How to Create a Social Media Style Guide for Your VA

December 21, 2020 • By The Zirtual Team

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The key to a successful collaboration with a virtual assistant (VA) is top-notch guidance. When you provide clear instructions, you can be sure the job is done just the way you want it.

Social media management is a time-consuming and complicated process. Outsourcing it to a VA allows you to focus on other important aspects of driving the company's profitability. Setting up a high-quality style guide allows you to delegate the majority of social media tasks to a qualified assistant without looking back at details.

Let's take a closer look at what a comprehensive social media style guide should look like.

What is a Social Media Style Guide?

A social media style guide is a detailed explanation of what your brand looks and acts like on social media. After reading this style guide, a person should understand what form of content to post on your social media accounts while maintaining the right voice, tone, and manner.

This guide can serve as a reference for improving your social media management strategies while keeping brand consistency across numerous channels.

Why You Need a Social Media Style Guide

A social media style guide allows your team to stay on the same page when creating and posting social media content. Maintaining a consistent brand voice and behavior is the key to gaining loyal customers.

When your social media account looks like it's being managed by several people, it loses its appeal. If people don't see proper consistency, they unconsciously doubt the brand's stability.  

A high-quality social media style guide:

  • Makes your brand appear credible — out-of-character content and brand voice can cost you a big chunk of the loyal audience.
  • Prevents mistakes — using jargon out of place or reposting the wrong content can have a bad effect on the company's reputation.
  • Simplifies collaboration — teaching each new team member how to manage content and social media accounts can be time-consuming. A comprehensive style guide can take care of the problem.

By taking the time to create a style guide once, you are saving yourself a lot of time down the road.

It's important not to confuse a social media style guide with a social media marketing strategy. The guide tells your team members how your social media posts should look and sound. A marketing strategy describes what message they should be carrying.

How to Create a Social Media Style Guide for Your VA

To create a high-quality social media style guide for a virtual assistant, you should include the following elements.

List of Social Media Accounts

The first section of your style guide should contain a list of social media accounts along with links. Even if you aren't actively using some of them right now, you may want the VA to implement them into the social media management strategy later on.

  • Social media networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Media sharing networks (Instagram, YouTube, etc.)
  • Forums (Quora, Reddit,etc.)

Pro tip: When creating your guide, keep in mind that it's a comprehensive reference that should stay accurate and valid for as long as possible.

Voice and Tone Description

A consistent brand voice is key to attracting loyal clients. With time, when reading their social media feed, your followers should recognize your posts even before they look up at the account name.

That's why the virtual assistant should have clear voice and tone guidelines to keep them the same across all channels.

Pro tip: Voice is always the same while the tone can change depending on the subject of your post.

Voice examples:

  • Inspirational
  • Educational
  • Motivating
  • Serious
  • Professional
  • Bold
  • Confident
  • Aggressive
  • Down-to-earth
  • Masculine/Feminine
  • Elegant
  • Empowering
  • Uplifting
  •  

Tone examples:

  • Humorous
  • Genuine
  • Plainspoken
  • Functional
  • Witty
  • Positive
  • Considerate
  • Friendly
  • Informative
  • Etc. 

Make sure to give the VA some examples of what your brand voice sounds like. Then a short example of each tone as well. You can refer to other brands, who readily share their tone descriptions online. For example, Starbucks and Mailchimp.

Style Manual

Even if your social media posts are going to be short, it's imperative to follow the style manual you've chosen for your other content like blogs, white papers, etc. If you aren't sticking to one style guide yet, it's an excellent time to start doing so. Examples of style manuals are:

  • AP (Associated Press) stylebook — usually used by journalists and news writers (updated once a year). It's suitable for bold, confident, and motivating brand voices.
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) framework — mostly used by academic writers. This could be a good choice for a variety of brand voices unless they require a highly specific style.
  • APA (American Psychological Association) guidelines — contain a set of standards for different industries. It could be a good choice for educational and professional brand voices.
  • CMS (Chicago Manual of Style) — a book publishing standard for both fiction and non-fiction materials. It can be suitable for inspirational, elegant, and empowering brand voices.

