Grammarly: mastering the art of flawless messaging

Grammarly, the superbly successful language checker we can’t live without, shares their thoughts on what it takes to develop and maintain a consistent voice across a growing and diverse audience.

Just as Canva does for beautiful design, Grammarly gives the power flawless communication to everyone. Each product working to empower users, allowing them to create immaculate means of communication; be it through written words or graphic design.

Lucky for us, Celeste Mora, Social Media Manager at Grammarly, took a few moments out of her hectic schedule, letting us in on a few insider secrets. We discuss how her team works incessantly to embody the Grammarly brand in every piece of content and how this focus has translated into colossal expansions for this, until very recently, bootstrapped company.

Having a singular focus to create amazing Facebook momentum

In 2008 when Alex Shevchenko and Max Lytvyn launched Grammarly, there was no such thing as a Facebook Page and it would be another two years till users were even introduced to the ‘Subscribe’ option. So instead, Grammarly worked on making real Facebook Friend connections to build up a dedicated and active presence. Instead of spreading themselves thin across too many channels, Grammarly focused on establishing a healthy following on Facebook at that time.

In the early days, their audience primarily comprised of students who used the free product to proofread and enhance their academic writing. Today, the social media team has branched out from strictly grammar-related content to include professional and productivity memes, quote blocks, and infographics in an effort to reach a broader audience. A result of early momentum and lots of trial and error, their Facebook audience has now grown to more than 7 million engaged followers.

With the launch of their premium model, two years ago, Grammarly has now become accessible to a much wider audience. The company’s reach expands across continents, including all English-speaking nations and in the pockets of English-speaking audiences within Asia, India, and Mexico.

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Multiplying an Instagram following in record time

With their social reach expanding, the content team at Grammarly is investing in more channels and creating a stronger more active presence in those they have long maintained. Less than two years ago, Grammarly’s Instagram following barely reached the 3000 mark. Today, there are more than 130,000 grammar-lovers getting laughs, lessons, and motivation from the feed.

Growing a following 20x in such a short period is no small feat. To achieve this, Celeste focused on the qualitative feedback she received from the Grammarly community. “Metrics are great,” says Celeste, “but at the end of the day all of your followers are people and meeting them where they are, emotionally, and with their true communications needs, is how you scale a really big following.” Celeste and her team carefully review comments and feedback and post on a regular basis to ensure that the audience knows they can depend on their daily dose of Grammarly.

To supplement the qualitative analysis, the team conducts frequent tests. Approximately, one-quarter of the image-based content Grammarly puts out on their social media channels is a test of tone, style, or type.

The Grammarly blog has always been heavily focused on ‘How-Tos’. Their audience loves to learn and explaining effective, flawless communication in a simple and approachable way keeps their readers coming back. Testing on the blog is slightly more regimented than their social media tests and relies on an A/B testing methodology. Currently, the team is playing around with headlines to learn what resonates with their expanding audience.

A word of advice from Grammarly’s social media maven? Do not build traditions based on untested or unproven theories and remember that not everything that performs well will continue to do so until the end of time. Case in point: #throwbackthursday. Not long ago, it seemed that everyone was posting some #tbt tagged content on Thursdays, but now the tide is turning, and we see more and more #thursdaythoughts tagged content. Staying on top of changing trends is critical in the fast-paced social media world.

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Staying true to your brand while meeting your audience where they are

As the Grammarly brand continues to spread its social reach and grow numbers on Medium, LinkedIn and SlideShare, maintaining a consistent brand voice while catering to the needs of such a diverse audience is a constant balancing act. It is no secret that Grammarly both creates new content specifically for selected channels and repurposes content.

Celeste and her team like content that targets a frustration, worry, or exciting thing that is common to everyone. “Everyone loves a good meme,” Celeste says, and Grammarly’s “I before E” meme is no exception.

Creating long and short form video content have also benefited the brand. The team routinely creates and posts gifs on social channels and creates talking head explainer videos for YouTube while on the blog, ‘How-To’ articles dominate. The Grammarly audience cares about proper grammar and is hungry to learn.

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With a recent push to bolster Instagram numbers, the team has focused efforts on developing epic Instagram stories that resonate with their audience. “We are always looking for the most scalable way to create content that our audience will enjoy,” says Celeste. Answering that need is Grammarly’s resident designer who creates beautifully hand-lettered content.

