These days, almost every business needs to create visual content.
Status updates, YouTube videos, blog posts, it’s all content and it’s created by everyone, including all of the top brands.
Producing regular content has become a key factor in maintaining a successful brand. Whether you write blogs, run a Twitter page, chat to your customers on Facebook, or do all of the above, producing regular content is instrumental to keeping your brand current, engaging and memorable.
But, since so many people produce content every day, how are you meant to cut through the noise and make your content stand out? The answer: visual content.
Think about it: everybody single status update looks the same. Sure, the interfaces change over different platforms but, at the end of the day, it’s all just black text on black backgrounds, so it’s all too easy to scroll right past key pieces of content, because nothing quite jumps out. But, if you used a visual to communicate your message, used a bit of punchy type, a vibrant palette or eye-catching imagery, you have a much better chance of ensuring people will stop scrolling and have a good look.
Basically, you could have the best, most interesting and engaging written content, and it could still get lost and ignored because it looks the exact same as every other piece of content. Visual content prevents this, though. Visual content gives you free reign to customise your message, use different techniques and mediums to get your message across, it’s really an infinitely useful tool.
So, as a part of our endeavour to make the whole design process smoother, simpler and easier for you, let’s discuss 10 types of visual content you can create right now to get that attention you and your brand deserve.
01. Design Your Page Headers Like A Billboard
A captivating and beautiful social media page design can be the difference between somebody following/liking/sharing your page, or just ignoring it completely. On social media networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google+, you’re given a customisable cover image that spans across the top of your page, which is a hugely useful tool when used right.
Think of it from your consumers’ standpoint – they’re surfing the web, browsing profiles and scrolling casually, when they land on your page. What’s the first thing they see? Your brand’s name, profile picture and cover image. This is you making your first impression on that consumer, so it’s pretty important to make it a good one.
So, how do we make sure that we make the most out of this cover image opportunity?
Well, a good way to consider your cover image is to think of it like a billboard advertising your brand. This is your chance to grab the attention of passers by and pique their interest, flaunt your brand and give these browsing consumers an incentive to scroll further down.
Do you have an interesting show on now, or maybe a new product out? Or perhaps you’ve been given some amazing praise that you want to flaunt about, just like The National Film and Television School do with their Twitter cover image.
So, just like a billboard, your cover image should give consumers a taste of who your brand is and what they are doing right this moment. There’s a few ways to do this, but it basically boils down to this: keep your design consistent with your branding style and tone of voice. Do you have an iconic brand colour or palette? Use it freely and liberally. Do you have a distinct style or tone of photography? Show it off.
Target do just this across their social media platforms, using a distinctly vibrant and cheerful photographic style, and their iconic red and white palette, perfectly encapsulating their brand, tone and giving you a taste of what you can stylistically expect from them.
Need some more inspiration? Check out these 50 inspiring Facebook cover designs to kickstart your creative thinking.
02. Keep Your Design Simple
“Keep it simple” is a pretty common piece of design advice across the board, but even if you never heed it anywhere else, at least heed this advice here.
Social media is a fast business; people scroll quickly and they consume content rapidly. So, as consumers, they generally function better by receiving information in short sharp bursts. This is why it’s a good idea to keep things simple when it comes to visual content.
So, your best chance at creating some truly engaging content that’s quick and easy to consume, is to go simple. Not only will it be effective for consumers’ engagement, it’ll also be way quicker for you to create, and by breaking down your information into separate posts, you’ll have plenty of content to post.
Nike are one of the kings of super simple but super powerful social media posts, check out the ones below that pair a powerful but simple image with minimal type to create supercharged pieces of motivation.
While packing your visual content with images, information and data can work for some mediums such as infographics, posting information-dense visual content all day every day can generally get tiring and labouring for consumers.
And, on top of that, more complex infographics aren’t always tailored to social media. So, if you have decided to start designing an infographic with sole purposes of posting it to social media, try to keep it relatively simple – keep the type large enough that they won’t need to zoom, and keep it easy enough to digest and consume in a short amount of time.
So, your safest bet is to keep your message simple and direct. Design your images so they have determined focal points. For example, those two Nike posts have two main focal points each – the subject of the photo and the type.
