Social Media Visuals: How to Easily Create Visuals Without a Designer
Want tools and tips to help you create images?
To discover how to create great social media visuals when you’re not a designer, I interview Donna Moritz.
More About This Show
The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.
Donna will share why social media marketers should care about visuals.
You’ll discover what to consider before you design images for social media and learn about new tools to help you.
Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below.
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
Social Media Visuals
Why care about visuals?
Because the news feed is so busy these days, Donna explains, marketers need to do everything they can to capture attention. She says visuals catch that attention and typically drive users to take some sort of action because visuals support an emotional connection.
Donna points out that the fastest-growing channels such as Periscope and Snapchat are highly focused on visual content, as are Instagram and Pinterest. She also notes that traditional platforms Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are giving more attention to visual content and users are 44% more likely to engage with content that contains pictures.
Video is also on the rise, Donna adds. Socialbakers research shows that brands are now uploading more video directly to Facebook than YouTube, and about 80% of all video engagement is coming from Facebook native video. And that’s before Facebook Live is really being measured. Plus, she says, 110 years of video footage is watched on Periscope every day.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, out of a range of priorities for content creators, visual content is in the top three.
Visual content is a very important topic because it works. Marketers just need to find out where to start and how to produce and use images efficiently.
Listen to the show to discover the current standard image format and how image sizes have changed.
Getting started with images
Before you start to design images, Donna says you need to think about what types of visual content get shared well on which platforms. Content that’s effective on Facebook might be different from what works on Instagram, which might be different from Twitter.
She’s seen people get overwhelmed trying to do visual content on every platform, and advises that it’s better to focus on visuals for one particular platform at a time. She also cautions that you shouldn’t jump into visuals on a new platform until you have systems in place for visuals on the one before it.
Donna shares her Visual Content Blueprint, which is five elements to help you create images that work.
First, decide what the image is going to be in regards to what works on the targeted platform (more on this later). Then consider the call to action. It could be asking for more connection or engagement (likes or comments), driving more shares or click-throughs, or a combination.
Next, think about your landing content (where people arrive when they click through or share). Will people get more information, blog content, a free download, or something else of value?
After that, make sure users are achieving some sort of goal. Do you want them to sign up for something, read a blog post, or stay on your website?
Donna recommends that every image be able to stand alone. That way, if something is pinned or shared out of context, people will still understand what you’re offering and how to get it.
Donna thinks of images as a two-pronged approach. You need to have something on the image that provides context, either on the image itself or with a text overlay in a header. Then you can add more information in the description.
Many social platforms, like Facebook and Pinterest, allow the description to be clickable, so you can include a URL. Since that’s not an option for Instagram, marketers need to get creative and use the bio link to drive people where they want them to go.
Donna stresses that the first step to doing well with visuals is to have a system for planning, collecting, creating, and sharing images.
Listen to the show to hear about our Social Media Marketing World image strategy.
Types of visuals
About a year ago, Donna created what she calls a “visual hierarchy,” which helps her decide where to invest her time and resources when creating visuals. The hierarchy breaks into three levels: shareables, step-by-steps, and showpieces.
Shareables are images that are easy to create and share, such as quotes, tips, memes, photos, and GIFs. You can search for existing GIFs on websites such as Giphy or use a tool to make your own from your videos.
Shareables are great for sparking engagement or building connection, and for keeping yourself front and center. For example, Donna explains, anything that’s bright, shiny, and new captures users’ attention. If you’re creating original content, especially on Facebook, other pages will eventually discover you and look to you for content to share.
Donna recommends branding your images in some way without over-branding. Instead of putting your URL, your name, and your logo on an image, she suggests you pick one element.
The next category of visuals is called step-by-steps. These are how-to images, checklists, and tutorials, and are the sorts of images you see on Pinterest. Anything that saves people time gets snapped up and shared really well, Donna adds.
These might take a little bit longer. You may do a screenshot and add annotations to show how to do something. For example, if you’re a fitness instructor with how-to exercises, you would create multi-image, multi-step pieces of visual content.
From there you get into what Donna calls showpieces, which take more time and resources; infographics, SlideShares, short video, and live video or live-streaming. Marketers need to put a little more effort into these types of content, especially if they’re repurposing it.
Donna says step-by-step images are good for platforms other than Pinterest. She explains how she used to do really long infographics, which are well-loved and shared on Pinterest. Now she really likes the idea of a half-sized infographic. She says that even those that are 2000 or 2500 pixels or shorter will share well on Pinterest, and on Facebook, G+, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Donna points out that you can look for full- and half-length infographic templates on Canva.
