Social media without great images is like salad without dressing – in other words, bland.
In fact, experts – including our own social team – regularly advise spending 3 to 5 times as much time crafting your image as you do your text. This is because, no matter how pithy or eloquent your words may be, the thing that most people remember will always be your image.
Sad as this may be for the writers among us, it’s the cold hard truth. So what can you do to make your images stand out, among the tens of thousands (literally) of images that your followers see every day?
Read our list to discover how you can make your social media images better than ever.
Keep branding consistent
The color, font style, and overall “feel” of your images should stay consistent with your branding for a number of reasons.
For one, according to Ragan Consulting, brand recognition can be increased up to 80% when a consistent color scheme is employed.
For another, having a consistent look and feel to your brand – no matter what that look and feel is like – conveys authority and can inspire trust. It can portray a brand as more stable and established.
Companies that excel at social media marketing almost always have a closely defined, immediately recognizable image style that fits perfectly with their brand. Take Oreo, for instance:
In addition to the obvious Oreo cookie that makes an appearance in every image the brand develops, the color scheme is bright and fun, and the style is cartoonish. Blue is their most often-used background color.
While your images may not be quite as tightly styled as this global brand with millions of dollars in their marketing budget, you can certainly develop some image guidelines for color and style that will go far in helping you turn out consistent imagery.
Adjust your images for different social media platforms
Don’t worry – you don’t have to create totally different images for your different social media platforms (although if you have the resources, go for it!).
What you do need to do, however, is take into account size, resolution, and text differences when you’re planning on sharing an image across your social channels.
One of the simplest examples is Instagram. We all know Instagram images are square, not rectangular, which can make designing for Instagram different than designing for Facebook or Twitter.
But design guidelines can differ within a platform too. On Facebook, a sponsored ad image has a different optimal size from a sponsored post image. You likely won’t have to make huge adjustments, but to make your images look their very best, you should make sure you look closely at the preview each time you develop an ad.
Study up on some basic design principles
Some things never change – and in visual design, those things are the basic principles of aesthetics and beauty.
Balance, contrast, space, color – these are ideas most of us can sketch out in our heads, but if you really want to take your images to the next level, it’s worth taking some time to really study and understand these principles.
And how about hierarchy (making the most important information the most noticeable)? Line (straight lines create order, curved lines a sense of movement)? Space (negative space can help emphasize the right thing)?
Learning how to incorporate all these things into your design will help you create images that are not only attractive but stay in people’s minds. For a great primer on basic design principles, read this Adobe Spark blog post.
Choose text carefully
Gone are the days when images were images and text was text. Today, images that include text pepper our social media feeds.
When done right, this strategy offers the best of both design and text. Here are a few guidelines to make sure that your brand is doing it right, too.
- Keep it simple. One sentence or a few bullet points is enough. Unless it’s a quote, avoid complex sentences.
- Quotes and inspirational sayings usually perform very well, as long as they’re relevant to your brand.
- Contests, promotions, and other limited-time campaigns can be great candidates for images with text. Include a deadline, simple rules, or a hashtag for maximum effect.
- Make sure the image you choose is clean and offers enough empty space for your text to be clearly visible. If the image is complex or beautiful enough to stand on its own, maybe it should.
This is similar to the consistent branding message, but it’s a bit more encompassing than that.
Repetition does, of course, mean using the same fonts, colors, style, and logos in your imagery, but it can also mean repeating a structure or pattern in your image campaign.
#TipTuesday and #ThrowbackThursday are examples of this. If you start posting an image with tips every Tuesday with the #TipTuesday hashtag, then your audience will come to expect it. Consistency with this kind of branding is just as important as how your individual images look.
You can also use the power of repetition for different types of posts. A clothing retailer might use a Pinterest-style fashion board image to announce sales. A close-up of an item of clothing might signify a new product or design line.
Think about the categories your images generally fall into, and if there’s a way to create a consistent format for each category, do so.
Make your calls-to-action visible and clickable
Images are important, sure – but the whole point of sharing images is to increase your conversions.
So when you’re including a call-to-action (CTA) with your image, make sure that it doesn’t get lost in the design. This is especially important for infographics, which can easily begin to look cluttered if too many images or too much text is stuffed in.
If you’re designing for a Facebook or Instagram ad, this issue becomes one more of relevance than visibility. Your CTA will show up in its own box or bar, so all you have to do is make sure it fits with the message you’re trying to get across. Of course, if you want to really stand out, you can also include your CTA text within your image.
And remember: CTAs should be specific enough to catch your audience’s attention, but broad enough to appeal to a wide range of users. Here’s a great example from Pipedrive, a B2B company that created a CRM for small sales teams.
You know those photos you see of objects arranged symmetrically (usually), and taken from above? That’s a form of knolling – it’s a photographic technique first popularized by a janitor in the famous Frank Gehry’s furniture store.
This technique needn’t require too much photographic expertise, so it’s something you can probably do with a bit of practice and the right lighting.
Knolling, as well as less rigid offshoots of the technique, has become incredibly popular as brands have increasingly embraced visual imagery. You’ll see food bloggers do it often, as well as fashion bloggers and brands. It can be a simple, striking way to display a product, showcase an office design, or emphasize a clean aesthetic.
Be selective and careful about the images you share, retweet, repin, etc.
Just as you should always double-check that there’s nothing offensive, objectionable, or otherwise unsuitable before sharing someone else’s social media post, you should be careful every time you share someone else’s photo.
Certain images can become a sort of shorthand on particular social media platforms, and you don’t want to share a nice photo only to find you’ve jumped on a trend you didn’t know about. (Kind of like when DiGiorgno accidentally used the domestic violence survivor hashtag #WhyIStayed to advertise pizza on Twitter).
In addition, there’s always a chance the images you share will become closely associated with your brand in your followers’ minds. You want to ensure that that association is a positive one.
Want more advice on creating killer social media campaigns? Read “12 Must-Have Skills for Every Social Media Marketer.”