How to Create Engaging Social Media Graphics

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Generating engagement on social media is imperative for any brand that wants to boost awareness or grow a customer base—which let’s face it, is every brand.

So it’s no secret that as consumers of digital media, our newsfeeds are overwhelmed with customer stories, updates and calls to action as a result. As users, we’re getting inundated, and as social media managers, we’re finding it tougher to stand out.

The strategy for those in the know? Get visual.

The Importance of Getting Visual on Social Media

The power of visuals to grab attention and drive engagement is undeniable. Think about it, what type of content do you engage with in your own time?

A study by OKDork and BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million articles and found that including an image with a post on Facebook more than tripled the amount of shares that post received, while on Twitter shares more than doubled.

Adding at least one image to the body of an article more than doubled the times it was shared too.

This isn’t a new idea. In his popular book “Brain Rules“, published nearly a decade ago, molecular biologist Dr. John Medina wrote that vision trumps all other senses:

“If information is presented orally, people remember about 10 percent, tested 72 hours after exposure. That figure goes up to 65 percent if you add a picture.”

But deciding to go visual is just the first step. Doing it in a way that will engage, while elevating your brand and fostering trust with your target audience, requires a little design know-how and strategic vision—no pun intended.

Over at Adobe Spark, we’re advocates of good design. In this article, we’ll explore how you can incorporate some basic design principles into your social media graphics to boost your brand awareness and affinity immediately.

As a bonus, each design principle has an accompanying set of post templates that are totally free for you to use.

Basic Design Principles for Strong Graphics

1. Legibility

Perhaps the most important principle of good design is so obvious, it’s easy to take for granted: make sure your text is easy to read.

Don’t overdo it with fancy typefaces that might look pretty, but ultimately will detract from legibility.

Keep in mind that US consumers now spend an average of five hours a day on mobile device with an estimated 50% of that time in social media apps. This means a large share of your content will be consumed on the small screen. Keep that font size up.

blackberry jam adobe spark template

Blackberry jam template

Modern Art adobe spark template

Modern art fair template

Pro-tip: You’ll want to be cognizant of color contrast. Steer clear of color combinations that create visual vibrations, which is when colors don’t contrast enough and appear to bleed into one another.

color contrast

2. Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is the use of stylistic elements like color, type size and positioning to convey the relative importance of information on a page.

Like punctuation or syntax, hierarchy provides order and helps readers prioritize and comprehend information more quickly and accurately, and ultimately enhances communication.

A few things to keep in mind as you build your designs: everyone reads top-down and most cultures read left to right by nature. Bold visual cues like a heavy font or strong color can create tension in our natural processing.

When creating graphics for social media, where skimming is standard and you’re trying to grab a viewer’s attention, keeping a clear hierarchy is paramount.

Succulents Adobe Spark Template

Succulents template

Pop Quiz Adobe Spark template

Pop quiz template

3. Color

Color is an invaluable tool for creating contrast and balance. But it is important to be aware of how certain hues or pairings influence perception. Some colors such as those in the red and yellow families, can stimulate and energize, while others such as those in the blue spectrum can convey calm and trustworthiness.

As you start your designs, think about what feelings you want to evoke. Once you have a sense of your desired mood and effects, you can play around with professionally designed color palettes in Spark post to get an idea of color groupings that create harmony and balance, and how to use them in your messaging.

modern business adobe spark template

Build a modern business template

five spices adobe spark template

Spices template

4. Typography

Much like color, typography conveys mood and tone, sometimes more more powerfully than the copy it delivers. When choosing a font, think about the desired tone of your words.

Some of your copy may be intended as more humorous; some more serious. Know where you have room for expressive flourishes with your typeface and where you’d like your font to be more neutral. From there, you can explore which typefaces work best together.

Cupcakes adobe spark template

Cupcake template

coffee adobe spark template

Coffee template

5. Context

Distribution may come at the end of your content workflow, but it is important to be thinking about where your visuals will live every step of the way so that you can tailor your graphics to the sizes and preferences of the respective social media platform.

Spending a little time exploring your customer’s motivations is crucial to this step. You want to be sure that once you’ve grabbed your audience’s attention, you’re offering some value and not just being a distraction.

Every audience is different, so I can’t tell you what will work best for your brand. However, I find that it helps to start by thinking about the underlying motivations for why people share. A New York Times Customer Insight Group broke the reasons people share into five main categories:

  1. To bring valuable, enlightening and entertaining content into the lives of people they care about.
  2. To define themselves.
  3. To grow and nourish their relationships.
  4. Self-fulfillment.
  5. To get the word out about causes they believe in.

One of the things I love most about Adobe Spark is that once you’ve decided what you want to share where, it can help you with the heavy lifting of optimizing your visuals for a range of social networks with the handy resize feature. You can also use Landscape by Sprout Social to quickly resize your images to share across multiple social media channels.

Not sure what size your social media graphic needs to be? Here’s a list of the ideal social media image size for every platform.

Social Graphics & Brand Identity

Armed with the basics of good graphic design for social media, we can now turn our attention to brand identity and how to leverage your visuals to reinforce and elevate your brand story.

The fundamental building block of brand is consistency. It takes five to seven impressions for people to begin to recognize your brand. This means that repetition of key brand ingredients—logo, colors and typeface—is essential.

If your graphics look and feel cohesive and related, then users can form a clearer understanding of your brand in their minds. If your graphics look and feel different every time, they will have no cumulative branding effect (except for ensuring that your users don’t know what to expect).

adobe spark social media graphic templates

Adobe Spark’s premium features allow you to seamlessly integrate your brand ingredients, such as your logo and colors, into all of your social media graphics. That way, every piece of content will look consistent and professional—and Spark delivers 24 branded templates for a variety of platforms and use-cases that you can create from.



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