As you probably already know, this September Twitter removed the character limit for images, GIFs, videos and quoted tweets. As we know that content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images, this is a huge change to the way social media marketers share their content. No longer do we have to plan tweets with 116 characters as opposed to the promised 140 when we want to attach an image to increase engagement. Nor do we have to plan tweets with only 92 characters if we want to include a link as well as an image. I’m telling you, this is truly game changing.
So, now that you have no excuse not to attach images or graphics to your tweets, here are a few tips and tricks to help you make the most of this feature.
Optimize your tweets for social engagement, always* include one of the following:
A photo or GIF relating to the body of the tweet or content of the link you are sharing.
A social graphic that provides a preview of the type of content you’re sharing behind the link or additional information that cannot fit into the tweet itself.
*if deemed relevant, appropriate and necessary according to your account’s persona
Photos and GIFs are easy to share through Twitter. Simply attach a photo from the blog post or news story you’re tweeting to provide additional context and a visual that draws the eye. Don’t have an image for your blog post? Use a thematically relevant image sourced from royalty free stock image sites such as Unsplash or Pexels. When sharing photos make sure they are either owned by you or your organization or are under a creative commons license. For this reason I do really recommend Unsplash for stock photography as it is all royalty free and under creative commons. It’s not quite as effective as using an original image that is representative of your brand, but regardless it will help draw the eye of your followers toward your content.
As for GIFs, the world’s biggest search engine for GIFs – Giphy – is embedded into Twitter’s native app as well as social media management tools such as Hootsuite. GIFs are best used when trying to express an emotion, add humour, imply a gesture or make pop-cultural references. GIFs are almost like a language unto themselves these days, so make sure you understand the social context of the GIFs you use before you share them and choose references that will resonate with your audience. For instance, Adventure Time GIFs probably won’t resonate with the 30+ crowd, whereas Seinfeld GIFs probably will. However, Friends GIFs? Friends GIFs are timeless and cross all demographics.
Social graphics are an extremely effective way to not only draw the eye, but also to provide additional information that can’t be included in a tweet. Social graphics can be used anywhere you would use a regular image on Twitter or Instagram. They can include anything such as event details, a quotation, the title of the blog post you’re sharing, even just a couple words to provide more context to what’s at your link (ie. “breaking news” or “media release”). You can also use social graphics on Facebook, however be aware that Facebook does not allow you to boost posts with images that contain too much text. You can find out if your graphic is too text-heavy here.
One example of how to use social graphics is how we used them to promote our recent Splash Saloon. In advance of the event we used social graphics to help share additional information about the event (location, time etc.) and to profile the Splash Saloon panelists. We couldn’t possibly fit all of the information into the body of the tweet itself, so this allowed us to use our characters to focus on an effective call to action ahead of the sign-up link rather than the event details, which would make for a very boring tweet.
Now, at Splash we have some serious design chops in our crew (we are a full-service digital agency, after all), so you might be thinking “but I know nothing about graphic design, how am I supposed to create something like that for my brand?” Don’t worry. There are tons of resources out there to help you make a splash with social graphics online. Keep reading for a few favourite tools and some top tips from a fellow amateur designer of social media graphics.
1) Don’t use too much text.
Keep the amount of text used in your graphics to brief details, short sentences (ie. quotations) or headlines. Keep in mind that most of your followers will be viewing your content on mobile, so your graphics should be easy to read when on a small screen in-feed. While the ability to zoom in on Instagram and to click and expand on Twitter allows users to view your graphics in more detail, most users will be ingesting your content as they scroll. Therefore, make sure your graphics are eye-catching enough to make them stop, but brief enough that it doesn’t require too much effort to absorb (our attention spans are shorter than that of a goldfish these days).
2) Get to know basic design principles such as the rule of thirds.
While I have no professional graphic design experience, I studied art and art history throughout my schooling and so have some knowledge of the elements and principles of design and composition. So, when I became a community manager and designing social media graphics became a pretty regular task, I found that my basic understanding of these guidelines to be a huge asset, making the difference between a pretty “meh” social graphic and one that actually looks pretty decent and can convince people that you’re way more skilled than you actually are. The wikipedia links above really provide some deepers insight, but you can also check out these PDFs about the principles and elements from The Getty Museum to learn more and see them in practice.
3) Take notice of social graphics that catch your eye, and take note of why.
The best way to learn design (and to learn anything, for that matter) is to study the work of those who are very good at it and, frankly, to copy* them. The more you do this the more you will understand what looks good and what doesn’t, and soon enough you will develop your own style and ideas. It’s all about practice. A great place to find graphic design inspiration is Pinterest, so set up your “social graphic inspo” board today and get pinning!
*okay don’t actually copy them, but borrow elements of their design and try recreating it yourself for your brand.
4) When overlaying text and images, make sure your text is clearly legible.
