It’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands and publishers to increase their reach on social media. Algorithm changes on Facebook and Instagram prioritize posts from family and friends. And Twitter places the most engaging tweets at the top of people’s feeds, so it’s crucial to drive that engagement right off the bat.
The good news is that there is a secret weapon brands and publishers can use to help their posts stand out: high-quality design.
Just consider the fact that images drive more engagement than text on social media. According to Twitter, posts with photos get 35% more retweets. BuzzSumo found that Facebook posts with images drive 2.3x more engagement and 70% more shares than those without. And the brain processes visuals 60,000X faster than text.
Going further, Instagram is now the fastest-growing social network, and it’s entirely visual. Evidently, if brands and publishers want to increase their reach on social media, they need to be creating images and design content.
Here are six ways to do that expertly—and stand out from the noise.
1. Create templates
It can seem intimidating to create images on a consistent basis for each post across all social platforms. But you don’t have to start from scratch each time. You can use templates to quickly create designs at scale. Templates also help marketers maintain a uniform brand message and palette, making it easier for people remember your brand.
Look at Sony’s Facebook images, for example. The electronics brand got a lot of mileage out of one template to promote its E3 2018 showcase. It seems the template allowed them to keep creating social posts by just changing the logo, copy, and filters.
Get the look in Canva with templates like Lightbulb Icon Starry Sky Earth Hour Facebook Post and Night Sky Stars Facebook Post
The benefits of templates also extend beyond your design team. By using templates, you can easily collaborate with colleagues and clients. You can even invite non-designers to try their hands at design by changing just a few elements.
2. Incorporate illustrations
Design doesn’t just have to involve original photography or stock images. You can differentiate your visuals by creating custom illustrations. This allows you to bring wild ideas, quirky colors, and crazy stories to life. If you’re a publisher, you may already be putting these illustrations in your articles anyway, since custom illustrations are on the rise in this industry.
As for brands, Dollar Shave Club does this expertly. The grooming product company creates comic-book-style illustrations for its social channels, like these:
The illustrations stand out in social feeds that may be full of polished imagery by providing a engaging, hand-drawn, and authentic take of brand messaging.
Dollar Shave Club should knows about the benefits of social engagement, too. The company grew from a startup to a billion-dollar organization in just a few years with nothing but a robust social media marketing strategy. And they continue to find new ways to reach social audiences with fun and relatable content like these illustrations.
3. Add your logo
It’s common for brands to avoid being too promotional on Instagram for fear of turning audiences off. And while there is value in using minimal branding, there’s also value in making your brand seen, since this helps you stand out among billions of social posts and keep your brand top-of-mind.
That’s why marketers might consider walking a fine line between advertising their brand and hiding their brand entirely. One way to walk that line is to put a small logo in the corner of your social images, like Pepsi does:
It seems that Pepsi includes this logo in posts that don’t overtly feature its product or tie back to a campaign. These posts, for example, help Pepsi join the conversation during certain holidays and sports events. They’re easy to consume and easy to share. So just in case someone scrolls past it or does share it with their networks, audiences will know it came from Pepsi thanks to the significant but unobtrusive logo in the bottom corner.
4. Build a carousel of images
Videos aren’t the only way to keep users engaged with your visual posts. You can also add an interactive element by creating a carousel of images. This opens up opportunities to let stories unfold and increase time spent with your content.
Outdoor clothing and equipment brand REI found a really innovative way to use a series of images on Instagram.
They make their pictures look like selections from a travel album. And they tease the next image by including part of it in the frame. This yields a more intuitive experience for users, enticing them to flip to the next picture and keep exploring.
As one Instagram user said: “Great transition idea!”
5. Don’t be afraid to use text
Despite all this love for imagery, “text” isn’t a bad word on social media. In fact, it can go hand-in-hand with great design — especially if brands play around with different fonts and typography.
Take Spotify. On Facebook, the brand uses text and imagery to create interactive posts that invite users to answer questions and fill in the blanks.
Another effective way to include text in design is by sharing quotes. GE did this during its Minds + Machines event last year. Instead of just live-tweeting text quotes, the company was prepared to create original graphics for each quote so they stood out in people’s feeds.
6. Educate with infographics
Infographics are the perfect vehicle for sharing educational and informative messages. They can combine text, imagery, graphics, illustrations, and important data all in one piece of content. In fact, infographics have been found to increase web traffic by 12% and drive 3x more engagement than other types of content.
That’s why brands like Morton Salt use infographics to share information like recipes and meal plans.
Create your own recipe infographics in Canva with templates like Classic Pumpkin Pie Recipe Infographic and Modern Cooking Chicken Process Infographic.
Infographics are also great for breaking down numbers and reports into digestible and shareable images. And if you don’t want to post a long infographic on your social page, simply crop it and add a link inviting viewers to visit your website for more.
That’s what HubSpot does on its Facebook page with posts like these:
Social reach is in your reach—with design
Generating engagement on social media should be the #1 goal for brands and publishers right now. That’s not just because “likes” and comments look good, but because shares and engagements help increase reach. Algorithm changes may be flying but they all seem to point to one thing: The more engagement your post generates—especially among family and friend networks—the more it will be seen.
One of the best ways to drive that engagement is by building high-quality design into your content. And there are plenty of ways to do this, be it creating infographics, archiving a stash of templates, or incorporating custom illustrations into your images.
So, social channels can evolve all they want and algorithms can keep changing, but with a robust design strategy under your belt you can always be sure of one thing: You have what you need to drive engagement and reach new audiences.