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5 Expert Tips for Designing Better Visual Content for Social Media

You can’t argue against the fact that visual content is king, especially on social networking platforms. But amid rampant visual-heavy marketing, “creating engaging content” isn’t so much a question of the concept, anymore. Rather, it’s more of a question of the process of creating better visual content for social media.

You see, people love stories – the telling and the listening to them. And if you want to grow an engaged audience, you’ll have to tell the best and most unique stories, possible. Today, we achieve this best through visual storytelling.

Why visual content works

Better visuals have the ability to tell stories effectively. And it does this in such a way that it resonates with your target audience at a deeper level; one that’s difficult to achieve with text alone.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” So the saying goes.

In fact, and we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. You’re more likely to go viral for a post with a photo, than just a plain, lengthy status. So whether it’s to make your audience laugh or cry, visual content is your best bet in achieving those goals.

However, while that’s true enough, it’s not entirely a guarantee that your content will immediately stand out on social media. And even if you have an eye for or skill for design, you’ll need a few more tricks to successfully drive your brand’s online growth.

Designing better visual content for social media

So how do you make sure that you’re creating even better visual content for social media? That it’s not just getting passing glances from your audiences? And that it can actually gain the engagements you’re after?

Below are some tips from our very own expert Creatives in the Propelrr team.

  1. Follow basic principles of design
  2. Know your audience
  3. Have one main message
  4. Have a sensible text hierarchy
  5. Ideate for and create engaging content

1. Follow basic principles of design

Your fundamentals hold a timeliness truth to them. Whenever in doubt, it helps check back to your basics and see if you’re hitting the mark on all of the basic design principles.

Some of these design principles that guarantee better visual content for social media are:

  • Emphasis. Helps direct the focus of your audience on the most important aspects of your design. Identify first what you want your audience to pay the most attention to on the graphic. Then, highlight it by either enlarging, placing it at the center, or making it brighter than the other supporting elements.
  • Balance and alignment. Visually appealing designs don’t crowd the eyes of viewers. Often, it’s unavoidable that you would need or want to cram information in a graphic. But with proper balance and alignment maintained, you can ensure that the graphics don’t overwhelm and put off your audience. Avoid bunching heavy elements together on one side of the asset. The same should go for your asset’s lighter elements.
  • Contrast. Is a principle of design that helps you achieve balance, as well as emphasis in your graphic output. Using contrast – be it in size, color, or shape – helps specific elements of your design be more noticeable.

  • Repetition. Don’t feel bad if you have to use certain typefaces, shapes, colors, or patterns repetitively in design. In fact, repetition is more than welcome in your graphics as it helps solidify your concept and theme. Repetition is also good for unifying not just one specific output, but all other outputs for, say, a marketing campaign.
  • Proportion. Often naturally follows mastery of alignment and balance, plus contrast. It’s the overall manner of the weight, size, and composition of your design relate to each other. It can only be achieved if the size and placement of each element of your design have been carefully considered.
  • Movement. Much like emphasis, helps direct where your viewers should look, and creates a tiny story in your visual asset. This is often achieved through thoughtful composition ie. strategically placing elements of different shapes, sizes, and colors, to breadcrumb your reader’s eyes to where they should look next.
  • White space. Sometimes, less is more in design. And while you would want to cram as much information on an asset as you can, it might just end up looking cluttered and “too busy”. White space counters this, by providing a space for your audiences’ eyes to take a break and, at the same time, organize your content on the asset.

2. Know your audience

As we established earlier, visual content is able to inspire certain emotions in your audiences. Let us append that with this caveat: Visual content will only be able to do that if the message of the design itself is resonant with your audiences.

According to Propelrr’s Creatives Lead Ellain dela Cruz, it’s best to “look into their (your audience) interests and demographics to know and see what kind of visuals will work on them, what will resonate and what won’t.” She explains that this insight into your ideal audience is should always guide your design process.

