Monday, 19 January 2015

Easily create great images for your social media posts

If you are responsible or take responsibility for posting to a social media page, you may have come across the many articles declaring that imagery is crucial to social success. This is mostly true, whether it’s an image for a link preview or an image to accompany your tweets.

That being said, if you don’t have the luxury of a pictures editor or an image optimised website, then you’ll have to create these yourself. And this takes time, particularly for a newbie. Sure, you could carry on posting links to Facebook with the most basic of stock images pulling through. Or precariously continue taking images from Google and Flickr. But generally these will not appear visually appealing to your fans. The subsequent danger is then that interaction tails off and the great content that you've created isn’t viewed by as many people as possible.

An easy platform

So, I am going to show you how to do it in 12 quick steps using my preferred site: For this example, I am also going to use what I personally label “The Buffer Model” as I base my design on the images the Buffer blog uses with it’s tweets.

A note on PicMonkey. I was once also a complete novice when it came to creating images for social media. I relied (oh, the days) on Microsoft Picture Manager to make basic edits to photographs from our work’s image library. A colleague (h/t Transatlantic Blonde) alerted me to this free website/app and suddenly our social visuals were better by roughly 100%.

There are other sites too, most notably, the Guy Kawasaki endorsed Canva. By all accounts, Canva is a beautifully designed site in itself and has an almost limitless catalogue. However, I have yet to sink my teeth in and at the moment am happy with my PicMonkey Royale account.

12 steps to better pics

So here goes...oh and first, you'll need to know the image size guidelines for each of the main social networks. Sprout Social handily keep this page updated with all you need to know.
Let’s use a Facebook link based post as an example and this title of this post.

1. Open the PicMonkey website and hover your mouse over ‘Design’ on the top nav

2. Without clicking, this will drop down a range of preset options - choose ‘custom’

3. You'll get two boxes to enter your dimensions for width and height

4. For this example, I’d type 1200 x 627 (I like using the maximum dimensions for clearest results

5. You will then be presented with your white canvas and a list of tools down the left hand side

6. Here I am going to colour my canvas pale yellow (fff198 to be exact)

7. I then want some background textures, so naturally I go to the Textures option on the left nav (a wee cross hatched icon). You'll see a whole bunch of options. Bear in mind that the ones with the crown symbol on them are only available to Royale users. I pay for this service because it’s awesome and it's inexpensive.

8. I love the ‘Clouds’ texture, particularly the first option. It looks good and I don’t mess with saturation or the fade level.

9. Now I want some text overlay so rather obviously I choose the ‘t’ symbol on the left nav, which again opens a whole range of options with the same rule applying to Free/Royale choices.

10. I’m going to use four different fonts here to jazz up the pic a bit and for this example, I use Sue Ellen Francisco, Pencil Pete, Special Elite and One Trick Pony.

11. Because I’m using a textured background, I need my fonts to be bold and stand out against the clouds so where necessary, format the text to bold and/or choose the blend mode as ‘screen', 'hardlight' or 'multiply' but play around and see what works for you.

12. I usually middle my text alignment and then increase the size so that it will be readable on smaller screens. 

And that's pretty much it.

It’s a matter of preference on how much extra you want to add to your images but it is worth remembering that no one is actually going to see your image at this size. It will likely be on a smartphone or tablet so don’t get carried away with detail nobody will notice.

For an image based post, follow the exact same steps using the altered dimensions relevant to the social network you are using. I don’t claim that this example is perfect and certainly, Buffer as an example, do this way better. However, for folks who need something to boost your visuals on social but are short on time and budget, this is hopefully a solution to get started.

Mess around; perhaps create a collage or edit an existing photograph. If it’s a seasonal holiday, use some of the relevant graphics on offer to make sure your posts are in theme with whatever’s happening.

What do you use for creating graphics? Let me know. If you say MS Paint, I will have to report you to the relevant authorities.

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