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It’s no secret that visual content is key to engagement on social media, no matter what platform you’re posting on. According to a study we did last year analyzing nearly 5,000 user profiles, sharing photos is the best way to get retweets on Twitter and likes on Facebook—and to combat organic reach decline. But what if you don’t have a huge library of photos to choose from?

Not a problem. Visuals on social media can come in lots of forms other than photos—infographics, quotes, post designs—and still be just as successful. What matters is that you provide some kind of eye candy to go along with your message. If you don’t have a graphic designer on staff to lend a hand, don’t worry; we’ve put together 10 simple tips for making eye-catching visual posts that anyone can handle.

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To illustrate today’s design tips, I’m going to use the graphics from the Webs Mother’s Day campaign! In honor of the holiday, a bunch of us got together (recall that Pagemodo is a part of Webs) and said what we’d like to thank our moms for. We turned these ‘thank yous’ into social media graphics using Pagemodo Post Designer and shared them all weekend on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

10 Design Tips for Social Graphics:

 

1. Use transparent overlays
This is a handy trick for when you want to use an image in the background, but you still want to make sure the text over the image is easily readable. In Photoshop, you can do this by adding a layer on top of the image, filling it with a solid color, and then turning down the opacity until it looks right. Similarly, in Post Designer, you can add a square shape on top of your image, change the color, and turn the opacity down to around 70%.

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2. Use fun icons to reinforce your message
Vector icons are a great way to visually reinforce one of the words in your text. They can add poignancy or humor, depending on the message, increasing the emotional impact that leads to engagement on social media. (Note: the first message below is mine—hi mom!)

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3. Use a background that reinforces your message
Sometimes a literal image is a great choice, but an abstract one that still reflects your message can create a fun effect too. Try to find a background image that fits your message without translating it directly.

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4. Create text blocks using dividers
One popular trend in graphic design is to manipulate typography so that all the lines are the same size, forming a solid shape. This can be tricky if you don’t have the right number and length of words, but you can still achieve the look by filling the extra spaces with other shapes or dividers to make the block work all the same.

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5. Don’t be afraid to add a pun
On our own social media networks, we’ve noticed that puns and nerd humor get great engagement. Even if it’s just a simple nod to a niche topic, a pun can really help your audience relate to your image.

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6. Let shapes and images interact
When you work with a tool that allows for layers to be brought forward or pushed back, it can be fun to layer text on top of different shapes and banners. You can rotate the letters to fit the shape perfectly, creating a neat effect. Alternatively, you can make your text interact with a background image by arranging it to fit around objects in the photo, instead of writing over top of them.

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7. Have fun with fonts!
I love fonts…maybe even a little too much. So one of my favorite things to do when creating a design is to find ways to combine multiple fonts together. The trick is to make sure you are creating a cohesive look, not something that seems too busy. A basic rule of thumb to start with when combining fonts is to choose one very plain font (like a sans serif) with one decorative font.

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8. Use a shape to contain your message
If the tool you’re using has resizable shapes, try creating a large shape that you can fit your text inside of. This can help set it off from the background and create visual interest.

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9. Use negative space
A design doesn’t have to be busy or colorful to be eye-catching. Sometimes using negative space—also called white space—is a great way to draw the eye to your text. Never feel like you have to fill all of the space up! Try a short message with one simple icon.

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10. Highlight your hashtag with shapes
In order to draw attention to the hashtag we were using for this campaign, Deanna used a cloud shape (which fit her design) to set the #ThankYouMom apart from the rest of the image to make sure it was seen—and hopefully used when the image was shared!

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Have you every created a visual campaign as part of your social media marketing? What design tips do you have? Share them in the comments below!

About the Author: Sarah Matista is the Content Marketing Manager at Webs, where she also manages marketing for Pagemodo – a suite of social media tools. Loves social media, branding, whales. Get more from Sarah on Pagemodo’s Blog and Google+.

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