8: Using simple graphic design on social media

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Hi everyone and welcome to episode 8 of Your Social Media Journey.

Today’s episode, as promised, is about graphics and how you can use this to make content for your social media accounts. If you are trying to grow your Instagram account or your Facebook page or your Twitter account or your Pinterest reach, then you know that the struggle is real! You are competing with millions of other similar profiles and accounts. In order to make an impression and stand out from the rest, you need to look beyond simply taking pictures and posting these. I am sure you have seen other accounts use memes or words - in fact, it is very common to see every alternate post on an Instagram feed that is a graphic - the reason this works is by keeping people engaged - and, of course, it gives you consistent content. If you do not have images to post on your account regularly, then graphics come in very handy because you can create these without reaching for your camera!

The majority of us will use our smartphones to do all of this - from picture taking to editing to caption writing and then posting. I bet you do that, too! So how do we ensure that the image that we are building for our business remains consistent and focussed on the goal of getting more customers? After all, Likes and Comments are NOT income and money in the bank, are they? For that, you need content that is powerful enough to establish your business as THE place to shop when the time comes - and graphics can be a great tool to send this message out. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the sizes of images that you are posting to each platform is correct. To find out image sizes that you should be using, simply google “Twitter image sizes” or “Instagram image specifications” - and you will immediately find out what the optimum sizes are. If this is too much hassle, then make sure that you are using an app or a website that will do this automatically for you. Most graphic design apps now offer pre-fab templates for every single social media image you might need - from Facebook cover images to Instagram Stories to Twitter banners. So you do not need to worry about the exact image sizes, you simply use the pre-fab templates to do the work for you. 

So how DO you make your pictures stand out? Well, there are several ways and I am sure you have seen these in action on Instagram. It is just a bit tricky to do this yourself because when the time comes to post on your social media accounts, you, if you are like me, are most likely trying to get it over with and get on with your day. So what ends up happening in real life is that you look through your pictures from the last few days, pick one, think, ‘this will do’, add a caption and do exactly that - get on with your day - with a tiny nagging feeling that you are doing EVERYTHING you can, and yet your account does not seem to be generating any business for you! Well, this is where a little bit of planning can come in.

If you want to make your pictures stand out a bit more than others, there are several free apps you can use to enhance your images. I use a combination of these apps on my images and videos to make my content stand out. So let’s talk about the kind of graphics I am talking about. And no, I do not have any official training in graphic design. What I do use are free apps, and some paid ones, to make my posts shout! Lets get into the nitty gritty, shall we? And just in case you are listening to this in your car or in the gym or on a walk through a beautiful park, be assured that the complete show notes are available for this episode on my website www.yoursocialmediajourney.com, so you can go there to find that one app that you liked the sound of. 

Here are five different ways I use graphic design to make my content stand out:

A very simple step is to frame your post or story with a colour or white frame. If you start doing this consistently, on every single picture and video, then your feed aesthetic will start to look very much your own. I have recently started doing this on my Instagram stories and pretty much any image that I need to stand out a bit. The apps I use are Unsplash, or Snapseed. Both apps are fairly simple to use and, most importantly, free! You see my friends, I like a freebie just as much as the next person!

A second simple idea is adding text overlay on photographs. If you have a picture with a fair bit of white or light space, this can be used beautifully to add words. But, of course the space has to be empty. Adding text to a cluttered image looks, well, cluttered. You can choose a picture that you have taken yourself, or use a stockphoto. And no, I do not see any shame in using these. In fact, if I want instant content, this is where I look first. To add text, I tend to stick to one font, at most two. The larger the number of fonts you use, the weaker your message becomes because of visual clutter. I also shy away from very bright colours, ALL the time. Sometimes, yes, but all the time, no. The apps I mainly use for this are Adobe Spark Post, Canva and SnapSeed. There will be links in the shownotes to all these apps.

A third way in which I use graphics is by using Instagram’s inbuilt tools for stories in addition to apps to create stories.  Now, before you say that there is not point in working so hard on stories, the buzz is - and this is good well sourced buzz, that stories are going to take over news feed on Instagram. Facebook is really pushing on getting Stories ahead, Instagram is now allowing Stories Ads, so stories are not going anywhere. Episode 3 of this podcast was all about stories, so go and check it out if are looking for more information about Stories and how to use them. So, the BEST to create fuss free but visually interesting stories that I found is an app called Unfold. It has a free version and very affordable paid version. It even lets you see what your story will look like when you post it online - before you post it. It really is worth a try. So, in addition to creating stories on Unfold, I then use Instagram’s inbuilt tools to enhance further or to add more interest. This includes simple tools such as arrows to point towards a particular sentence, or simply searching for a gif (do you pronounce it Jif or Gif?! - that is the question!) - so searching for a gif that is relevant to my story. For instance, the other day I was creating a story for my main account, Fair Cake and I was going to share some user generated content. Instead of just starting to share on stories, I created a quick story page, looked for any gifs associated with the word “sharing”, selected one gif and left this on the page. The more you use gifs, the better you become at using these. Of course, less is more, but they are fun to use!

One side note - if you wanted to create a post for your feed, rather than stories, you now can. Adobe Spark Post now offers the same stickers - so you can make an Instagram square or a Facebook image look exactly like Stories, but in a different image size, check it out if you are interested!

A fourth way to use simple graphic design is by using templates. Now there are several of these available for free and it is entirely up to you how to use them. There are absolutely fantastic free templates available on Canva, Adobe Spark and a brand new graphic design app I was recently introduced to, this is www.designwizard.com. The simplicity of this website is absolutely wonderful. Where Design Wizard wins is the lack of overwhelm. There is something as too much choice right? This website is easy to use and super quick in helping you create content that stands out. If you have not seen this already, give it a go!

A fifth way is to add icons to your images to add an extra bit of interest. Say you are running a series of posts for a specific purpose and you would like each to be coordinated. You can choose an icon, which is a simple vector image that you can resize to add to your post or banner. A vector image is something you can resize without losing the quality - so it will not become pixilated if you have to increase the size of your icon. There are a million and one of these icons available on pretty much every single graphic design app there is. So, for instance, you can search for a Frame in the search bar in Adobe Spark Post and you will see hundreds of picture frame icons appear. If you were trying to highlight a particular product, you could then plonk your image inside a pretty frame - so it will stand out from the rest of your feed. Its a fun way to add interest to whatever it is that you are doing. 

So there you have it, five different ways of introducing graphic design, with zero background in graphic design - using these tools will help you create richer content for your audience and is especially useful if you want to communicate specific ideas. A picture does tell a story, but sometimes, it needs a nudge! To recap, the five ways are:

1. A simple white or coloured frame around your image

2. Adding text to your images

3. Using gifs or gifs

4. Using pre-fab templates

5. Using icons to add interest

If you liked this podcast, please take a moment to give me a review. A podcast will not be a podcast without a little beg for reviews now, would it? I have some fantastic interviews and more awesome episodes lined up for you - including an interview with a fabulous entrepreneur who has set up her business against the odds of geography! If you want to get in touch with me, my Instagram is @yoursocialmediajourney, and I am always available to answer questions by Direct Message. Until next time, bye for now….