your marketing staff and beyond, keeping in mind all those brand touchpoints across departments.
Even when you have consistency across your brand, you still have a lot of flexibility. As long as everything points back to your brand’s core, you’re free to try out trends—or create them!
7. Thou Shalt Keep It Simple
Anytime content is created—whether it’s your logo design, website copy, or a slide deck—it’s tempting to go overboard with details and information. The thing is, people can’t absorb too much information without tuning out completely. Keeping it simple is always the best way to go.
Just look at Apple’s logo throughout the years. The very first Apple “logo” can’t even be called a logo. It’s a full, detailed image in an old etching style. This didn’t even last a year before the Apple that we all know was launched. Sure, it’s been multiple colors and stylized differently, but that Apple outline with a single bite missing has been iconic for over 40 years. It’s easy to spot and represents the company so well that anyone who sees it immediately knows what to expect.
Other examples of keeping it simple visually are Nike’s “swoosh,” the McDonald’s golden arches, and even Lacoste’s alligator. But simple isn’t just a visual principle. You should aim to be clear and concise in all your messaging, no matter what medium or platform it’s released on. Take a look at the examples below:
- Granola’s ingredients are sourced from the highest mountains of Andalasia, untouched by any chemicals. Our products are for the discerning citizen who aims to live their best life in a tiny house by the beach and grow their own patchouli. Granola is the best choice for anyone who wants their food to taste like cardboard!
- Eat clean. Live simple. Choose Granola.
Obviously, this is an exaggeration! But the point stands: keeping your copy unfussy and to the point is the key to winning your audience’s attention.
8. Thou Shalt Not Over-commit or Overshare
There are two points in this commandment, and both are firm no-nos. Don’t spread yourself too thin, and don’t be annoying with your content.
First, let’s discuss over-committing. It’s so tempting to be everywhere at once, isn’t it? The minute a new social media channel pops up and becomes trendy, people are curious and want to join. But if you have a marketing team of two people and you’re managing 5 other channels (not to mention all the other duties the marketing department has), will you be able to start a new channel AND do it well?
There’s something to be said for those who can learn to say no. Not to brag, but I am particularly proud of myself for not joining TikTok as a creator. I seriously considered it, but I already have an Instagram account and realized that I don’t have the bandwidth to maintain both. I focused on creating more reels and publishing more consistently on Instagram and I’m staying off TikTok for now.
You don’t want to half-ass anything because that’s just not a good look. Be selective and choose to show up purposefully wherever your audience can be found instead of being everywhere just for the sake of it. Write and develop quality content that speaks to your audience and publish it where you can be—you guessed it—consistent.
Next point: There’s a fine line between being authentic and oversharing, and it’s called having a filter. It’s not likely that every single thing you do in a day is relevant to your brand’s core, so there’s no need to tell them every detail. Each piece of content you publish should be furthering your mission, underlining your vision, or representing your values.
Behind-the-scenes content is a popular way to humanize a brand. An business owner who is also a mom might share some snaps of balancing her work with parenting to relate to her values. She wouldn’t (shouldn’t!) share a photo of potty training her toddler, though. Oversharing is taking things one step too far, and if you have to ask yourself then you probably shouldn’t share it.
9. Thou Shalt Not Make False Promises
This was important enough to include as a commandment, but it should be pretty obvious and not need much explanation. DO NOT overhype your company or its products/services. If you make promises you can’t keep, you’re killing your brand’s reputation. In the age of social media, word of mouth spreads faster than ever before. Reviews speak volumes and there are plenty of platforms for people to make their experiences with you known.
10. Thou Shalt Keep Calm and Carry On
Part of the fun of marketing is being able to experiment with tactics, channels, media, and messaging. You’re going to make mistakes, and that’s OK! I was just telling my daughter earlier tonight that everyone makes mistakes, but we should learn from them and not repeat them.
