Branding guidelines: Your links to social media websites

Posted on November 3, 2014 at 3:14 pm Written by

rulebookIn my last blog I posed the question ‘Do you have branding guidelines?’ and just in case the answer was no, I set out some basic tips on how to start documenting your preferences as a starting point. This was because, in my personal opinion, you should never consider your company or organisation to be too small to require guidelines which others should respect.

Respecting branding guidelines is my next topic, and in particular when linking to third party websites. It’s a topic that has come to the fore recently with our own marketing material when it was brought to our attention that we were using icons on our website and digital material that might not be adhering to the owners’ brand guidelines.

The owners in question being rather large and well known brands such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Along with Pinterest and Instagram these are arguably the six most relevant social media outlets for businesses to reach out to and engage with customers and prospects, and communities in general.

So what’s the problem as long as the brands get traffic?

Good question and probably what’s at the back of most people’s minds. “What’s the harm if my links are driving traffic to my page on a third party website, they should be grateful.”

Don’t get me wrong they probably are! But let’s turn it around and look it from the other side of the fence. If a third party website wanted to link to your business and in doing so, took your logo and completely changed it to match their own colour scheme and style – how would you feel? Not really bothered? Well you should be (naughty step now, take five!)

Joking aside, there are reasons trademarks are registered and we are all at risk of being in breach of these when we publish graphics which don’t conform. I’m not sure about you, but that’s a fight we’d rather not pick!

Knowing where to look

Apologies for stating the obvious, but googling a brand name followed by the words “brand guidelines” should give you the page link you need as the top search result. Then when you find them, guidelines aren’t necessarily as daunting as they may at first seem.

Here are a few examples of the type of rules you might find in relation to correct logo use:

  • The ‘Facebook Product Assets and Identity Guide‘ specifically states (page 67):

    Don’t: Modify the “f” logo in any way, such as changing design or color. If you are unable to use the correct color due to technical limitations, you may revert to black and white.”

    A screen shot from Facebook's Product Assets and Identity Guide

  • Likewise Twitter keeps it refreshingly simple:

    “Our logo is always either blue or white. The Twitter bird is never shown in black or other colors.”

    An excerpt from Twitter brand guidelines

  • YouTube offers two formats – the version that you would recognise as their logo (eg the words YouTube) and the new-ish “play button” style of icon. This icon is useful where space is limited or if you want to provide a link to your YouTube channel in a “social media lineup” (row of little square icons).

    “The YouTube icon should be used in social media instances where the standard YouTube logo does not work because of size or format restrictions.”

    A section from "Using the YouTube Logo"

    Hands up anyone brave enough to let YouTube know that they need to update the Facebook icon in their example!

  • LinkedIn is one of those brands where it starts to get tricky, with lots of requirements quoted in terms of size, clearance. A factor that often seems to get conveniently missed is that their logo had a Trademark (TM) or Registered (®) symbol next to it, according to where the site hosting the link is geographically based. There are also definite preferences to what background colours you can place the logo onto:

    “The preferred background color for the logo is solid white. When a solid white color is not practical, it may be used on a solid, light background color.”

    LinkedIn brand guidelines

  • Pinterest offer a really clear and comprehensive set of guidelines (covering the use of their logo and their badges), that kick off straight away with buttons to download high resolution copies – which makes absolute sense if they want to avoid seeing fuzzy copied and pasted icons appearing online.

    Pinterest brand guidelines with a range of do's and don'ts

  • Whilst some brands are clear about the difference between a logo and an icon/badge, Instagram use the word ‘logo’ to describe three of their assets – the Camera Logo, the Glyph Logo and the Instagram logo. Camera and Glyph will be the ones of most relevance (and both downloadable from the  Press Center) if you’re simply offering a link to your own Instagram account, and the rules are quite simple as to which of these to choose.

    “Where color is limited, use the Glyph Logo in any color.”

    Easy as peas.

    Instagram have a Press Center for downloading their logos

Keeping up to date

Once you’re happy that you are meeting brand guidelines for all third party links, keep an eye open for updates and brand re-brands (yep, this branding lark is never ending!). Things like using a lower case “t” as a link to Twitter, or a birdie with a tufty fringe, are so 2008!


One day we might all be famous enough to be known by the use of an icon that is made up of just the first letter of our name, but until then, we’re voting to show a little arrgh-eee-es-pee-ee-cee-tee, and staying on the right side of the law suits.

They might be cute and cuddly, but we’d like to see  a little less of this…

And little more of this please …

And yes you can get down now, but play nice!

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