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featured Reach vs Impressions Best Practice Twitter Analysis Youtube Analytics Instagram Strategy UGC Insights Integration Visual Content

The Comprehensive Guide to Social Media Visual Content in 2021

by Gaurav Belani on August 06, 2021

Social media is as chaotic as ever and businesses continue to rise above the noise by capturing users' attention in new, creative, and original ways. 

How do you stop your audience dead in its tracks on social media? The simple truth is that nothing beats visual content to deliver a compelling message.

In this article, we cover how to leverage social media visual assets to drive audience engagement up. 

Visual content helps brands stand out from the crowd and convey important information in a visually compelling way. From images and videos to GIFs and infographics, visual content comes in many forms.

The reason visual content assets should be in every marketing team’s arsenal is that it allows you to show off a product from every angle or engage an audience with rich, immersive media. 

8 types of visual content you should be creating

Users worldwide spend an average of 145 minutes on social media every day. This shines a light on the fact that you must tap the full potential of all social platforms and reach out to your target audience, most of whom are likely to spend a significant amount of time online daily. And it would help if you did so with solid visuals. 

Here are eight types of assets you can create.

1. Static visuals

Your average consumer is overloaded with information. They do not want to see words on words all the time on their feeds. Bite-sized pieces of info, broken down into a caption and an image with a brief text, are likely to do better.

You can use carousel posts on Instagram and Facebook and share more information in chunks or promote your products in an organized manner. 

2. Explainer videos

Such videos work best in the SaaS sector, which requires companies to explain how a specific tool can help alleviate common consumer pain points. 

Explainer videos enable more information to be received in less time — minus an all-text explanation — which, frankly, can be boring, tedious, and challenging for the average consumer.

3. Special effects

Who does not like special effects? They are fun, quirky, and can facilitate understanding complex concepts like machine learning when done the right way. Of course, one cannot deny their popularity in beauty, travel, and lifestyle niches.

Depending on your industry, you can follow the same path and unleash your artistic expression with the help of a photo editing tool like Artleap. This tool offers options beyond standard Instagram filters, from creating a kaleidoscope or pop art to split colors. You can also apply some fantastic 3D effects.

4. Authentic photos

Sure, using stock images seems to be the most cost-effective and time-consuming option for designers, but such visuals already dominate many social feeds. Why follow what everyone else is doing? Carve a niche for yourself by getting a series of photos clicked apt for your brand.

Create a folder of images that display authentic situations and emotions. That will help your target audience better associate themselves with your brand. Personal care brand Dove always shows visuals of ordinary people to drive the message that beauty has a broad definition.

More recently, they used photos of healthcare workers after removing their protective gear for their “Courage is Beautiful” campaign.

5. Video collages

Photo collages are cool but imagine using videos to create a collage. Why not? They help convey more information in one frame, are creative, and boost your overall branding. 

Moreover, you can create a fantastic visual by using videos you already have.

6. Behind-the-scenes (BTS)

The informality of BTS content gels perfectly with social media’s sense of community. It gives your target audience a sneak peek into what your company is really like. Luxury brand Dior recently rolled out a social media post where they revealed how they made their clothes for their Summer 2022 collection.

It displayed the uniqueness of the brand and made their audience feel like they were a part of something special. It was a fantastic opportunity for users, in general, to see what makes Dior the luxury brand it is.

7. User-generated content (UGC)

UGC refers to photos, videos, audio, and text created and published by users on social media. In digital marketing, UGC is typically about a brand, product, or service. When customers post about a brand on social media, they also influence others.

According to Adweek, 85% of people think UGC is more influential than social media posts created by businesses themselves. Therefore, include their creative work on your feeds.

Fashion retailer Monsoon often asks their shoppers to share photos of their products with the hashtag #MyMonsoon.

8. Memes

Social media is flooded with memes, and for a good reason. They are funny and highly engaging. To put it simply, a meme is a catchphrase, concept, or joke picked up from a movie, sports event, or TV show.

A plus point is your designer does not need to design anything from scratch. In fact, they can be easily created using dedicated online design tools like Imgflip. Memes have the potential to go viral.

Seven visual content hacks you must follow

Now that you have learned the types of assets you can populate your social media feeds with, let us take a look at the best practices for creating stellar visual content:

1. Keep a consistent color palette

In order to be creative, do not forget to maintain seamlessness in your branding. Take a look at a few popular companies’ social media accounts you like, and you will notice one thing: they all use a conformable color scheme.