If you make a mistake that requires an apology, deliver it promptly and sincerely and then move on. If it’s a mistake that affects the company’s bottom line, make sure you analyze the numbers so that you know what not to do next time. The most important thing is to act responsibly, and everything will work out.
Even if you do (or don’t do) all these things and execute perfectly, you can’t expect instant results. Building an audience takes time. Generating leads takes time. Bringing in revenue takes time. Be patient, stay true to your brand’s core, and have fun with it!
What do you think of my 10 commandments? Are there any that I forgot? Are there any you disagree with? I’d love to hear from you!
How many of us have been broken up with? How many of us have ever broken up with someone? It’s easy to say that being broken up with is the worse position to be in, but the truth is that breaking up is hard, right? Even if you know it’s not a good relationship, there are always feelings involved. The same is true for your association’s relationship with each of its social media channels.
Last year, I stumbled across a 2018 article from Time magazine that outlines “How to Know When It’s Time to Let Go of Someone You Love.” As I was reading it, I started thinking about how each of their red flags could be applied to social media. (I know you’re thinking how in the world did you connect those two? I have no idea!)
I’ll throw out the caution that there are a lot of considerations when you’re analyzing social media performance. None of these points are absolute. But these relationship red flags can be indicators that a channel isn’t right for you anymore (if it ever was in the first place).
Red Flag #1: Your needs aren’t being met
Every platform has analytics that can show you how much engagement you’re getting and usually who it’s coming from. If this data doesn’t line up with your KPIs and target audience, something’s gotta give.
For example: A legal organization has channels on tons of platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok. They’re concerned because they invested a lot of time in starting their Snapchat account because the Board of Directors heard it was where all the cool kids are. Staff is constantly wracking their brains trying to figure out what to share, but they get minimal engagement every time and aren’t seeing growth in their follower count.
Every social media channel you are using as part of your content strategy should be a key player. Some platforms just aren’t a good fit for a particular organization’s target audience or brand identity. If you’ve optimized your content and one of your channels still isn’t pulling its weight, it could be time to pull the plug.
ACTION ITEM: Take a closer look at your content strategy.
- Is the tone of the channel aligned with your brand identity?
- Is your messaging conveying the value you can provide?
- Are you only on this channel to appease the wishes of stakeholders outside the marketing department?
In this example, I’d recommend creating a dashboard of analytics. Track the time you spend developing content for each channel. Tally up the marketing dollars spent (including salaries) on keeping each channel alive and compare that to their engagement rates. Present the dashboard to the BOD and make a compelling argument for dropping the channel.
Red Flag #2: You’re seeking those needs from others
Are you considering cheating on your Twitter account? Dreaming about that hot little TikTok platform that everyone is joining? If your other channels are performing well and reaching your intended audience but one stands out, something’s not right.
For example: Let’s say you’re planning marketing for a pediatric dental association and one of the associations business goals is outreach to the children themselves. You want to run social media campaigns showing kids why it’s cool to brush their teeth, floss, and fight cavities. Your association only has a Twitter account and a Facebook account.
ACTION ITEM: Investigate the channel’s demographics.
- Is your target audience present here?
- What kind of engagement should you expect?
- Are there industry or demographic benchmarks to guide you?
Spoiler alert: Kids are not on Twitter. I have a 10-year-old and he has no idea what Twitter even is. It might as well be a rotary phone! Children under 17 only account for around 7% of Twitter users. Compare this to TikTok, where almost a third of users are under 19. If your audience is absent or disengaged on a particular channel, you shouldn’t be on it.
Red Flag #3: You’re scared to ask for more from your partner
Admittedly, this one doesn’t translate as well to social media channels. The closest analogy I could come up with is user experience. If it’s cumbersome or annoying to use, that channel might not be worth it.
For example: One of my clients has recently started a TikTok account, and it is a HUGE pain to review and approve videos before they are posted. Even if each user is logged into the same TikTok account, their drafts are only visible to them. So we tried screen captures and recordings and putting them into an AirTable to track approvals. But then sometimes the recordings won’t play on our computer systems. It’s just a huge hassle.
