It’s no secret that beautiful, eye-catching imagery is a great tool to getting your brand noticed on social media.
Tweets with images tend to get 150% more retweets than ones without and images are easily the most shared and fav’d content on Facebook.
But with all the different social media platforms out there it can be hard to keep up and feel like you’re sending out a consistent message across all of them.
Rather than sharing a patchwork of random images and hoping something somewhere takes off, here are some ways that you can create consistent content that your followers will be able to recognize and associate it with your brand.
Step one: Know your brand
You’re going to have a really hard time creating a visual identity if you don’t really know what your brand is all about.
So let’s start here.
This is the big idea: Know your brand. Understand what you’re trying to accomplish with your social media and brand identity.
Are you selling something? Trying to inspire others? Increase brand awareness?
Here are some steps that will help you solidify your brand values and give you something to work with.
Research. What are similar brands doing?
What do you see that’s working and what do you want to change to make your brand unique?
Just remember to avoid plagiarism when you’re looking at other brands. It helps to create a Pinterest board or some other mood board with all of the content you’re pulling inspiration from so you can track where all of your ideas are coming from.
Brainstorm some brand words.
Is your brand fun or serious? Modern or traditional? Bright and loud or soft and subtle?
Throw out a bunch of different descriptors and narrow down to a few that resonate with you and your brand. Having a list of what you’re “not” is also helpful in defining yourself.
Looking at other brands and determining what their words would be based on the content they put out could be helpful, too.
Build a visual reference.
With those words in your back pocket, pull some imagery from the internet that could relate to your brand.
Again, start with a wide variety that you’re going to narrow down. Then, go through the images you found and ask yourself whether or not they fit with your brand words. You might think an image is absolutely stunning, but if it doesn’t fit with your brand words then it just isn’t right.
Once you have some examples of images that do reflect your brand words you can use those as inspiration for your own content creation.
Stick to it!
Now that you’ve established your descriptors and have some visual references to them, it’s time to make stuff! Let those brainstorming tools be your roadmap, and remember to go back to them regularly.
If you’re sourcing or creating images, keep asking yourself if they fit in with your brand words.
Here’s a great example of visual brand unity. Centsational girl has 90 boards on Pinterest, and has tens of thousands of followers. It makes sense when you see her account.
Visual unity? Definitely.
Step two: Make something amazing!
Once you have a solid understanding of your brand (a brand style guide could help!) it’s time to apply it to your content.
Before you get going you need to know the different strengths and restrictions of various social media sites you’ll use and where your images will actually appear.
If you’re posting an image to Twitter, for example, your followers will usually see a 2:1 preview of the middle of your image.
So you either want to design to those dimensions or make sure that any important copy or information falls in that middle section, otherwise it’s going to get cropped out and people are going to miss it.
If you’re making a graphic for Facebook — an ad, for example — is it going to end up as a large image in someone’s feed or are you making a small sidebar image?
The placement is going to influence how much detail should go into your image. If it gets too small (especially on mobile!) any detail or copy that isn’t large is just going to look messy.
It usually ends up being less work when you do a little planning beforehand and decide where and how your images are going to show up. Otherwise, you’re stuck with an image that looks really awesome on one social media site and gets cropped and looks unprofessional on the rest.
With these things in mind, here are some tools to help you create consistently beautiful (and expertly branded) web content:
1. A Color Story
The filters on Instagram can be a little lackluster, not to mention super easy to spot, and those are good compared to the filters Facebook and Twitter give you on their apps.
A color story is an awesome free resource that will help you start thinking in terms of branding colors and the feelings different colors evoke.
Creating a common color palette (likely going off your logo or brand colors, but it could also just be a common type of lighting or saturation that unites your images) will unite the content you put out there and create some brand recognition once you’ve been doing it with some consistency.
If you’ve ever needed fonts, this is the place to get them.
Fonts are often a critical part of a brand’s visual definition. Think about Harley or Coca-Cola, for example. Their brand visual is founded upon a font.
So where do you get such spectacular fonts?
This is the go-to spot to capture a compelling font, and create your brand identity.
If you don’t have the luxury of making your own images every time, you probably know that it can be a huge pain to wade through all of the endless stock photo sites for images to use.
Only about 10% of stock photos are actually nice to look at. Most of them are super staged and super cheesy.
The ones that aren’t totally ridiculous are probably already being used by about a billion other businesses.
Flickr is one of those image sharing sites that content creators tend to forget about. If you search for images under the creative commons license, you can find some gems that are free to use and aren’t over used. Just be sure to double check the licensing and attribute to artists as needed.
If you ever find yourself feeling stuck (it happens to everyone), Designspiration.net is a great resource for getting unstuck.
It’s basically just an easy place to browse through really good design work. You can search based on keywords or just by color, which can come in handy when you’re coming up with new ideas on how to apply your brand colors.
5. Make templates
If you want consistency from image to image, you’re going to need some templates.
Rather than starting over from scratch every time you want to make a graphic, build yourself some simple templates that have the right dimensions, safe zones, your logo and fonts you commonly use set to a minimum type size (keep mobile sizes in mind! 50pt might seem pretty big but when it’s shrunk down to a mobile screen it’s going to be comfortably legible).
Once you have your templates built it’s easy to just drop in new images and change the copy. Plus, if anyone else ends up making web content for you, you can hand them your templates and know that everything is going to stay consistent.
ArtsHacker rounded up templates for just about every social media platform header. Headers can be especially tricky since it’s not always clear what parts are going to get cut off or covered up by your profile picture.
6. Google Drive, Dropbox, or some other kind of cloud space
Once you start to build a library of images and templates for your branding, it’s super important to keep a good catalogue of the files you use. Save everything – you never know what image or font you’re going to need again later.
Use a common naming convention on everything (project-name_placement_date_dimensions.jpg or something similar that makes sense to you) so that it’s easy to go back and find things you’ve used before.
This is all especially important if you’re a smaller business that’s soon to grow. Then future designers can access assets and keep things looking consistent instead of having to start from scratch every time.
If brand recognition is important to you, taking the time to create unified images will help get you there.
Some brands find success with just creating a ton of disjointed content and basically throwing it at a wall to see what sticks, but those brands tend to only get so far. When you’re building a brand that you want to last, consistency in your visual story will create that solid foundation you’re looking for.
Having well-planned, thoughtful social media images might feel like a lot of extra work at the beginning, but over time it will become easier for you to recognize imagery that reflects your brand values.
Then all you have to do is pop that into a template you made for yourself and viola! Your social media pages look like they all belong together and your followers can easily recognize your brand among all of the other content out there.
What tools do you use when making images for social media?
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