There are countless things I’ve learned in my years of adventures on social media, and in the last 3 years I’ve shared that knowledge by coaching businesses. In my coaching sessions, I’ve assisted clients with strategy, planning, and deciding which platforms are best for them. Once that is done we go into detail on how to get the most out of their social marketing.
There are a few very common issues I’ve found the majority of my clients to struggle with, but the #1 question they all have (and stress over!) is:
“What the heck do I post?”
The long answer to this is, of course, going to depend on some important factors. Some of these include: the individual business, what their goals are, what their clients respond to, what their brand’s personality is and so on. And all of those things most certainly play a huge part in getting it right.
Assuming you know most of that, there is one additional but commonly overlooked element: including great visuals.
One of the biggest upward trends in social that is sure to continue for the foreseeable future is the importance of images and video. This trend is the one constant across all platforms and it’s not going anywhere.
And the reason is super basic: people respond to visuals. (image credit: OneSpot: The Power of Visual Content)
I will touch on video in a future post, but right now let’s focus on images. It’s obviously wise to incorporate great visuals into posts. You need to grab the attention of your readers quickly, before they have a chance to keep scrolling.
But how? You’re already pressed for time. Unless you happen to have a social media manager handling your online marketing / graphic design work for you, you’re going to be stuck doing this on your own. And so, it probably feels like just one more overwhelming task being added to the pile.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be. Here are 3 of the most common “rookie mistakes” I see businesses making with their graphics, and how to easily fix them:
1. Unattractive images / not editing photos before posting them
Whether your biz is a “brick and mortar” or not, you can think of your social channels and any images you share from them as your shop window. These images and graphics are what give your audience a peek at what’s inside. It tells them what you’re about and why they might want to see more. How you display your offerings in that shop window will effect what happens next.
The first image below was used in a promo post on Facebook for a gift shop advertising Christmas decor. Does an image like this prompt people to rush in and buy, as the store manager was hoping? Not likely, and it’s plain to see why:
This image is frightfully chaotic, not giving the viewer anything specific to focus on.
Raw, fuzzy, uncropped, unfocused, chaotic or “tipsy” images are not only unattractive, they’re unprofessional. Images like these will not stop a potential prospect in their tracks. A neatly cropped closeup of a popular best-selling item would have been far more interesting and eye catching (see second image, below). Many business owners have a common mindset when it comes to social: showcase all the things! In most cases though, highlighting something more specific is a better way to draw attention. Don’t have a brick and mortar? This same logic can be applied to any business sharing their own photos.
Something like this would have been much better.
An image like this would have been far more attractive than the chaotic one, and a great way to showcase a popular item. Paired with a fun or clever caption it could have easily been a stand out, rockstar post. Your advantage: the vast majority of businesses are still doing this wrong, so getting it right will also ensure your biz stands out, in a good way!
How-to for photos:
- First and foremost, start with a clear photo of the subject or item. If you already know which social media platform you want to use, keep that platform’s image size requirements in mind. For example, Instagram images are typically a square shape. Using a long horizontal rectangular photo (unless you’re ok with cropping some of it out) will be a challenge.
- Take advantage of the editing tools social media platforms have to offer. Instagram has numerous different filters and custom editing features to style up your pics. Facebook has some handy photo editing features, too. For crunch moments when you really don’t have the time to edit with other tools, these are at least an improvement on a raw image.
- Take the editing a step further with any one of the many photo editing apps available for smartphones. See the list of blog posts on this topic below for some great options. Add filters, effects, create slideshows and much more, right on your phone.
- Use a photo editing tool such as Picmonkey to crop, straighten, re-size and stylize your photos quickly before sharing. If you’re new to tools like this, make time to play around with it using existing photos on your computer. There is also a Picmonkey app you can download to your smartphone to edit on the go. Add text, overlays, special effects or use some of Picmonkey’s handy templates to create collages. You’ll never post a raw photo again after seeing how amazing they can look with a little editing. Practice modifying them using all the different options. You may also want to consider signing up for the paid version to unlock even more features. One of my favourite things about Picmonkey is how it also allows you to create custom graphics, too. Check out their tutorials, or google some to get more inspiration.
