The number of social media sites I’m signed up to and active on seems to grow constantly, so I recently decided to set up a social media calendar to help me keep on top of it. I started off colour coding it, with a different colour to signify each social media site. However, I soon encountered a problem – I was running out of shades of blue.
I was trying to pick a colour that would help me identify each social network quickly, but I began to realise that a lot of social media sites use blue. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to name just a few. I began to wonder why that might be? I remembered a class in primary school where the teacher held up different colour cards and we had to shout out words that came to mind when we saw each colour.
So, if I held up a blue card what words would you shout out? Sea, sky, calm, sadness, cold, it’s a boy, royalty. The colour blue has had all these associations and more throughout history and across different cultures. Three associations in particular might help explain why it is so popular with social media sites.
Social media is often seen as a time-sink where people go to procrastinate, so it’s interesting that blue is actually meant to increase productivity. This is perhaps because it is a calming colour. I know I’m more productive when I’m in a calm mood than if I’m worrying about getting the task in hand done. This association of blue and productivity is good news for a site like LinkedIn, which has a vested interest in putting productivity on people’s minds.
Blue is strongly linked with authority and is a common colour for corporations because it speaks of professionalism and trust. I image these are qualities sites like Facebook and Twitter want to project. After all, we trust them with some of our most sensitive information, not just our data but the most intimate moments of our lives: the start of a relationship, a marriage, birth, and even death.
Smith Goodfellow has a blue logo and uses blue on its website. Managing Director Cathy Barlow has this to say about the colour:
“Colour is such an important part of branding. We found that blue is associated with trust and professionalism, and that one of the best colour combinations for us would be blue and gold – for warmth and creativity. The fact that one of our Directors is an ardent City fan had nothing to do with it, honest!”
Everyone’s favourite colour
Although blue is considered a male colour, it is still widely liked amongst women and is a popular colour around the world. Although it has different connotations in different countries, it doesn’t seem to have overtly negative connotations in any culture. Renren, China’s answer to Facebook, also uses the colour blue in its colour theme. This is obviously important in social media, which is intended to have a global reach.
A likeable colour also seems appropriate for sites that want you to ‘like’, ‘follow’ and ‘share’.
There are a few interesting exceptions to this dominance of blue. Google+ has a red logo. The last thing Google wants Google+ to be stuck with forever is the tagline “…Google’s version of Facebook” so perhaps red was a way of saying, “we are new, bold and different”. It certainly works as the little red logo stands out. However, red has some very negative connotations, such as danger, stop, and warning.
Goodreads has a brown colour theme, which brings to mind a cosy feeling of dusty old libraries full of leather bound books. Flickr seems to have gone for the best of both worlds with blue and pink. This might be intended to appeal across genders, but the contrasting, vibrant colours also serves as a unique identifier that stands out and suggests fun and creativity.
Blue might be a popular colour for social networks, but what’s clear is that colour is important full-stop in website design, and perhaps nowhere more so than in social media where we invest so much time, shape our identities and share ourselves with the world.