Tools & Resources to Create Engaging Social Media Visuals

If you’ve been running a business account on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve likely noticed that visuals can drastically affect the amount of attention your social media posts get. While the images can’t just be pretty to look at—they must be in alignment with your brand’s purpose, values, and voice/personality—it is important that these images are attractive to stand out in newsfeeds. Simple graphic editing tools can make quickly editing a photo or adding text super easy. In my recent Digital Drop-in webinar, “Make Your Social Media Pop with Simple Graphic Editing Tools,” I go over some sizes, formats, and tools to help you create visuals easier, faster, and professionally for your business or personal social media.

In this blog and webinar, we aren’t talking about Adobe tools, such as Illustrator or InDesign. While these programs are great and I use them all the time to create images as a designer, I feel that in the world of digital marketing, we need some tools that are a little simpler and more available on-the-go sometimes, especially when we’re running social media campaigns. Often, you’re out and about and all you have is your smartphone or tablet. It’s time consuming to take the images back to your computer and edit them in Adobe Illustrator or InDesign. You want to put them online quickly to have an impact.

Here are some on-the-go tools you can use to make things pop!

Social Media Graphic Specs & Formats

Square & Rectangles Photo Sizes

Let’s first go over some common graphic sizes. If you’re confused on which image sizes go with which platform, here’s a rundown from common formats:

Square – Square images are often used as social media profile images, and work well with posts and updates. If you upload a square image for a profile pic on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, they will get cropped into circles. It’s important for these to have space around the central part of the image so nothing important is cut out.

Rectangle – Rectangle images are often used as social media cover photos (for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), social ads, website headers, e-newsletter headers, and can sometimes be used in posts and updates. When you’re thinking about taking photos you are going to be able to use, it’s critical to think about orientation. Vertical photos may have to be substantially cropped to fit into these spaces (unless you’re focusing on Pinterest).

Thinking about these shapes will help you decide where you want the focus of your photos. If it’s a cover photo for Facebook and the subject is in the middle of the shot, then that subject may be competing with your profile photo that is also center modified. It’s important to pay attention to and understand what kind of images lay out really well on different platforms. This allows you to more intentionally make your own images or graphics so they look great and, therefore, are more engaging.

Common Social Media Sizes

To keep things interesting, social media image and graphic sizes change on a regular basis. Make sure if you are referencing an online article, blog post, or website for these sizes that they have recently updated their information. To ensure accuracies, cross-reference the information with multiple sources. The Sprout Social Image Sizes Guide for social media is often updated and we think it’s a great resource to refer to over time.

File Formats that Work on Social Media

For the majority of social media networks, there are certain image and graphics file formats that work best. There are also standard formats for video formatting. Make sure your files aren’t huge sizes at a high-resolution (2 MB, for example, is a big image to be putting on your website or newsletter). Social media sites may compress that image, otherwise it may load slowly.                                                                     

Graphic file formats:

  • JPG/JPEG
  • PNG
  • GIF (animated or non-animated)

Video file formats:

  • MP4
  • MOV

Graphic & Image Editing Tools for the Masses

I want to provide you with a few tools that I’ve been using a lot lately that I think are easy to learn.

Canva

Canva has a number of built-in templates for all the sizes you would need for all the platforms. Just pull the images and drop them in. Stock photos are available for an inexpensive price, but you can also upload your own photos and do your editing directly on your device. Check out their video tutorials—they’re super helpful!

Canva Pro tip: Create your own customized photo filter for your brand. Canva offers a variety of photo filters to choose from. Simply choose any photo and click “Filter” to scroll through the available filters. Design your own filter. Click Advanced Options to use the photo editor sliders to produce one-of-a-kind photo effects for your brand!

Facebook & Video Tools

Did you know Facebook business pages now give you a lot of options to make your own images and make them interactive? If I’m on my Facebook business page, I can click on Share a Photo or Video to make albums, carousels, collages, and slideshows with effects and songs.

Pro tip: Multimedia content is essential.
Go Live and use Facebook Live to stream video content in real time. Always upload video and image files directly to Facebook so they get more exposure in the news feeds.

Stencil

With both free and paid options, Stencil (like Canva) is a simple way to create visual content.

Pro tip: Create unique content for niche audiences.

Explore a database of more than 800,000 royalty-free and safe for commercial use vector icons and emojis from The Noun Project and EmojiOne. Check out their bank of background images and quotes that are available for use both commercially and personally. I’m usually a fan of using my own images, but if I need to find something to use quickly, I know they’ll have great options that you won’t find everywhere else.

Instagram Apps

If you’re using Instagram, consider using some apps, many of which that appear directly in the Instagram interface.

Here are some popular apps to consider:

  • Layout – collages
  • Boomerang – short, repeating videos similar to animated GIF
  • Pic Stitch – photo and video collages with musi
  • HyperLapse – time-lapse video
  • WhenToPost(iOS and Android) and Prime (iOS only) find out the best time to post

Pro tip: Get creative and think outside the box.

Stories tend to get the highest levels of engagement because people know they won’t last forever. Share Stories with your audience and add a clickable link as a call to action. Try creating content with specific apps and then watch your Instagram Insights to see what types of media get the most attention and engagement from your network.

Examples of Successful Images

It’s important that you come up with new ways to tell your story visually in order to generate more engagement and brand recognition. Here are some examples of how companies can use visuals successfully:

  • Add discount, sale, or clearance text to your graphics.
  • Create images and graphics that display the values of your brand.
  • Design giveaway or free promotion graphics with brighter or more unique colors that stand out in the newsfeed.
  • Highlight the people (e.g. customers, clients, donors, staff) within a company or organization that your audiences will connect with fell are relatable.

 

Always Make Testing Part of Your Strategy

One of the key ways that you can learn what your audiences want is by creating different types of graphics and then tracking the Reach and Engagement. Sharing your message and then carefully listening to the data will help you understand your audiences and what motivates, inspires, and excites them. If you want to gain more data more quickly, consider running social media ads with different graphics to your followers or fans and see which ones generate the most active response and the highest number of conversions. Your organic posts may not have as large of an impact, but your ads will tell you what images and messages resonate most with your audiences.

In closing, I want to emphasize: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Remember, you create your graphics not only for your brand, but also for the people who love and support your brand. Testing may reveal some things about your existing and potential customers, clients, and donors that you may not realized before. Try things out and see what happens!

Posted in: SKILLS, SOCIAL, WEBINAR
Sarah Benoit Written By:
Sarah Benoit, Lead Instructor for JB Media Institute at JB Media Group.