Screen captures with annotations for how-tos are also effective. Donna explains how Mari Smith uses a screen capture tool to talk about new features on Facebook. She says those things get shared like crazy and believes it’s the perfect way to show how to do something on your screen.
Donna thinks Mari might use something like Snagit or Skitch by Evernote for these visuals because they’re easy, quick annotation tools. I use Jing, which grabs the screenshot and allows you to highlight certain words, draw arrows, draw boxes, and upload it to a website or save it with a click of a button.
Listen to the show to discover why Donna says her branded images are like Where’s Waldo?
Desktop design tools for non-designers
Canva is Donna’s go-to tool for creating visuals. Canva also has wonderful stock images, which are $1. With Canva for Work, she explains, you can do a lot of cool things like resize your images, collaborate, upload branding assets, organize designs in folders, do multiple resizes, and more. Canva for Work costs about $13/month, or $10/month if you buy it annually.
The other two tools that have changed the landscape for creating visuals are Relay and DesignFeed. Relay is $12/month or $8/month if you pay annually. DesignFeed has been free, but they’re bringing in a pricing structure of about $29/month. Both tools automate the creation of visual content and allow a little bit of customization, basically allowing images to design themselves.
With Relay, you basically load all of your assets, then add things such as your logo, a tagline, a hashtag, or URL. When you can narrow down to a particular design, you can change the assets and Relay will automatically reflect the changes throughout each of your designs. This makes Relay great for batching visuals for podcasts, Facebook, and so on.
DesignFeed is similar and simple to use. The difference between the two is that DesignFeed has access to Unsplash and a couple of other stock image libraries. It uses the text you load to choose images from the libraries and create visuals automatically.
Neither tool lets you completely customize your images, and Donna thinks that’s the point. She says that if the tools customize everything, they become like Canva and aren’t an automated tool.
Listen to the podcast to hear how Donna uses Canva for Work for collaboration.
To start with, Donna mentions four typography tools that quickly allow you to add text to photos from your mobile device.
Both Over and Phonto are available for Android and iOS. While Over has effects such as layers and blur, Phonto allows you to do a lot of things with text on images, such as color-block backgrounds and adding text on the top.
Studio, a cross between a social media platform and an image creation tool, allows you to share your images or tap into the assets created by the community. For example, if you want to create a visual related to coffee, you can search the hashtag #coffee, the category coffee, and designers’ work on coffee. You can then go in and remix all of the different elements you find to make your own visuals. Studio is great for finding really cool designs that you can remix and share to Instagram or Facebook directly from the tool.
Donna says the people who created Studio also made Brandr specifically for small businesses. The tool is designed to let marketers upload a logo to put on images, but also hooks into Studio so you can get analytics, have team members work together on content, and more. Brandr is available for a small monthly cost.
Listen to the show to learn which is Donna’s favorite image tool.
Unsplash is a website where you can get free high-resolution photos to use in your social media marketing, blog posts, and social posts. All of the images are licensed under creative commons and there’s a very large selection.
Unsplash adds 10 new high-resolution photos to their collection every 10 days and each one is categorized and organized by collection. Collections include Food (also known as All You Can Eat), Work, Summer, Creatures, Adventure, and more.
Social marketers can go in and search for appropriate visual imagery to go with their blog posts. Whether you’re looking for an outdoors image or office picture, Unsplash will have it, and all of the images are beautiful.
You can even submit your own photos, too! Go to Unsplash.com for more information.
Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how Unsplash works for you.
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Listen to the show!
Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:
- Learn more about Donna on her website, read her blog, and subscribe to her newsletter.
- Watch Donna’s videos on creating images.
- Check out the Top 10 Social Media Blogs of 2015 and 2016.
- Read more about visuals, Socialbakers video research, Periscope video stats, and the Content Marketing Institute report.
- Explore Giphy.
- Check out Snagit, Skitch by Evernote, and Jing for screen captures.
- Learn more about Canva, Canva for Work, Relay, and DesignFeed.
- Explore mobile tools such as Over, Phonto, WordSwag, and Typorama, as well as Studio and Brandr.
- Check out Unsplash.
- Follow me, subscribe and listen to the Social Media Examiner weekly blabs.
- Learn more about the Social Media Marketing Society.
- Read the 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.
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What do you think? What are your thoughts on social media visuals? Please leave your comments below.