The fewer words and elements you can use to communicate your message, the stronger your message will be.
03. Show Your Information, Don’t Just Talk About It
In case you hadn’t heard (or seen) we’ve become a visual culture. We’re all about images now, we consume hundreds upon thousands of them every single day and it’s increasingly becoming a dominant form of communication.
The root of this fascination with images is arguably mostly down to social media. So, it makes sense that for your social media marketing campaign, you should carry that torch and images and visuals wherever you can.
Do you have some information, data or figures you want to post about? Or maybe you have an exciting sale or event happening now? Use some well-designed visuals to capture your audience’s attention.
So, how can we make our designs pop, and direct attention to the information? Well, there are a lot of ways we can go about this.
First of all: typographical hierarchy. Make your most important terms the biggest. Is your sale a whopping 70% off? Make that “70%” large and in charge, put it in a big bold typeface and let it be the dominant element in your graphic. Make sure that when people are scrolling by, there will be no uncertain terms as to what your post was about. Check out this example from Typo that puts the terms “we’re hiring” in big and bold letters, sure to attract any job hunter that scrolls by.
Another technique is to use imagery that complements what you’re discussing. Are you posting a commemoration to your product’s biodegradable packaging? Throw in a picture of your product around some greenery, reinforce that environmentally-friendly message through some carefully selected imagery. Check out this example from Neutrogena that visualises the success of their campaign to conserve water by using wipes, not water to clean your face. Using a with a leafy, nature-inspired graphic not only helps them grab attention to their message, it also complements and enhances their message to a T.
So, in short, you want to get as much attention and clicks as possible. And you can do this with a graphic that highlights the right pieces of information, and reflects your message in a thoughtful way.
04. Build Visual Narratives
Gone are the days when brand were just faceless corporations that aimed to sell, sell, sell. Now, we expect to see more of them. We engage with brands now, we relate to their message and they construct and promote a personality and a story, just like a person might do.
Your social media pages are an awesome chance for you to build and construct this personality and story for your brand. Consumers want to connect with your brand, so it’s in your best interest to make that happen by constructing a personality for your brand though visuals.
Do you want to be seen as a natural, free-spirited and environmentally friendly brand? Consider using some photos of nature and the outdoors, to boost perception that your brand is pro all things flora and fauna.
Personal care brand Kiehl’s constructs a pretty solid story and personality through their carefully curated social media design. Kiehl’s has constructed a brand that revolves around the fact that their business dates way back to 1851, so they foster a wise, time-honoured, vintage-inspired tone and aesthetic for their brand. They manage to reinforce this by using antique-looking imagery, distressed textures, sepia tones etc. in their day-to-day communications.
While a lot of their audience won’t probably think too hard about the imagery that the type is displayed on, they will subconsciously associate the communication with heritage, age and wisdom.
A careful selection of images and type can help you construct a distinct personality for your brand.
05. Include Strong Calls To Action
So, what is a call to action? Well, if you ever sit down and watch an ad, especially an infomercial, I guarantee you will hear two or three (or thirty or forty) of them.
A call to action is a piece of text that entices audiences to make a move to purchase/consume your product. Some common ones are “Buy now”, “Find it in all good retailers”, “Download today” etc. But, a good call to action isn’t just about the words used. I mentioned before how much of a visual culture we are, so it’s more important than ever that you complement that call with an appropriate and effective visual.
So, what makes a good call to action and how can you implement it into your social media design? Well, I have three main points that will generally make your call to action a winner.
First of all, a call to action should be engaging. It should make you think about yourself, the brand and the product, you can achieve this through visuals and written copy. Use words and images to appeal to your consumers’ emotions – be it nostalgia, humour, happiness or sadness, find an emotion and build your communication around it.
Check out this example from 1-800-Flowers that uses sentimentality to present their product. A simple image, some handwritten type gives this call to action a personal touch. A super engaging and effective image that can appeal to just about everybody. Find an emotional angle and use it to call your audience to action.
Your call to action should also be realistic – don’t say “Buy now and this product will change your entire life” if it probably won’t. Also, don’t show your product doing or achieving something that you know it probably cannot. An honest and reasonable promise is way more effective and enticing than any far-reaching claim.
