New social media platforms and options seem to pop up nearly every month, and for each new platform attracting thousands of users, there needs to be a marketing strategy tailor-made to reach these segments. But the trouble is, every platform has different requirements and strategies that work to reach your customers – Instagram’s focus is on photos and videos, Twitter limits you to 140 characters. There can be a lot of different elements to juggle once your social media deck gets stacked up.

On one hand, this is great, because it allows for a broader reach across several channels. But a formidable challenge can quickly present itself: how does a company keep the consistency of its brand in the face of all these different platforms?

While there are many ways to look at this question, I want to look at four tips in particular that can help a brand stay true to its voice.

1. Keep Your Look Consistent

This first tip is also the easiest. Aside from your content – which is dictated by the constraints of each platform – what you have the most control over when constructing your social media presence is the design. And this is a major advantage, because for many social media platforms, this comes down to a banner and profile picture that, although not identical, can be very similar in dimension across platforms.

If a company’s a bit green, it may assume that the best thing to do would be to use each platform to showcase different side of the company – maybe a different product for each banner or profile picture. But this is a big mistake. It’s hard enough to stay recognizable and coherent across platforms, and the easiest way to take back some of that brand unity is to have a set of simple images that you unite your brand around.

What I mean, ultimately, is your Facebook profile picture should be the same as all your other profile pictures, to the best of your ability. The same goes for your banner. You want your presence to be so familiar that customers know who you are the minute they see you, no matter what platform they find you on.

Once again, design elements are about the only factor your company has significant control over in its social media presence – this needs to be leveraged for maximum visibility and consistency.

2. Know Yourself

Okay, now onto the hard stuff. Having a well-defined brand can be very difficult, but it’s also one of the most important ways to stay coherent across social media channels.

What’s your brand’s voice? Is it playful and quirky, like the mattress company Casper and its famous subway ads? Or is it calm and authoritative, like IBM and its Watson-powered ad campaign?

This is legwork that should be figured out way before a social media presence is launched – having it out of the way will make it much easier to create copy and content for social media platforms that all speaks with the same voice.

Similarly, it will also keep the brand from trying to jump unsuccessfully on certain trends that are not natural for its brand fit.

For example, in 2015, Sea World decided to respond to a trend of social accountability and transparency by initiating an #AskSeaWorld campaign. It completely backfired, with people jumping on the company for its alleged mistreatment of its animals, which had been recently called into question by the documentary ‘Blackfish’.

It may not always be suitable for your company to jump on every bandwagon, and having your brand voice well-defined can help guide you through these potentially perilous waters.

3. Know Your Audience

Part of SeaWorld’s mistake was also that they didn’t know their audience – they invited the backlash by not having a realistic idea of how their audience would respond to their campaign. There’s an even more recent example of this gaffe. I’m of course talking about United, who drew outrage by beating and dragging a passenger off the plane. Bad enough, but the company dug an even deeper hole by responding on Twitter. The CEO referred to the assault as the need to “re-accommodate customers”, drawing immediate ire and plummeting their stock.

United’s big mistake (well, one of them anyway) was thinking that it could use a corporate euphemism like “re-accommodate” on a platform like Twitter, whose users tend to favor colloquialism and personability. They were rightly jumped on immediately.

This doesn’t mean that you change your brand voice for every platform, but rather that you give consideration to who’s engaging with each platform before crafting your brand’s message. It’s a delicate interplay that needs to be given sensitive attention.

If you know your audience for each platform, you’ll be able to create content that reaches each customer segment while still remaining fundamentally coherent to the brand identity.

4. Use a Dashboard

As a final, practical tip, many companies have found it very useful to use one of the many social media dashboards out there to help co-ordinate their overall social media strategy across platforms. This really helps keep the brand coherent, because it provides a central hub from which all content proceeds. Dashboards like Hootsuite and Sprout Social help keep your brand presence centralized.

Not only is this good for brand coherence, but it can also help for just generally having a better-organized social media strategy. Most of these dashboards include a myriad of tools that facilitate collaboration and scheduling, which helps make managing multiple social media channels less like a haphazard juggling contest.

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