If you’re a designer, a content creator or a social media fanatic, it’s imperative to learn the ins and outs of social media marketing and best practices. Social media can be an effective and essential way to promote a brand or company when approached thoughtfully. What’s key to making your social media presence stand out is creating relevant, unique and engaging social media graphics for your campaigns. Below are some tips and resources for creating scroll-stopping, impactful graphics on social media.
1. Define your goal and audience:
Microsoft conducted a study that showed the average human now has an attention span of 8 seconds—shorter than that of a goldfish. Although one could argue our attention span is inferior to a fish, we can also see it as evolving and becoming savvier to the endless online content being shown to us on a daily basis. As a result, no single design you create will be appealing to all 3.6 billion social media users—which is fine! The most important task at hand is ensuring your creative efforts reach the target audience.
Before diving into the abyss of an Adobe or Canva hole, here’s some questions to help determine the kind of content you want to create:
- What does my company/brand aim to achieve on social media? (increasing brand awareness, website traffic, reach, etc.)
- Who is my target audience?
- Which social platform(s) does my audience use?
- What topics and information are most important to them?
- What is the message I want this social media graphic to relay?
- What action do I want users to take once they see this design?
A user’s undivided attention can be captured for a long duration if content is engaging and relevant. Instead of throwing darts at every dartboard out there, it’s best to focus on the one in front of you and aim for the bullseye. Having a definitive goal and audience on social will not only help with creating your designs but it will also help tell your story visually.
2. Size your images to the right specs:
Size matters for social! Each social platform has its own specifications and calls for different image formats (e.g. PNGs, JPEGs, GIFs etc.). It might seem time-consuming, but tweaking your image size per platform can make the difference between posting an appealing photo or cropping out the most important design element. Images with the wrong aspect ratio can be cropped, stretched, or compressed, depending on the platform—all of which can distort the image, create heavy pixilation, or otherwise reflect poorly on your brand.
If you answered the questions above, you’ve already identified which platform(s) you’re going to design for. The good news? Sprout Social has an up-to-date guide of image specifications for the top 8 social networks. It’s become my go-to for staying on top of the ever-changing social media specs.
3. Incorporate the visual identity of your business/brand:
Social media is truly an amazing and accessible platform for showcasing your brand with both visuals and a robust storyline. Without a well-defined visual identity, users won’t be able to associate your content with your brand, which can negatively impact their emotional connection and loyalty. It’s important to create a seamless user experience by first studying the visual identity of your business or brand before you begin making any designs.
If applicable, abide by brand guidelines to ensure consistent typography, colors, photo treatment and logo usage. If you don’t have brand guidelines, here’s a list of tools that combine colors based on your website or image. When deciding on a typeface, it’s best to stick with the font from your website for consistency. For creating typeface combinations, the most popular principle is to pair a sans serif header typeface with a serif body typeface. Lastly, include the logo in your graphics when appropriate but avoid making it half the size of the picture or larger, which would come off as too cluttered. Logos don’t have to be big and bold, just enough to let your audience know where it’s from.
People visiting your social media page should see a smooth flow of photos with each design being easily recognizable as your brand. Creating a mood board or social media style guide that contains these guidelines can help shape your direction and visual strategy. Creating graphic templates with a consistent look and feel can also make for a good foundation.
4. Stick to creative basics:
There are no rules set in stone for creating visuals, but here are some basic best practices to consider:
- Avoid too many elements. Make sure every element has a reason to be in the design, and limit the number of fonts, colors and images.
- Use complementary/contrasting colors. This will ensure your text and design are clear, sharp and easy to read.
- Limit your text to one or two lines. Too many words can make an image appear busy. Facebook actually has a guideline suggesting that text should constitute 20% or less of the space in an ad image to optimize performance. Even for organic content, it’s a good rule to abide by when creating images for social.
- Use negative space. Having space around text boxes and images makes for an easier read. White space will also help contrast with other bold elements in the design and help avoid the image from appearing as cluttered.
It’s important to be mindful of every element you use to ensure each one contributes the story you’re trying to tell on social media. Simplicity is always best when creating any graphic to quickly relay a message to your audience.
5. Use original, unique assets whenever possible:
While stock photos are very convenient, people on social media love to see what a company is up to from an insider’s perspective. Using real photos help humanize a brand and allow for the audience to make a connection with your company. Although getting photos and videos of your business might seem time-consuming, it’s worth the investment and will save you a lot of time when scrapping for content.
If you’re willing and able, it’s a good idea (for social media and beyond) to hire a photographer for a photo shoot of your offices and management team. Making a shot list can be extremely helpful to ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck and to capture as much content as possible. If hiring a photographer isn’t in your budget, you can always use your phone! Smartphone cameras these days are surprisingly professional in terms of their photo quality. You can enhance images/videos before posting, too. Here’s 9 tips for taking high quality images from your phone.
6. Stay inspired:
We all have creative blocks. Posting high-quality, engaging social content consistently is vital to a social media strategy but is often easier said than done. An easy way to find graphic inspiration is to search for current design trends on the platforms you’re using. Try sifting through the social media pages of competitors or top businesses in your industry and jot down the elements you liked (and didn’t like).
Browsing through social media feeds outside of your industry is also a good way to help pop the industry “bubble” we tend to get stuck in. Personally, I keep an “Inspiration” file on my desktop for anything that pops up in my feed and catches my eye. This can serve as database to spark new ideas and keep your creative mind fresh when feeling uninspired. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr or even Google Images can also be a great resource for design inspiration.
Graphic created by: Autumn Von Plinsky