When you think of a brand guide you typically think of the visuals of your business–the logo, the colors and the identity. But the way we reference brand guide is much deeper and requires three different resources that heighten your business’ online performance. See, when you build a business you are establishing a brand, a voice, a vision and a structure. Combined, all work together to make your marketing cohesive (and effective), and if we’re not kidding ourselves, keep you sane along the way.

So what are these three magical guides I mention? They’re your Style Guide, Social Media Brand Book and Best Practices. And why do you need all three even if you’re a one man show? I’ll tell you why!

Brand Guides

Style Guide

A style guide is meant to establish your first impression and continued consistency. If your business has a website, business cards, posters or a product, you need to have the ins and outs of the look and feel down. Your style guide will keep you in check when you’re wanting to create new assets for your brand. When you have established the colors and fonts that best represent you, then you can move forward with other aspects of your online identity. Your company’s mission statement and verbal representation can be included in the guide as well.

Having a style guide in place is beneficial if you ever subcontract design work or bring on new employees. If you’re a small business, a style guide can be as simple as a few pages. One that explains your brands purpose and vision, one that shows the visuals of your brand (logo, color scheme, tone of images, personas, etc.) and one of the written word (all sizes and fonts that are used throughout an materials you have, including website). If you’re just now starting a business, the greatest part about this is it forces you to truly understand what you’re launching and make sure that you 100% believe in your brand. If you want to try building one yourself, Elle & Co offers an excellent step-by-step.

Social Media Brand Book

Some of what is in your business’ style guide will likely carry over into the social media brand book, but this guide is the most thorough of the three and the one that requires quite a bit of research. There is no denying that social media has a place in most businesses. It’s an integral tool when it comes to awareness and growth. A social media brand book gives you the information you need to establish your social media look and voice as well as tap into the world of your competitors.

If you want to gain new followers and elevate your social media presence, then you need to know the climate, your potential customers, and what partnership opportunities you might want to establish down the road. You can start putting together a social media brand book by dividing and conquering. This means look at each social channel your brand will be on and then research the hell out of it and build a visual guide of accounts you want to be like, brands you want to connect with and hashtags or groups you need to keep on your radar.

Best Practices

Now that you know everything possible about the look and feel of your brand online, it’s time to establish how to use that information effectively. The best practices guide tells you everything you need to know about how to use your website (particularly the blog) to social media to managing partnerships. We often build best practice guides for clients. These guides outline everything from what time they need to post on social to seo basics so their blog content is optimized.

The cool part about building a best practices document for your business is that you’ll delve even deeper into your brand. You’ll learn the right words to include in messaging, how your voice should differ on each social platform, and other tricks and techniques that will aid your organic reach and solidify your business as an authority. We find this to be one of the most helpful of the documents for two reasons: 1) People get caught up in the other operations of their business and love to use this as a guideline to confirm they’re doing things the right way and 2) If anyone else ever touches your online platforms, the best practices guide assures they won’t screw things up.

Do you have any of these documents for your business?