ACTION ITEM: Evaluate user experience for administrators.
- How easy is it to use and understand?
- Are there tools or processes you can use to make it easier (schedulers, etc.)?
- What does the workflow look like for your team?
Money isn’t the only ROI you need to be worried about. Time is a finite resource! If you’re unsure of how to use a channel effectively or spending lots of time trying to figure it out, it may be time to go. I’m not ready to give up on TikTok yet, but I’m hoping that as more businesses adopt it, the feedback will reach the powers that be and an easier workflow will be developed for teams.
Red Flag #4: Your friends and family don’t support your relationship
You need buy-in from your leadership and your marketing team to be able to devote the necessary resources to maintaining a consistent presence. Without this support, you’ll have a hard time getting the results you need for the channel to be effective and worth your time.
For example: I’m beating the TikTok horse to death a little bit here, but it’s the most recent big player to hit the social media scene! And because of its nature, it wasn’t widely accepted as a potential business outlet at first. It still isn’t really the place for B2B marketing unless you’re able to really hone in on content that resonates with your purchasing manager persona. However, now that more and more businesses are thinking of joining, it can be a tough sell to the Board of Directors.
ACTION ITEM: Research best practices for your industry and perform a competitive analysis.
- What are the businesses in your industry doing?
- Is there existing content that speaks to your members?
- Are there any major players that you can model your strategy on?
If it’s a channel that you truly believe has potential, present all the research behind your conviction. If you think your association could really benefit from having a presence on TikTok or Snapchat, it’s your job as a marketing leader to present the facts. But if you can’t get buy-in and approval to devote resources to a channel, you’re better off sitting this one out.
Red Flag #5: You feel obligated to stay with your partner
Maintaining the status quo is never a good reason to do anything blindly – whether it’s continuing to post on a social media channel or staying in grad school despite a career change.
For example: You just started working at a national membership organization and their existing strategy is best described as throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. You want to quit Facebook and Twitter, but your predecessors have already invested thousands of marketing dollars in establishing these channels.
ACTION ITEM: Review the channel’s analytics and measure performance quantitatively.
- Followers are great, but how engaged are they? Do you have a loyal group that likes, shares, and comments on your posts or a group of lurkers that regularly scroll past your content?
- Is the percentage of engaged followers increasing over time or decreasing?
“This is the way we’ve always done things” is a morale killer! Separate the feelings from the data and make an informed decision on whether to continue. If making such recommendations would put you in an awkward position, suggest having a marketing audit done with an objective third party who can look at the facts and make a strategic recommendation on whether to continue.
Red Flag #6: You’ve been working on your relationship for more than a year
OK this one deviates from social just a tiny bit, but it is closely related. And I actually don’t consider it a completely red flag – this one is maybe a yellow caution flag.
According to the Ahrefs blog, only 10% of marketers DON’T use content marketing. That tells you how prevalent it is in today’s strategic marketing. And most of us publish our content on our blogs – again, not a social media channel! But if you’re following an integrated marketing strategy, it’s all connected.
For example: In 2019, another one of my clients started a new blog in addition to their existing one. After 2.5 years, the newer blog still had less than 50 subscribers. In addition, it wasn’t ranking on pages 1-5 of Google. The executive team was convinced that it wasn’t worth the time and human resource allocation to keep the blog going when people “obviously” weren’t finding it valuable – and they wanted to just scrap the whole thing.
ACTION ITEM: Review Google Analytics data for entrances, sources, and time on page.
- How are people finding your blog? Which social channels do the heavy lifting?
- How long are people spending reading your blog posts?
- What actions do they take after visiting the blog?
Ranking for Google is like trying out for an NFL team: there are only so many spots, and even fantastic players won’t make the team. That doesn’t mean they aren’t fantastic, nor does it mean they should give up on football altogether. There IS an audience out there that needs your content. It’s up to you to find them.