A social graphic can be as simple as overlaying some text over an image. However, always ensure that the text is easy to read by choosing simple images without too much texture or detail. If your image is more detailed with high contrast, you can simplify the image by adding a semi-transparent colour overlay.
5) Add this link to your bookmarks.
It’s an always up-to-date list of social media image sizes. This is major 🔑. However, if you are using any of the tools listed below the sizing will always be up to date within their apps, but knowing the sizes is always helpful. Also, Landscape (created by Sprout Social) is an easy drag and drop image resizing tool that will crop any image you upload to the social sizes you specify. It, like their blog post, is always up to date so your images will always look fab.
5) You don’t need to be an Adobe whiz to create social graphics.
While the Adobe Suite is the pinnacle of design tools, you don’t need to know how to burn, dodge and lasso to create an effective social graphic. If you are using Adobe (or Affinity, an excellent low-budget alternative to Photoshop), you can use some very simple steps to create a strong graphic. For instance, the graphics throughout this post thus far were created in Photoshop using 4 simple steps:
- Create a new canvas at desired size with transparent background.
- Add solid colour layer.
- Add text layer: type, choose colours & weight and move to desired location.
- Save as JPG.
If that’s over your head or your want to create something more complicated (go you!) there are also tons of Youtube tutorials out there to teach you the basics. However, just because it can be simple doesn’t mean you need to use it. Adobe can be very expensive and when managing a small marketing budget it might not be a feasible option for you.
With that being said, here are a few of the best tools out there that make it super simple to create graphics with little to no skill whatsoever.
Canva is a highly intuitive web application that takes all of the guess work out of graphic design. You can create anything from social media graphics to posters using their pre-baked templates or combining a plethora of elements to work up your own design. It is free, but your options are admittedly somewhat limited. You can, however, subscribe to their premium package for a reasonable yearly fee. Premium allows you to create fully branded graphics by uploading logos, colours and even fonts to ensure that your graphics are on brand every time. PROTIP from our #SplashSaloon speaker Annesha: if you work for a nonrofit you can get Canva Premium for your organization for FREE. F. R. E. E.
Pablo is an awesome free tool for creating simple social graphics from the social media management app Buffer. It is integrated with Unsplash (the stock photography site I mentioned earlier), making it super simple to enhance photographs with text. It allows you minimal control over the design (a handful of filters, texts and templates) but it is super easy to create a pretty slick looking graphic in seconds. The graphic above literally took me less than a minute to create and was entirely free. I didn’t even have to login. So. Easy.
Believe it or not, Google Slides (or any other presentation software you use) can be used to create pretty awesome graphics. I know right? But think about it: when you’re putting together a presentation, aligning elements and incorporating media you are, in effect, designing. Just think outside of the box the next time you open a new presentation. Change the dimensions of your canvas in “page setup” and start designing using the same tools you would when putting together presentations. You can download your slide as a JPG or PNG file to make it easy to upload to social.
Okay, Giphy Capture is not a tool for creating graphics persay, but it is an awesome tool for creating GIFs that your community is guaranteed to LOVE. If video is a core part of your strategy you need to download this free app for Mac (sorry, windows users) to create custom GIFs that can be shared (and liked) widely. It’s also great for capturing your screen (as above – I used Google Slides and toggled through the slides while Giphy Capture recorded my screen). We also use it regularly when putting together our monthly Slack Round-Ups to capture conversations that centred around GIFs themselves. Seriously fun.
Enhance is a newly released iPhone app (sorry, Android users) from our pals behind Hootsuite. For anyone who is on the go and frequently updates social from their phone, this is definitely one you should have in your repertoire. As this is a new release (literally released in the first week of November), I have only played with it a few times. It can be a bit finicky, but once you get the hang of it (and get a little creative with the elements you have access to) can be really easy to quickly create a graphic you can use for social to promote a whole manner of things. Through the app you have access to Pixabay stock images, a large selection of fonts, icons, shapes and any colour you can think of (using hex codes). You can also import “watermarks” or logos to incorporate into your designs. It’s also always up to date with current image sizes for the major social networks so your images always look great.
Infographics are an excellent way to visually convey information to your followers, but if you are a regular frequenter of The Internet you’ll know that some of them are damn impressive. I frequently use Venngage, a free web app similar to Canva that allows you to create beautiful infographics out of your data, to visually represent data for client social media reports. As data is increasingly becoming a part of the way we tell stories of our brands, this awesome tool will certainly become part of your repertoire. In addition to making it simple to visualize data, Venngage is also equipped to create social graphics, so it’s really a one-stop shop if data is your BFF.
So there you have it. With these tips, tricks and tools you should have no problem creating social graphics to help your content make an even bigger splash on social. Still want some help? Drop us a line and we will put our graphic design wizards on it right away.