Plagiarism on social media is all too common. Every app you turn to (be it LinkedIn, X, or Instagram), you’re bombarded with the same templates, marketing materials, hooks, topics, and punchlines.
It goes without saying it’s no small task to stand out from the crowd and make your mark—which isn’t ideal, especially if you’re investing thousands of dollars (or more) in social media marketing.
“We see the problem,” you say. “What might be the solution?” you ask.
The answer is simple (albeit a bit cliché)—stand apart by building your unique brand identity on social media. Truth be told, it’ll take some time to build a memorable brand identity and make it uniquely yours, but we have eight steps to guide you smoothly through the process.
Let’s dig in!
Step 1: Identify your goal and your channels
Before even beginning to devise a strong brand identity, define your goal for creating this visual identity.
- Is it to increase your engagement with potential customers?
- Is it to become a thought leader in your space?
- Is it to boost your credibility?
- Is it to increase visibility?
- Is it to generate sales?
Once you’ve pinpointed the cause, identify the channels you believe will help you achieve these goals. For example, if your goal is to become a thought leader in your space, Instagram might not be a great fit, but LinkedIn might be perfect.
At this stage, write down your brand’s core values so you can create a pathway to achieve your goals based on these values. Ensure your visual language aligns with these values.
For example, if you look at Ben & Jerry’s social media pages, it’s not only crafted unique visual branding for itself, but it also manages to reinstate the values it stands for on these platforms.
This approach also helps the brand decide the conversations it wants to participate in and how it wants to structure its social image. Here’s an example of their X (formerly Twitter) bio.
They carry this identity and mission throughout their social media messaging.
Step 2: Create a style guide
Next up, you need to create a style guide for your brand — both for design and content.
The design style guide dictates the color schemes you’ll use, the templates you’ll stick to, the graphic design elements in your branding process, business card designs, branded videos, and content you’ll create, the fonts you’ll use, etc.
A content style guide, on the other hand, dictates the following:
- The words you’ll use/refrain from
- How you format your content
- Grammar and diction
- Your tone and voice
All these things eventually form your personality on social media to create emotional connections with your target audience. For example, if you look at Wendy’s social media personality (sharp and witty), it differs from Apple’s online personality (professional).
Step 3: Find your stakeholders
Once you’ve checked off creating a style guide, the next task on your to-do list is to find your stakeholders on these social media channels. These stakeholders could include:
- Your customers who actively buy from you.
- Your audience who consumes your content.
- The ideal influencers you want to collaborate with.
- Your employees whose personal brand you want to leverage to help build your brand identity—e.g., some employees may already be thought-leaders in your niche and can help put your brand on the map.
Step 4: Check your competitor’s strategy
Next up, to ensure you can develop a well-rounded brand identity, also check the social pages of your competitors and industry veterans to see how they’re leveraging social media and what strategies they are undertaking to build their brand identities.
For example, veteran companies like Tailor Brands that specialize in building brand identities on social media pages do the following:
- Have a professional logo design and a well-developed color palette
- Be consistent across all social media platforms while also structuring platform-native content
- Create custom visual content for almost every post
- Be accessible to all types of customers (which allows them not to alienate a specific customer group)
- Have specific social media brand guidelines that allow them to stick to a tone, messaging, and typography
- Have a specific goal (i.e., building credibility), which allows them to use social media to reinstate their value propositions and unique selling points (USPs)
Brands like these are definitely worth a study—take a peek at their Instagram below.
But we’d also recommend checking the social media pages of your direct and indirect competitors to see how they use social media for their businesses and what part of their strategies you can replicate.
Step 5: Pinpoint the discussions you want to be a part of
Regardless of whether you’re a brand or an individual trying to build their unique brand identity, you’ve got to identify the topics and discussions you want to be a part of.
Companies such as Form Health that provide weight loss solutions have effectively used social platforms to communicate their core values and services, achieving resonance with people seeking holistic health solutions.
They found that audiences were interested in informational materials on food, health and weight loss, and even healthy recipes. They then adapted to meet the audience’s demands by offering content in line with their requests.
If you start taking part in conversations beyond your domain of expertise (for example, as a fast food brand, if you take part in conversations about graphic design and cryptocurrency), you won’t hold your weight for your value propositions.
The only exception to this rule is that you can also comment about your brand values and goals.
For example, companies like Nlyte Software (who offer a cutting-edge DCIM solution with a focus on data center sustainability compliance) not only talk about their actual product but also about the sustainability benefits they promote as a brand.
The same goes for brands like Allbirds, who use social media to discuss their sustainability initiatives.
Now, if you’re confused about which topics or conversations to be a part of, we’d recommend three tips:
- Ask your client-facing teams (such as customer support and sales) the questions your leads and customers ask the most.
- Try hanging out at the communities where your customers are (e.g., Slack channels, Facebook groups, Reddit communities, etc.),
- Consider using social media listening tools (top brands are using social listening to find out what their audience is most interested in).
Step 6: Decide on the cadence that works for you
Suppose you’ve gone through the whole nine yards of identifying your tone/voice, checking your competitor’s brand strategy, and pinpointing the discussions you want to be a part of. The next logical step would be to decide the cadence that works well for you.
Many search algorithms reward brands that are consistent in posting, so it makes sense to create a consistent cadence—this can be anywhere 2x a week or once every two weeks (whatever works best for you).
Just ensure you can create valuable content in this timeline that allows you to sustainably engage in discussions you want to participate in and achieve the goal you’ve set for yourself.
Step 7: Link with other brands for cross-collaboration
At this stage, another strategy you can consider is using social media to find other brands you can collaborate with (ideally, these brands can be in your niche and offer complementary products).
For example, brands like Cruise America use social media to find campsites they can partner with. So, any customer who rents an RV with them would get exclusive access to these campsites.
They also feature exclusive giveaways with partners on social media like the one below. These collaborations benefit all the brands that participate.
Similarly, brands like StudioSuits (specializing in custom wedding suits for men) used social media to collaborate with an event planning business in Central California. This partnership helped both brands leverage each other’s goodwill and tap into each other’s audience.
Step 8: Test, revise, and optimize
The final step in building your social media brand identity is to always test, revise, and optimize to see what topics, timings, content types, cadence, and platforms work best for you.
Check the analytics for individual platforms and compare the overarching patterns you see to boost customer loyalty.
Also, since social media algorithms are always changing (e.g., LinkedIn’s new algorithm also accounts for your domain expertise before promoting your content), devise new strategies and ideas that can keep up with these changes (e.g., in this case, you might need to partner with domain experts/influencers to promote your content).