2. Using Word or Powerpoint to create graphics
Old school, not-so-cool.
If I didn’t keep seeing these on Twitter, I would never believe it was necessary to even mention this. Graphics and images created in Word and Powerpoint tend to have that old-school look and feel. They make it immediately obvious when a biz isn’t hip, socially savvy or keeping up with the times. Aside from being dull, they’ve been created in one specific size, and none of the various social media platforms have the same size requirements. This often results in a blown up, pixelated or stretched and blurry-looking mess when posted to social.
How-to for great graphics:
There are WAY faster, easier and more stylish ways to quickly create gorgeous, properly-sized images.
- If you haven’t tried or heard of Canva yet, you are going to want to kiss me. Not only can you create gorgeous, professional-looking graphics in a supaflash with it, you can also either customize all of it. Or choose from a number of templates that are pre-sized to suit the image requirements of social media platforms! No more googling the latest sizing updates, guessing if it fits, or starting over. Sa-weet! Canva also has categories of beautiful images, graphics text and shapes you can choose from to add more spunk to your image. Not all of them are free, but there are definitely enough freebies there to make it easy to create something hot. Here is a simple, eye-catching image I created for one of my networking groups, done on Canva in 5 minutes, for free:
- As mentioned in point #1 above, Picmonkey is also a great tool for editing photos. It too allows you to create custom graphics (with or without photos). One of my favourite eye-catching tricks Picmonkey offers is the super cool text overlay effect. This trick allows me to create blingy glitter text and other super neat customized looks, like this graphic I made for Strong and Worthy:
3. Not branding your images
The unfortunate truth in the online world is, people are going to steal (or try to steal) your content. It is very easy for a plagiarist to find, save and re-use images from around the web. That includes social media sites and blogs. For this reason, it is always wise to brand your image before posting it anywhere. It won’t stop anyone from stealing and using it, but it will make it a lot harder for them to pass it off as their own. And (unless they’ve found a way to remove your branding) you’ll immediately get credit for it, whether they’ve given it or not.
How-to for image branding:
- You can brand an image by adding your website name, logo, watermark or other identifying feature. Branding an image to makes it less useful to someone wishing to lift it and pass it off as their own. I did that in the image below by adding a logo to the text area, and a subtle website name at the bottom. Canva makes this super easy. All of my uploaded images are kept handy in my file, so whenever I need to quickly add my logo, it’s already there. It just takes one click to put it in.
- Adding your logo or web address is one way to brand an image, but there are other, perhaps more creative (and in some cases even faster than Canva!) ways, too. Does your team wear branded uniforms, or t-shirts? Do you have company stationary or mugs or anything with your company name on it? Why not snap a fun photo, such as a group selfie of your team in their company baseball hats? Or a solo selfie of you drinking that much-needed coffee from your branded mug? There are always subtle and fun ways to include your branding in your images. Here is one I’ve used on my Mums ‘n Chums blog, in a recipe post for egg muffins. Note the branded coffee mug in the background. The mug’s appearance seems fitting given the nature of the image and as such doesn’t come off as seeming contrived. It’s in the background, but still noticeable. Best of all, I didn’t need to spend any extra time manually adding my branding to the photo before posting it. How many ways can you think of to subtly include your branding in the images you share?
I hope you enjoyed these 3 little tips and found them helpful for making new graphics for your biz going forward. Here are some more tip-filled posts from some of my favourite blogs to give you even more ideas:
- Always Up To Date Guide to Social Media Image Sizes: Sprout Social
- The Best Visual Marketing Apps to Create Social Media Graphics: Rebekah Radice
- 3 Tools to Create Social Media Visuals: Social Media Examiner
- 10 Types of Visual Social Media Posts That Get Shared Like Crazy: Jeff Bullas
- 10 Useful Tools to Create Beautiful Graphics for Social Media: Neil Patel
Have you struggled with creating images for your social media posts? Do you plan to try any or all of these going forward? Be sure to bookmark this page and use it as a resource if you find it useful.