That means every time a blog post comes out, you’re promoting it on social media – maybe even with paid ads. You’re optimizing the blog with SEO keywords and building a pillar page strategy to establish domain authority. You’re including calls to action with messaging that converts – and testing that messaging and refining it if it’s not working.
If you’ve considered all these points and have been putting the right amount of time, effort, and strategic intent behind your blog and you’re not moving the needle AT ALL after a year, THEN this is a red flag.
Red Flag #7: You don’t like your partner
You might think, “well obviously—if you don’t like it, don’t do it!” Sounds pretty simple, but if all signs point to yes – your target audience is present and engaged, the platform fits with your brand identity, and it’s advancing your business goals – it would be hard to give it up. So I’d say this one is another yellow flag.
For example: Facebook came to my school during my senior year of college. (For any Gen Zers out there, it started as a school-based platform and you had to wait until it was available at your school.) I’m of the Facebook generation – it’s what I know, it’s what I’m used to, and it’s where I’m comfortable. That said, I have never really gotten Twitter. I signed up for it back in 2010 or 2011, but I never really did much with it besides make a joke about the music in the grocery store. (Have you every heard a Peabo Bryson song anywhere else?!)
ACTION ITEM: Dig deep into what you don’t like about a particular channel.
- Is it one of the reasons we’ve previously discussed, like user experience?
- Did something in your personal life affect your view of the platform?
- Was it mandated to you instead of adoption being your idea?
In my case, I am a writer and a talker, and I feel personally attacked when I am restricted to 280 characters to get my point across. You’ve got to figure out what it is that you don’t like about it and decide if it’s a dealbreaker (or out of your hands completely).
How do I break up the right way?
Just like in personal relationships, you need to be firm but kind when you’re breaking up with a social media channel. And what I mean by that is a two-part approach: Consider giving some warning to your followers, then shut it down.
Your first instinct might be to preserve what’s there and leave the account dormant but alive because of all the hard work you’ve already invested in it. This is not worth it for 3 reasons:
- You need to live in the now. Who goes back and looks at past social media posts? It’s all about living in the now! If you use stories, half the content you create isn’t available for long anyway.
- SEO is not a factor. If you’re wondering about the SEO possibilities of coming up in a search – which I was, and I looked into it – it’s unlikely that an old account would help much. Your social media accounts WILL show up in a Google search of your brand name or username, and people ARE likely to follow those links. But, according to Neil Patel, Google does not look at social signals when determining search rank. It MIGHT see them as signs of authority, but it’s much more likely that a user will visit your idle page and be turned off by the impression that you’re unengaged with your audience. It’ll hurt your brand’s reputation.
- Marie Kondo that sh*t. If you’ve gotten to the point of discontinuing your efforts on a channel, you need to take notes from Marie Kondo. If it’s no longer sparking joy, thank it for the time you spent together and then get rid of it.
The final word
Consider giving some notice to your current followers just in case they notice you’re gone. Chances are that they won’t notice – how often do you notice if someone unfriends you on Facebook? I guarantee it happens and you don’t even know! But if you’re worried about losing them, post a message announcing that you’re leaving the channel as of a specific date and let them know where else they can follow you. No need to give reasons!
Age is nothing but a number. It only matters how young you feel. The platitudes go on, but as people get older, it’s generally accepted that they lose touch with what’s cool to younger generations.
Technically, I’m a millennial. Being born at the cusp, however, means I’m in a super special subset referred to as “elder millennials” or even “geriatric millennials” (thanks, internet). As such, I am slowly losing sight of what’s cool—including social media trends—despite trying to stay informed.
TikTok is one of those things that I’ve known about for years but never got into. To me, it is all silly dances and young people being young. What relevance could it possibly have to the business world?
I recently spoke to a friend on the other end of the millennial range to help me understand. Patrick Maercklein, a marketing specialist at Employment Enterprises, is young and cool. His explanation of Tiktok and its potential for business use was enlightening, and now I’m passing those tips on to other geriatrics like me!
