It’s a Matter of Style


Build your brand and prevent inappropriate messages by creating a guide for social media and other digital marketing.

Phone with social media icons.

Magazines like Sleep Savvy have a style guide that writers and editors follow to ensure the consistency and quality of the magazine. It dictates everything from whether to abbreviate or spell out North Carolina (spell it out) to the colors of department headers (for Tip Sheet, it’s a specific purple).

Without it, the magazine would appear sloppy — and, because of that, less professional and credible. Style guides also save time: A copy editor doesn’t have to debate if it should be “boxed bed” or “bed in a box.” (Sleep Savvy uses “boxed bed.”) 

You likely have a style guide that dictates the colors and fonts of your logo and other branding materials. If you don’t have one, you also could benefit from implementing a guide for marketing messages, including emails and social media. 

“(A style guide) informs your approach to multichannel content, which in turn shapes what people think of when they hear your name, what they tell others about your brand and how you make them feel,” says content specialist Lauren Cover in an article for Chicago-based social media branding firm Sprout.

When creating your guide, here are some factors to consider:

  • Tone: Is your store atmosphere casual and relaxed? Sophisticated and upscale? Your messages should match your brand’s overall vibe. Include in your style guide specific examples of language and tone that are right for your brand, as well as examples of those that aren’t. You may have slightly different guidelines for email blasts and social media posts, and that’s OK. Just make it clear for anyone crafting messages on your brand’s behalf.
  • Emojis and gifs: Do these have a place in your messaging? Are they OK on Instagram or in texts but not in emails? Your style guide should clarify which emojis and gifs are appropriate, as well as how and when they can be used.
  • Language: What do you want your stores called on first reference? Is it OK to shorten that to something else in a second reference? Are there certain words you always want capitalized? Your style guide should give direction on such matters.
  • Hashtags: Some brands use a lot of hashtags on social media. Others are more judicious. Which hashtags are most valuable to your brand? Explain which should be used, when they should be used and how they should be formatted. For instance, should they be placed in the primary Instagram post or in the comments? 
  • Format: How would you like posts to appear on your key social media channels? “Some brands like to use a specific format for sharing links, status updates or other types of posts,” Cover says. “For instance … Spotify takes a very quick and brief approach with their Instagram posts, keeping most of them to just two to three sentences, a few hashtags, an emoji and an artist-focused visual.” 

Giving your team direction will help to build and reinforce your brand’s position in your market.

Julie A. Palm is chief wordsmith at Palm Ink LLC and is a past editor in chief of BedTimes and Sleep Savvy magazines. You can contact her at