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5 graphic design principles for social media posts

A well designed social media post is the right size, has a clear main message and appropriate graphical elements. There are a lot of great social posts out there and there are some really bad ones but most are mediocre. To help take your posts from good to great, here are some graphic design principles that you can apply to your social media posts:

1. Start with size

Same photo shown in different sizes for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Ask yourself which social platforms you are planning to publish this post on. If you are doing multiple, like Facebook and also Twitter, you may need to make a new image for each platform. The good news is that you can start with one post, get it to where you are happy with it and then resize it. When you are choosing photos or background elements, choose some with some space around the main image so you won’t cut off important parts when resizing. You’ll then only have to move a couple of elements around before you save again.

If you don’t know what size you are starting with, this post by Twirp Communications is super awesome with all of the details. Or you can use a program like Canva.com that have the sizes pre-loaded. (If you don’t have Canva Pro with auto resizing, when you need to make a new size, create a new document and then copy/paste your elements from one file to the other and then fiddle until you are happy)

Pro tip: Beware how your post will show up on mobile! If you put a ton of text or elements right to the edges of your post you may not be able to see it or it may get cropped on mobile.

2. Mean your message

Bold text "Virtual networking" placed over a background of multiple people

What are you trying to say exactly? How can you get that message across in microseconds? If your reason for posting is to advertise a sale or event, make the words “FLASH SALE” or “VIRTUAL NETWORKING” the largest things on the image. Think about if your reader is aimlessly scrolling quickly through their feed, if they are going to catch 2-3 words from your post- what do you want them to be?

In addition to your main message, be sure to include all of the relevant details in your post like dates and times for events or what the next action can be for sales or quotes.

Keep the number of words to a minimum but with everything people need to know. Easy right? 🙂

Pro tip: Try and describe what you are trying to say out loud to a friend in 3 seconds. Whatever words come out that they understand, write them down, that’s your headline.

3. Be creative but consistent

facebook ad with quote annotated

Now that you have an image of the right size and you have the right words at the right sizes, time to try and catch your reader’s eye. This part may seem very hard. I know you aren’t designers and that’s ok.

The first thing you can do is set yourself up with some constraints. What are your brand colours? Only use those colours. What shape is your logo? Does it have squares and triangles in it? Use those. Is it a circle? Use a circle frame. Using your brand’s colours, fonts and shapes consistently is a way to build trust with your customers.

The second thing to do here is to connect with your audience. Who is your customer? Are you a coach who works with mothers returning to the workforce? Show a photo of a Mom-Baby. Are you a fitness coach? Show a photo of a yoga mat in someone’s home or an illustration of the new workout move you have. Real photos are the most desirable like the ones you took at your last fitness workshop or you with a past coaching client but stock photos are the next best thing. Canva and PicMonkey have loads to choose from or you can choose an illustration. Be as consistent as possible when posting, if you do fitness moves, maybe hiring an illustrator would take your posts to the next level. If you do business consulting, be sure and choose photos that show professional people in them. Here is a link to 20 websites that you can download diverse stock photos from. The main idea is to connect with your audience by representing them well and then being consistent in that style across all of your posts on all of your platforms.

Pro tip: If you don’t know what your brand colours are, download my free branding guide to record them.

4. Balance, balance, balance

facebook ad for a Flash Sale annotated

Once you get all of these pieces (text, photos, illustrations etc) on the page, you are ready to put them together.

The key to trust with your customers is consistency and the key to good design is balance.

A great social media post is balanced in the following ways:

  • Symmetry
    • Draw an imaginary line down the centre of your post, is it balanced or are there more items on one side or another? Move elements around until it is balanced.
  • White space
    • That main message from earlier is your focal point. Leave white space around it for maximum readability.
  • Contrast
    • Use one colour from your brand palette as an accent and then apply it to only 1-2 elements. Seen above, the orange from the Pixels & Pieces logo is applied only on the main message, everything else is blue. If you have a photo that is super dark, use white/light text to contrast. The goal is maximum readability and a clear direction for the eye to follow.

5. Put your stamp on & send it out

Many people make a post for social that has a photo and a quote or event time but then forget to put their company name/logo or website on it. Sometimes posts get shared without the accompanying text or outright stolen and putting your company name/logo on it puts you in a better position. Putting your stamp on your post doesn’t have to be huge, it just has to be there to give you proper credit for what you’ve created and to invite your audience to check you out.

Bonus: 2 heads are better than one

Before you push the button (and we all know how satisfying that can be), have someone else read your post. I know this can be time consuming but poor communication (spelling errors, date/time errors, poor readability) erodes trust super fast

Do you need more help with your social posts? Get in touch for a free 20 min consult!