With a proper understanding of your audience, you can very well craft messages that will cut across the noise with clarity. In fact, with the deepest understanding of the audience, designers and copywriters can craft assets that deliver profound messages in simple ways.

Case in point: Pepsi Cola’s hidden logo ad perfectly captured what their customers usually do or, in this case, how they can enjoy eating their favorite burgers.

3. Have one main message

Don’t make your audiences think.

That’s the number one rule in conversion copywriting. And it’s truer for social media audiences. In the case of designing better visual content in social media, you’ll have to keep focus and stick to one, overarching message.

Ellain explains that: “We want to veer away from that because it makes the social media post complicated…[and] makes it ineffective.”

In short: don’t dilly-dally and get to the point. Specifically, communicate a message that meets your exact objectives. Below is a great example from sustainable product marketplace Loop.. If it’s to announce a new product, they achieved exactly that in three short copies beside a product shot.

Plus, to keep the focus on the key message and elements, Loop. utilized a great deal of white space. Even the caption is simple, no-fuss, straightforward, and effective.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Loop. | Sustainable Eco-store (@loopstore.ph)

4. Have a sensible text hierarchy

The most pertinent information to your campaign should come first in your visual asset. In the case of promotional assets for your brand, make sure to lead with what can capture your audiences’ attention and keep them around.

Let’s look at local lasagna brand MADBOIS‘ ad as an example. They wanted to tell their followers about a promo they’re running. Wanting to establish that immediately, they led with a text saying ‘Limited offer’ to cue exactly that to their followers.

Following that tag just below the delectable product shot is a text capturing what the promotion exactly is (free shipping). Finally, directly below “free shipping” are the inclusive dates and locations for the promo.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by MADBOIS (@madboisph)

It may be simple – even elementary – for most of you in design, but you’d be surprised that there are still a lot of brands that don’t put thought into text hierarchy. You’ll find that their visual assets would communicate information that isn’t necessarily asked for. Or haphazardly put headlines and subheadlines in the graphic; confusing their audiences, rather than converting them.

To ensure effective text hierarchy, ask yourself constantly during the design process: What will our audiences ask next? Then, answer each question you think of in the copies.

5. Ideate for and create engaging content

Lastly, design with the intent to engage.

Never start your design projects without an objective. And in setting an objective, always make sure that engagement is one of them. Because if not, then for what purpose are you really designing for?

Getting into a mindset to engage from the get-go helps set the tone of your design process. And to demonstrate this, let’s look at a brand for a card game called we’re not really strangers.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by we’re not really strangers (@werenotreallystrangers)

Everywhere on their social media accounts, you’ll see posts exactly like this. They pose questions and sometimes, thought-provoking statements. And they are able to stay consistent with publishing engaging content because, at their core, is the intent to engage. To get their followers and fans sparking or participating in discussions.

Keep that in mind for all of your content, and you’ll be sure to get your audiences more involved with your brand and develop better visual content for social media altogether.

Key takeaways

Aiming for better visual content isn’t always a challenge of updating your design aesthetics to meet trends. Often, that isn’t really sustainable and may end up throwing off your audiences cause it doesn’t make sense – for them, or your brand.

A better way to approach your endeavor to improve your visual content is to keep in mind the following points:

  • Don’t forget your visual identity. In the world of design and creativity, it can become easy to compare your work with others. But see it more as a way to determine your tastes for design rather than a gauge for what you should be doing. Stay true to your visual identity as long as it makes sense for your brand and your audiences.
  • Design for understanding. Fancy layouts or colorful designs will outdo a clear message. Whatever the format your design will exist in, make sure that it’s telling a clear and compelling story with each element.
  • Revisit the basics. The majority of what will inform your designs are your fundamentals in the craft and your basic understanding of your audience. So as you seek to innovate and seek new ways to creatively package your content, always stay rooted in the basics. They will never fail you.

How do you stay creative and push for better visual content for social media and other platforms? Send us your tips in the comments and let our readers know about them!

If you’re ever in need of help to design for results, you are welcome to tap us over on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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