However, this talented designer also happens to be based in Grammarly’s Kyiv office, while Celeste is in San Francisco. This means that sometimes, Celeste needs to go rogue and create her own images to share on social without sacrificing the branding image that Grammarly has built.

To do this, she turns to Canva. Celeste uses Canva to create images on the fly when her designer is heads-down on another project – or on her pillow, since Kyiv is a full ten hours ahead of San Francisco! Sometimes “we need to Tweet about this now…and the templates are really easy to use, the infographic templates are especially impressive. I have really enjoyed using Canva,” says Celeste.

Whether the content is meant to be beautiful, hilarious, educational, or a tad snarky, it’s primary focus is positivity. Grammarly’s brand image falls in line with the company’s mission, “to empower people to communicate what they mean and to be understood by making their communication clear, effective, and mistake-free.” Grammarly wants everyone to feel empowered to write, fearless in the face of grammatical mistakes. This translates into lots of landscape photos, hand lettering, and a focus on being aspirational.

Coca-Cola takes their branding very seriously and includes this in their brand identity guidelines, “System-wide identity and design standards are a longstanding part of our heritage and essential to building strong global brands.” Kendra Gaines of the Web Designer Depot puts it this way: “Think of a world where the Target bullseye is purple: You’d be very confused. What if McDonald’s Golden Arches were even just a pale yellow?” Developing consistency across all your materials is critical to building something more than a company; it builds a brand.

Consistent branding starts with your team

Celeste’s favorite part of coming to work every day is the Grammarly team. “I joined Grammarly because I was excited about the product and the community. I will stay because of the people” says Celeste.

Grammarly is guided by the acronym EAGER, which stands for Ethical, Adaptable, Gritty, Empathetic, Remarkable. These principles guide decision making, goal setting, and especially recruiting at Grammarly.

According to Dan Pallotta of the Harvard Business Review, considering your branding in your recruiting process is vital, “Brand is the whole array of your communication tools. Brand is your people and the way they represent you. Having a good team starts with good hiring and continues with strong and consistent training and development. No matter how well your employees adhere to your new brand style guide, if they couldn’t care less about the job they’re doing, that’s your brand.”

The social team is keenly aware of the importance of empathy. Their ability to identify with and understand their followers is what fuels the creation of engaging content.

Collaboration on a global scale

With offices in San Francisco, New York, and Kyiv maintaining consistent collaboration is a deliberate venture. “At Grammarly, our focus is on effective communication so we are very focused on that within our teams as well,” Celeste says. The team’s schedule regular video calls and editorial meetings during overlaps in their business days to collect feedback and identify areas of collaboration.

Grammarly’s content team uses GeraIT to share design ideas and Slack to keep the lines of communication open. However, their most helpful tool is the intentional communication they practice to keep their projects running smoothly and their relationships whole.

“Since we are dedicated to effective and flawless communication, every piece of content we create goes through both Grammarly’s product and a human proofreader” Celeste says. Grammarly’s editor looks at every tweet, blog post, and graphic. “It is so important to our brand that we show our audience the most accurate form of English.”

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Upping the future

Until very recently, Grammarly was entirely bootstrapped. The entire venture began with the company’s two co-founders, Alex Shevchenko and Max Lytvyn. In May 2017, the company raised $110 million dollars from General Catalyst, IVP and Spark Capital. The cash infusion will further Grammarly’s goal of reaching every English-speaking person and supporting effective, confident communication for all.

On the social scene, this cash infusion will allow the team to reach a larger, more diverse audience and improve global reach. “Most people who create a lot of content for a living know about Grammarly. Now we want to make sure that we are reaching those who write emails to their boss and then go code or do research,” Celeste says.

Investing in broadening the Grammarly community means ensuring that users are engaged and excited about both the brand and each other through targeted content in more channels.

The team at Grammarly is collaborative, effective, and focused on delivering content that supports and uplifts their community. Grammarly is proof that a brilliant product coupled with a positive brand message and dedicated focus on your audience is all you need to build your own success story. Celeste offers this final piece of advice to new entrepreneurs, “Use Grammarly! Effective and flawless communication is a must in all business communications!”

Avi Valentine is an award-winning freelance writer who thrives on creating epic pieces for businesses looking to make their mark in a content-driven world. Her writing has appeared in Foundr Magazine and in many enterprise level eBooks and websites. Avi enjoys developing user and training manuals and telling the world about exciting people, products and businesses.