What Even is TikTok?
With 689 million active users worldwide, it would shock me if you’ve never heard TikTok mentioned. If you watch Instagram reels, you’ve likely even seen repurposed content from TikTok. While I’ve been out of the loop, I’ve at least been near it.
TikTok was created in China in 2016 and was originally called Douyin. The company then acquired a lip-sync app called Musical.ly in 2017 and started gaining traction in the United States. TikTok took off in popularity due to trendy dances that users copied and shared. Over time, and with rapid adoption, content has evolved to—as Patrick says—”anything and everything.” (If you want to go down a rabbit hole, there’s a longer history by Big 3 Media that covers the app in depth.)
“In simple terms it’s a video platform that is the inverse of Instagram.” Patrick explains. “Instead of your feed being filled with people you follow, TikTok is the opposite. Your go-to feed is other people’s videos and then the algorithm mixes in content from people you’re following.”
I already have Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts that I interact with every day. So I asked Patrick, why should I get TikTok? “Because it’s less of a social media platform with your connections and more entertainment,” he replies. In essence, it’s tailored to you but it’s not curated content by your friends.
How Do You Create a TikTok Video?
To create a TikTok, you can either upload video from your camera roll (on a smartphone) or shoot video within the app. “TikTok has a very basic video editor with lots of available effects as well as a library of sounds (music, sound clips, etc.), says Patrick. The app tells you what sounds are trending so you can capitalize on the music of the moment. You can also save sounds for later when you’re viewing a video and like what you hear. (Pro Tip: Using the right sounds has a lot to do with how well your posts perform. If you’re using a trending sound, the algorithm is more likely to put your video in front of people.)
What Type of Content Is a Good Fit for TikTok?
Patrick emphasizes the ability of TikTok to show the personality of the brand. “Behind the scenes videos perform really well because they show the faces behind the brand,” he says. In short, TikTok is a platform that is grounded in reality. There’s no need for perfect lighting and color schemes.
He also shares that TikTok is super engaging and has a wide variety of engagement tools built in. “Typical Google searches are saturated and people are recycling the same types of content. On TikTok, you can respond to a comment with a new video and engage directly with the audience.”
How Does Content Get Shared?
Patrick says, “The TikTok algorithm is unreal because it knows exactly what types of content you want. I’d argue that hashtags on TikTok are more valuable than hashtags anywhere else.” The platform shows you content not only just from hashtags you follow, but also from trending hashtags. This way, users can go viral by jumping on a hashtag bandwagon of sorts.
“Because of the way TikTok is formatted and a random person is thrown on your discover page, it is so, so easy to to blow up. You can grow TikTok faster than any other platform,” Patrick explains. He believes that this ability to go viral is a big reason why businesses are tapping into it. “At my internship, I had a video that had 500,000 views! It was as simple a topic as “top 5 highest paying jobs.”
You can’t share someone else’s content to your feed the way you can on Facebook. You can, however, send videos to a group chat with friends or email or text a video to others through your address book.
What Is Your Ultimate Advice for Businesses Looking to Use TikTok?
“My main recommendation for businesses is that you have to be sure your target audience is active on the platform.” Patrick notes that the TikTok audience is nationwide and you can’t target local audiences specifically. “I also think you have to have the right audience demographics. It’s very much geared toward younger generations so be sure that’s the audience you want before you invest time in developing the channel for your business.”
Patrick also has doubts about sponsoring content on the platform. “You can pay to sponsor content on TikTok, but I don’t know if it’s worth it. Leveraging hashtags and popular sounds gives you the opportunity to reach your audience without paying. I grew my employer’s TikTok to over 1,000 followers within a few months.” He also says that posting consistently and trying new things are the keys to getting people to catch on and follow your brand. “It takes a lot more work than you would think.”
What do you all think? Was this as helpful to you as it was for me? Thanks so much, Patrick!