This example from G-Star Raw (a brand that recycles ocean plastic into denim apparel) keeps things realistic and very effective. The idea of turning ocean litter into something ‘fantastic’ is an achievable goal. With a distinct hierarchy given to the words “ocean”, “plastic”, and “fantastic”, and the words overlayed over the product (recycled plastic denim) the key elements of the message are instantly translated to the consumer.
And finally, a good call to action should be unique. “Buy it now” is a bit bland, unoriginal and doesn’t incite any emotional response or desire to act. Try to think of a new, tailored way to motivate your consumers. Make your call to action unique, maybe a little funny, make it thought-provoking and make it creative.
Keep an eye out for calls to action that grab you and that are effective and try to break down why they work. Is it because of the simplicity of the graphic, or the use of hierarchy of the words? Does the copy appeal to an emotion or is it just an intriguing way of inciting action? Deconstruct the most effective examples you can find and then repurpose their techniques to try to make it work for you and your brand.
The beauty of social media is that it’s a two way street. The communication between your brand and consumers works both ways – you can chat to them and they can chat back. Now, this feature lends itself to awesome opportunities for customer service but another thing it gives you is a chance to capitalise through visual engagements with your audience.
Have you ever been to a show where the performer announced that there would be audience participation? Some hands shoot up, people itching to be chosen, and others just like to sit back and watch. Either way, by inviting the audience to participate in the content production, the performer is breaking down that fourth wall and engaging with the audience. What will happen next? Who of us will be chosen?
This is how social media crowdsourcing works. You invite audiences to submit or participate, whether it’s a part of a competition, responses to a question etc. and people immediately engage. They try to figure out what responses or submissions will get the most likes or retweets or votes, they browse through others’ responses and they share the visual content around, inviting others to engage.
Let’s look at two brands that engage their audiences with success. First of all, there’s Dove.
Dove cosmetics fosters a feminine, loving and gentle tone for their brand, which is maintained and reinforced through their visual consumer engagements. Check out this Facebook post that invites fans to share what they love most about their mothers.
The post itself is designed to reflect the Dove brand – feminine, loving and gentle. A serene and loving photograph, paired with a leading statement encourages consumers to share their responses. And they did! Hundreds of responses were lodged and, thanks to the choice of presenting the question via an eye-catching and beautiful visual, the photo has been shared around, continuing the train of discussion and brand awareness.
Consider a way that you could engage with your consumers in a way that reflects your brand, and once you’ve figured that out, present it via a stunning visual that will capture your viewers’ attention and encourage replies and shares.
07. Design Specifically For Each Platform
No two social media sites are the same, this I’m sure you all know. There’s social rules, customs and etiquettes that belong to each platform, but there’s also some more technical differences – namely, image dimensions and sizes.
Have you ever scrolled through twitter, seen a tweet that has an accompanying image that has been cropped awkwardly? A crucial part of the image or message is cropped out of the image, and you have to click on the image or link to see it in full. While just having to clicking once on an image to see it in full doesn’t seem like a big deal, a lot of people won’t bother to do that, so your awesome visual content is left unseen.
For example, the awkward cropping on Maybelline’s Twitterfeed means we almost completely miss the point of this image!
Another frequent case of stunning visuals being hidden by the default social media dimensions is Facebook cover photos. As I’m sure you’re all aware, your profile picture overlaps the bottom left corner of your cover photo, so that whole corner is wasted space.
While these interface design dimensions can ruin your cover image design, if you work these elements into your design, you can come up with a really effective design. Check out the way that National Geographic extended their cover page image into the profile picture image, creating one whole uniform design that looks really great and demonstrates their attention to detail.
Treat your images with the respect they deserve and let them shine on all mediums by just taking a minute to correctly size your images before posting them. Tools like Canva are two steps ahead on this, with just about every template you could possibly need, from Twitter posts and headers right through to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and more. Don’t let your beautiful content get hidden by awkward cropping or overlapping elements.
08. Mix Up Your Content
Imagine if you ate the same thing for every meal, every day. You’d get pretty bored pretty easily, right? The same goes for social media content. If you post the same type of thing every single day, people are going to get a little bored.
While consistency in your posts is fantastic, don’t take this to mean “only post one type of thing a day”. Instead, mix it up a little.