With Coca-Cola, it is red. With GiffGaff, it is gradient. This has not happened by accident. These brands understand the importance of associating their social media visuals with their overall brand personality.

Therefore, whatever visual asset you create, be deliberate with your colors. Your target audience must be able to identify your brand quickly.

2. Add your company logo, wherever appropriate

Whatever you post on your social media has a chance of getting shared or re-pinned, or retweeted. Hence, it might be a good idea to include a logo. On Pinterest, for instance, pins with subtle branding (logo and website URL) perform better than those without anything on them.

Without a logo, it is easy to forget where your post came from. Be sure to add a small logo to the corner of the visual. If your logo color makes your asset look too busy, use a monotone version for better clarity.

But you also need to remember when to add a logo and when to avoid it. For example, you may not need to do so for your LinkedIn cover banner. Context is everything.

3. Create visuals of the right size

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, and LinkedIn have different requirements regarding image sizes. Plus, they do have a tendency to change periodically.

For instance, Twitter finally introduced a vertical image update on their app, although their desktop web app still does not accommodate this update.

Use a proper image size guide to design your visuals so that your audience can see them correctly, irrespective of the platform. You also need to take care that your visuals are of a high resolution to not stretch or crunch out of proportion.

To share a horizontal photo in a Story, add a background to it so that it does not look bad or dull. If there is not enough room for content, create an animated post or create a carousel.

Here are the visual size guidelines for all social media platforms:

  • Facebook — 1200 x 628 pixels
  • Twitter — 900 x 450 pixels
  • Instagram — 1080 x 1080 pixels
  • TikTok — 1080×1920 pixels
  • LinkedIn — 1350 x 440 pixels

When it comes to video, recommended social media video dimensions are:

  • Facebook is 1280 x 720 (landscape and portrait)
  • Instagram is 1080 x 1080
  • Twitter is 720×1280 (portrait), 1280×720 (landscape) and 720×720 (square)
  • TikTok is 1080×1920
  • LinkedIn is 1920 x 1080 (landscape), square (1920 x 1920) and 1080 x 1920 (portrait)

4. Write strong social media captions

Minimize text use in your visuals and instead post them with longer social media captions. Give your visuals more context through written content and allow your users to engage better. Captions are also the ideal place to use hashtags to make your content more discoverable.

Check out how clothing brand Lucy & Yak created this visual with a short copy but wrote a lengthy caption alongside it. Research by Fohr shows that the average caption length has doubled since 2016. In other words, less is more in social media visuals.

5. Humanize your social media visuals

As mentioned previously, avoid using stock images. Instead, go for photos that emanate the personality of your business. Get exclusive images clicked, including the people you work with, and add illustrations creatively.

Try to develop visuals that are brighter and positive. Further, be mindful of representation. Use photos and videos that represent the diversity of your audience. This is not just socially responsible but also smart.

Look at your audience analytics and market demography to develop outstanding visuals. Getty Images’s The 67% Collection, for example, promotes body positivity. Alternatively, access stock photos “beyond the binary” on Vice’s Gender Spectrum Collection.

6. Use typography to your advantage

Besides the colors and images, you also need to treat typography as an essential visual element so that your social media feed looks consistent from a branding perspective. 

Most expert designers recommend using three separate font types:

  • One for headers and titles, which is the largest font.
  • One for subtitles, which should be easy to read.
  • One for the body of the text, which should allow your audience to grasp info quickly.

7. Consider investing in filters

The concept behind using filters is simple — they help you keep things consistent on your social media. Also known as presets, these are commonly favored by influencers as they do not have to invest too much time manually adjusting the lighting and saturation hues of every image or video they add to their feeds. 

If you use Adobe Lightroom to color correct your photos before posting, you can apply preset filters to accentuate the same aspects of all your images, adding to the cohesive feel of your feed.

Check out how this business coach has created a fantastic Instagram feed.

Over to you

There is no doubt in our minds that visuals attract more viewers. Researchers at MIT say that the human brain can process images seen for only 13 milliseconds. But only using visuals would not work. You have to ensure they successfully connect with your audience. Remember to use the right tone of voice and maintain brand identity to take your social media marketing success to greater heights.

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