Experienced VAs know each of the style manuals. In case they haven't used the one you prefer, they can catch up by using a variety of free resources available online.

Keep in mind that some of these style manuals are highly specific and require extensive studying. While a VA may have time to explore them, the rest of the team may not. Make sure the style is suitable for all of your content creators.

Language and Format

Besides sharing the style manual to follow, you should also describe the language you want the social media manager to consider.

  • Jargon — using professional jargon may be great for a specific audience. However, it could scare off another segment of your followers. Make sure to describe which jargon is allowed for your social media posts and which should be avoided.

Pro tip: consider sticking to plain and clear language to cater to the majority of your target readers.

  • Content length — state the maximum word count for a sentence and the maximum sentence count for a paragraph. Short and concise content is the key to social media post success. Make sure your VA has numbers to refer to. (i.e. max 20 words in a sentence, max 3 sentences per paragraph). You may have different requirements for different platforms.
  • Emojis — do you want to use emojis, GIFs, and stickers in your posts? If yes, which ones are allowed and which are forbidden? Make a list for the VA to follow.
  • CTA (Call To Action) placement — if you want to add CTAs to your social media posts, let the VA know when and where they are allowed ( e.g. "once a week, at the end of the post" or "every day, in the middle of the post")
  • Acronyms — do you assume that your audience knows acronyms or do you want the VA to spell each one out? You can make a list of acronyms that don't need decoding (e.g. if your target audience is marketing experts, explaining what CTA is in every post can make them feel annoyed).
  • Formatting — do your posts need to follow a specific format (i.e. headline, content, link hashtag)? Make sure to mention it in the guide, otherwise, the consistency with your previous work will be lost
  • Headline capitalization — do you capitalize all words in headlines or only the first ones?
  • Dashes — should the VA know the difference between hyphens, em-dashes, and en-dashes?
  • Dates and times — do you prefer Dec 8, 12.08, or 12/8? This type of formatting seems minor but inconsistencies tend to stick out like a sore thumb.
  • Hashtags — make a list of hashtags to be used regularly for each platform

It may be hard to make a list of all the necessary language and format details on the spot. You can keep adjusting the style guide over time.

Visuals

Visuals as an integral part of the majority of social media posts. The style guide should provide details that make visuals appealing to the target audience while maintaining consistency across all social media channels.  Things to mention are:

  • Colors and their combinations (use of brand colors should dominate)
  • Font
  • Font size
  • Photos (team member photos, client photos)
  • Logos
  • Image size
  • Disallowed images/videos

You can also provide a source of images if necessary and connect the reader to the creative team.

Network-Specific Guidelines

While consistency across all social media channels is important, some platforms require special attention. The network-specific guidelines can look like this:

  • Twitter: shorten links, keep character count down to 200, at least one hashtag per post.
  • Facebook: delete URLs if displaying link previews, add line breaks.
  • YouTube: always provide video descriptions (with keywords) for SEO purposes.
  • Cover images should be the same for all social media platforms.

Keep in mind that high-quality posts designed for one platform may look bulky on another. When VA will try to adjust the content, they should know which guidelines to follow.

Examples of Social Media Style Guides

Here are several comprehensive social media style guides for your reference:

The more detailed your style guide is, the more satisfied you are likely to be with the VA's work.

Outsourcing Social Media Management to Virtual Assistants

The key to stellar social media management is consistency. This guide should be designed to give a new team member an excellent understanding of what your social media posts should look and sound like.

A comprehensive style guide can keep your team and the VA on the same page. It's a living document that can evolve and grow together with your brand.

With a high-quality style guide, outsourcing social media management to a VA should be quick and easy. If you are looking for the best VA for social media management, don't hesitate to contact us at any convenient time.  

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