Do you post a lot of photographs? Perhaps consider posting a few digitally-created graphics as well. Or maybe you post still images, consider if a video or a .GIF might be useful to grab a little attention? Keep your branding throughout this varied visuals consistent, but make the content dynamic and diverse.
Let’s have a look at a brand that posts a lot of varied content, while managing to maintain their style, tone and brand.
Neutrogena is a cosmetics company that targets predominantly to women, so their branding is fairly feminine, simple and light. They maintain a balance of content between images and video, product-centered posts and consumer-centered posts. Check out the diverse range of their Facebook posts below.
Neutrogena posts a huge variety of content without compromising their brand aesthetic. Notice how all of their content (bar the consumer-created makeup tutorial) uses similar typographic treatments (pairing a thin serif with an italic sans serif) and similar light, fresh, feminine colour palettes.
So, while you never quite know what content to expect when you see a new Neutrogena post, one thing you can expect to have reinforced is their brand, through consistent visuals.
09. Let Your Branding Shine On Original Designs
Modern social media is built upon the sharing and distributing of content. We retweet, repost, regram, reblog, repin posts that we like and that relate to our brands. In fact, we do this so much, that chances are when we repost that quote card or that social experiment video, chances are a majority of our audience has seen it before and will just scroll past.
As Socially Sorted noted, over 80% of the Pinterest content are ‘repinned’ from within the website. This basically means that 90% of the content on social media sites like Pinterest is shared content, while only 20% of the content is original. The takeaway from this? It’s pretty clear that there’s a fairly big market out there for original content, so if you’ve got it, share it.
The benefits of creating original content go far beyond the number of shares, though. By creating your own content you’re able to tailor it perfectly to your brand and promote exactly what you want to promote. You can use your brand’s palette, typographical style and tone of voice, so that when you post your original content, you’ll be simultaneously reinforcing your brand. Two birds, one stone!
Let’s look at a brand that creates original content that is tailored to their brand: Netflix.
Online streaming website, Netflix is a brand that has a humorous and friendly tone online, so they like to crack a joke every once in a while and they do just this with some original content, executed in their signature red, white, grey and black palette. Check out some examples from their Facebook page below.
If you’re aware of the Netflix branding, then you’ll definitely recognise these posts as belonging to the brand by their design alone.
With bountiful tools at your disposal, custom content creation has really never been easier.
10. Link it back to yourself
You know the saying ‘no man is an island’? Well, the same goes for social media – no one platform is an island. Social media is a network – content spans across every platform, and most people/businesses don’t just have one social media account but instead they extend themselves across many. So, it’s important to keep that network connected and strong.
But how do we do that?
Imagine that you put a lot of work, time and effort into a piece of visual content only to see it 6 months later on somebody else’s blog or page with attributes given to the wrong source, or even worse, no credit is given at all. What! How frustrating.
While many content creators will take the time to ensure they attribute a source correctly, the sad truth is that many don’t. So, while it’s sometimes a hotly contested device, a watermark of some sort on your visual device can help you avoid this lack of credit. Even if the reposting source doesn’t include any written attributions, your brand mark or details will be right there on the image.
Now, a watermark doesn’t have to be obnoxious, distracting or take up a lot of room, in fact I’m sure you have probably seen a lot of source attributions on graphics in passing and not even noticed them. For example, did you notice or get distracted by the subtle brand mark on the Dove post on point number 6? Probably not, it’s included subtly and tastefully, fitting with the image but giving credit where credit’s due. Let’s look at some more examples.
First of all, we have General Electric (GE). In all of their original posts, they include a watermark of their logo in the corner, often coloured to better suit the context – a subtle and tasteful attribution to the original source that doesn’t detract from the visual design or communication.
So, just like you wouldn’t put up your painting up in a gallery without signing it, you should be sure that your content is traceable back to you. Whether this means putting your name, your website address, your social media handle or just a logo, consider introducing some form of credit to your own work so that that credit doesn’t get lost.
Also, a bonus tip: if you’re sharing others’ content and can’t find the source, try Google’s reverse image search tool (or just right click on an image and select ‘Search Google for this image’). Always, always, do your best to credit your sources. Us content creators have to stick together, after all!