4 design tips to improve your social media images

Are your social media images doing the job? Avoid the most common mistakes undermining your messages with these key design tips.

The unfortunate truth is that a lot of us really suck at graphic design, especially when it comes to creating engaging social media images.

Here’s one I came across recently on Twitter:

It’s not horrible, right? But it’s not great.

Here’s why:

  1. See the header? It says “Seeking Inspiration?” in white font. Because the background image is made up of white mountains, the text is very difficult to see clearly.
  2. The branding looks unprofessional. It’s just a URL. It suggests that the site doesn’t even have a logo, and without a logo, chances are no real effort is being put into building brand awareness.
  3. The image quality is really terrible. It looks like a screenshot of a screenshot.
  4. The actual title of the post doesn’t make sense. What does “121 posts tagged Content Curation” mean? Talk about bad copywriting.

So how do you avoid looking like that?

Follow these four graphic design tips:

Contrasting colors

The first tip to keep in mind is to use contrasting colors. This will avoid the issue that the image above presents, and help you really make your message pop.

Here is an example of a blog header that very clearly contrasts the text from the background:

Notice how a white block is placed on top of the green background so that the black text can be seen vividly. The image is relatively simple, but because of that, it’s easy to read and it gets the message across. Recreate this template click here:

Emphasize the message

Often, the main message of a post gets lost because the selected stock photo is vague. Just because you Googled the term “Marketing Automation,” for instance, doesn’t mean that the stock photo of a dog with a laptop will help me better understand what you’re saying.

Instead, use text sparingly and overlay your image with the main message you want to get across.

You can do this by using textual hierarchy. Here’s an example:

See how the word “Color” is at least three times the size of the surrounding subheads? Even if someone doesn’t read the entire title, the main idea is still emphasized. Plus, the colors contrast strongly and you can see the text clearly. You can create this exact template by clicking here.

Highlight your brand

Another problem with many social media images is that people don’t brand their photos, especially on Instagram. Here is an example by Foundr Magazine‘s Instagram account:

Every single one of the magazine’s original images is clearly branded with the Foundr logo. Why? If someone really likes the image you’ve posted and chooses to repost it on his or her own social media accounts, then followers will know that the image was originally found on your site. Seems pretty common sense, right?

Use the right image dimensions

To make your social media images really stand out, you want to ensure that you are using the right image dimensions for all of your designs.

If you don’t, your graphics might come out looking highly pixelated and low quality. The recommended image dimensions for each platform are as follows:

Facebook

Common image styles used on Facebook are the profile picture, the cover photo, the landscape photo, the square and portrait photos. Also note that if you choose to run any of these images as an ad on Facebook, you are limited to 20 percent of your image (including text). So try to restrict the copy to a small portion of your graphic.

Twitter

For Twitter the common images used are for the cover photo, the profile picture, the expanded view, the square and the landscape view.

Pinterest

Because Pinterest is a treasure trove of visuals, the image dimensions vary. The recommended dimensions are as follows for your profile, pinned post and expanded pinned post view:

LinkedIn

The most common image you will see on LinkedIn is the banner image. This is typically what appears when you share a post. Other options for a visual are the background image, the profile picture, the logo, and the cover photo.

Instagram

Instagram recently expanded the range of image sizes that could be used on the platform. Aside from the profile picture, you can now post images that are a square share or choose from vertical or horizontal layouts.

Taking time to familiarize yourself with some basic graphic design strategies will ensure that the visuals you create on social media actually generate valuable clicks and retweets. If you’re going to spend time working on designing something, you might as well make it look good.

Nadya Khoja is director of marketing for Venngage Infographics, an online graphic design software. She is also the creator of Drunk Entrepreneurs, a web-series she runs out of her apartment in Toronto. A version of this article originally appeared on Maximize Social Business.

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