This article was contributed by Anna Guerrero.

It’s no secret that visual content dominates on social media. Visuals help express ideas quickly — which is a refreshing contrast to the clutter of written content we absorb online every day.

But when you’re competing against virtually thousands of other brands — how you can compete?

That answer is with good design. If the purpose of social media is to leverage your fans towards your business, then good design can help get you there quicker.

Let’s take a look at 10 principles you should follow to create beautiful and effective social media posts.

  1. Use your brand colors consistently

Colors are a powerful tool for social media because they offer a way to convey mood and meaning without words. When choosing the right color for your brand, consider:

  • Is my brand masculine or feminine?
  • What kind or feelings are associated with my brand?
  • How do I want my customers/audience to feel?

The psychology of color and branding is a dedicated art, so ensure you choose brand colors that speak towards your personality and focus. Once you’ve created your brand color palette, which should consist of two to four colors, apply your colors consistently within your designs.

Your color palette applies to the colors you use in your social media graphics, as well as the imagery you choose.

Benefit Cosmetics does a great job of appealing as a “feminine”brand through its consistent use of pink. In this example, it has used pink for the background color of a quote graphic, as well as on the backdrop of an image shot for its Facebook page.

  1. Choose fonts that reflect your identity

Fonts bring your design’s message life. The fonts you choose should embody the personality and character of your brand, as demonstrated in these examples from Dove cosmetics

Notice how Dove use a cursive font on its Facebook page, which creates a feminine feeling to the graphic. This is a nice choice to advertise their range of women’s beauty products. Compare this to shaver brand Gillette. In this example it uses a bold and regular uppercase sans serif font to create a simple and strong look.

Social media images are a great opportunity to branch out from your usual set of brand fonts. For example, a cursive or uppercase font wouldn’t be the best fit for longer sections of text on a webpage. Social media design is your chance to get creative with your font collection. Whatever fonts you choose, make sure you apply them consistently.

  1. Choose background images with clear copy space

Copy space refers to empty areas in images. Placing your text in areas with clear copy space will improve the legibility of your design, and help you get your message across.

Duolingo use copy space effectively on its Facebook page by placing text in areas which can be easily read.

If you need to create more copy space within an image, enlarge and crop it. This will give your text more room to breathe.

  1. Use consistent layouts

You can create a series of posts using consistent layouts. These are a great way to engage your fans, as they look familiar every time your post them on your social media pages.

Make sure the layouts are designed with a common theme in mind. Nutella has demonstrated this approach on its Facebook page, creating a series of graphics with suggestions about how to eat nutella. This is a clever, not to mention time effective, way to create unique visual content that builds your brand image and boosts user engagement.

  1. Present data visually with infographics

Infographics are a powerful tool for brands to use on social media. Did you know that publishers who use infographics grow in traffic 12 percent more than those who don’t?

Infographics are made up of text, icons and images, and can be a great tool for charity organisations or educators who want to get facts about their work across.

Fairtrade uses infographics regularly on its social media platforms to present powerful data about its charity work. This example, taken from its Twitter page, uses red, yellow and orange to break up the statistics on the graphic. Notice how several icons, including the coffee beans, trophy, and shovels have also been used to present the facts visually.

  1. Place your logo consistently

Try and keep the positioning and size of your logo consistent for the majority of your graphics. If you need to change it to suit a particular kind of design, make sure it is either centre, right, or left aligned intentionally.

Your logo should never overpower your design, but it’s also important that it isn’t too small. Determine a minimum size for your logo and add the requirement to your visual style guide.

See how Oreo has places its logo consistently across this series of Valentine’s Day graphics taken from its Facebook page. As an extra tip, never place your logo flush with the edge of your design. Instead, leave some padding (extra space)) around it, to make it look more intentional.

  1. Use filters that enhance your brand identity

Whether you’re posting images via social media or using them as backgrounds in your designs, applying a filter can help give them a unique look and feel. Some filters will brighten your images, while other will bring out certain colors, so it’s important to have a clear idea about how your want your images to look. Remember filters are optional, so only use them if you feel like they add value to your post.

Lifestyle magazine Kinfolk uses an iconic photo filter for all of the images across its social media platforms to give them a clean and crisp aesthetic.

Notice how Kinfolk’s photo filters complement its ‘less is more’ or minimalist approach, making it an effective way to brand its images.

  1. Create visual posts around hashtag campaigns

Hashtag campaigns can be used to market your brand, or particular campaigns. They encourage fans to join the social media conversation by posting their own images or status updates with a corresponding hashtag.

Check out this Twitter graphic created for Lululemon Athletica’s latest hashtag campaign #givepresence. Including the hashtag in the post makes the graphic more sharable, and encourages more fans to engage with the campaign.

9.Optimize your image posts for different social media platforms

Maintaining your social media presence will have you posting on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google, which all have different preferred image dimensions.

Covering all bases on social media can be time consuming — the easiest way to optimise your graphics efficiently is to create templates for post types that you create regularly. For example, you could try these ideas:

  • A weekly quote post
  • An industry tip
  • A cover image for a company blog
  1. Prioritise Images over text

People respond well to images on social media because they’re easier to digest than text updates. Take advantage of your visual elements and only use text when necessary.

Using icons is a creative way to minimize your text in your graphics. See how in this example an icon had been used to replace the word “fly”. This adds visual interest to the graphic and makes for an original social media post.

In fact, if your images are strong enough,  you might not even need any text or graphic overlays. Nutella also does this well — proving that a few words and a strong image is all it takes to engage their fans.

Over to you

Creating visual graphics for social media is an dedicated discipline, so it’s important to be conscious of design principles to achieve the best results.

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