Essential Graphic Design for Social Media Managers: An Introduction

Images can be a great way to emotionally connect to your audience. As you tell your brand’s story, the right image can evoke nostalgia, excitement, desire, and reflection. Coca Cola, for example, knows this, and has mastered the craft of storytelling with powerful imagery, whether it’s in the milestones of their rich history or a personal one between two people sharing a Coke.

Coca Cola Milestone Coca Cola Milestone 2









Compelling images, now more than ever, are an integral part of successful social media engagement, and the presence of images in social media has become more and more prevalent in recent years.

Photos and images are the foundation of popular social platforms like Instagram, Tumblr, and especially Pinterest, which, at over 10 million unique visitors, is the fastest growing social network in history.Tweets Get 88% More RTs

And, on Facebook and Twitter, images have become a reliable way to garner engagement. Tweets featuring images see 88% more retweets than tweets with links and 19% more retweets than those that are text only. Furthermore, Facebook posts with a photo typically see nearly 3 times more engagement than status updates. Facebook’s Timeline redesign and acquisition of Instagram also reflect Mark Zuckerberg’s affinity for the power of photos on the social network:

“You see the organic News Feed posts moving toward bigger pictures and rich media. The success of products like Instagram is because they’re so immersive on a small screen.” (Source)


Catering to the short attention spans of the social audience, images are quickly and effortlessly consumed on smartphone screens, making content easier to digest and share. With 57% of Facebook users now accessing the site via mobile device social media will likely become more and more mobile, making captivating images more crucial than ever.

With this emphasis on well-designed images, social media managers would be well-served to have a basic understanding of graphic design, especially design that works where your social audience spends most of their time: online and on mobile devices.

Facebook Photos 3x More Engagement

Designing for Social Media

Ideally, you will have access to an in-house design team that can create images for use on social media. In that instance, as social media manager, use the information presented in this series to provide your designers guidance, especially if they typically work in print or web media and aren’t as familiar with the needs of social media sites.

And, as social media often works quickly and reactively, you might not always be able to turn to your graphic design team to create the images you want. In these cases it can help to know the basics so you can make the images yourself.

In this series, we’ll cover the fundamentals, listed below, as well as provide instructional tutorials (with, and in some cases without, Photoshop).

  1. Photo Selection & Sizing: What to look for in a good photo & how to size and save your images so they display well on various social sites.
  2. Playing with Color: How to determine what colors to use to stand out, while staying on brand.
  3. Font Type & Lettering: The magic of combining text and photos, and how to select the right font.
  4. Composition: Putting it all together: how to compose an image that stands out, and how to create a collage.
  5. Examples & Inspiration: What are other brands are doing with images, and ideas you can implement immediately.

We hope you join us next week when we discuss how to choose a good photo and make sure it looks good on whichever social site you decide to share it to!

It’s so fun-ny, how we don’t talk anymore…

That’s what Sir Cliff Richard said in 1979 and that’s what a lot of other people are still saying now too.

With more than 8 trillion texts sent a year and over 400 million tweets sent per day, there are those who say that social media and texting has killed real conversation. They say that we never pick up the phone anymore. They shriek that we are disconnected as a community.

In 2013 though, we don’t have to do this to stay in touch. We can read updates, we can tweet, and we can share articles we think our friends will be interested in. We should of course, still make the effort to chat on the phone and have real-life conversations. But have you ever wondered how many of your friendships wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for social media helping you stay connected?

We would hope that we’ve seen the last generation of old ladies keeping the gasman on the phone just for someone to talk to. We are more connected than ever. Whether that’s to friends and family, or to strangers on the other side of the world.

The same goes for brands. Consumers have more access to brands, and brands have more access to consumers. Brands are still in the relatively unchartered territory of having to listen to customers. Really listen. Because customers are telling them out loud, in public what they think of their company. How they can improve, what they are doing right and what they want from them.

Does that sound scary?

It shouldn’t, because it’s gold.

Previously if you cared enough about the future of your company, you might carry out research to see what your consumers really thought. Brands were in a position of power, they didn’t have to listen to the ‘little man’, but that wasn’t necessarily a good position to be in.

Unhappy customers could still vote with their feet and go elsewhere, before the brand even got the chance to rectify a problem or even know that there was one.

Social media can guide your company in the right direction. It can help ensure that you’re making the best decisions for your company and the right decisions for your company to succeed.

Sure — it’s a brave new world when everything is so public and people can openly review your products and services in front of the whole world.
But if this is going to help shape your company vision and inform the decisions you make, who better to listen to than your customers?

That conversation must be two-way though. All too often we still see negative reviews unanswered, decisions being made behind closed doors and brushed under the carpet.

Recently, Amazon UK was on the receiving end of some pretty negative reviews on both their website and their social presences. One of their sellers was stocking unsavoury t-shirts, which once picked up, caused a flood of comments, posts and reviews, all asking for the merchandise to be taken off the Amazon site.

Inside the walls of Amazon, decisions were being made and they were acting upon their customer’s demands. However, you would have had no clue of this on their social platforms. Their Twitter feed was still happily posting and all comments and mentions were seemingly being ignored.

Percol coffee





This had the effect that, even after they had removed the merchandise, people were still threatening to stop using Amazon if they didn’t remove the goods, long after the goods had actually been removed.

Amazon’s open review system is fantastic, it’s an extremely transparent way for consumers to judge the quality of their potential purchases, and as a result we’ve seen countless companies adopt the same system. It’s just a shame that, the same transparency hasn’t yet filtered through to the way some brands manage their social media platforms.

In order to mitigate the amount of posts and let people know they were being heard, ideally Amazon would have made sure the social team was in place to do the following:

  • Release an update on their social pages to apologise and reassure customers that they are looking into complaints and reply direct to customers where they were able to do so
  • Release another update to confirm that they have dealt with the offending products

On the surface of it, ignoring the problem does mean that eventually the problem will seemingly go away. People will inevitably get bored of tweeting about it and they will move on to the next big drama – but what does that do to the reputation of your company?

Miss Representation





Evaw coalition





Just like our personal relationships, brand and consumer relationships only work if they are two-way. A friendship won’t survive if only one person is making the effort to keep in touch and the same goes for brands. Listening is one thing, but brands also need to make sure that consumers know they are listening.

Otherwise, you may well eventually find your brand at the bottom of the friend pile.

What Does Facebook’s Graph Search Mean For Brands?

Facebook Graph Search is coming. The latest and greatest new feature from everyone’s favorite (or “favorite”?) social media platform is Facebook’s jump into the search space. While not a tool to search the entire web, Graph Search is a useful tool for users to search through their Social Graph to find the results that are the most relevant to them. Facebook is betting that this more targeted search will make users more likely to engage with more content and people on Facebook. Google and other search engines have tried to make their results more relevant and targeted, but Facebook’s access to each user’s shared social connections means that they can go a step farther and make each search result an implicit recommendation from a “friend”, therefore increasing engagement with those results.

Assuming that Graph Search is the game-changer that Facebook hopes it is, many opportunities and changes await for brands on Facebook as well. Here’s a rundown of some steps that brands can take to optimize their Facebook presence for Graph Search.

Location-Specific Graph Search Results

The biggest change for many brands is going to be the increased prominence of local Pages. Brands with multiple local locations will want to claim any local Pages that they do not know under Facebook’s Parent-Child relationship, and update all local Pages with accurate contact and location information. While in the past it was useful for such large brands house all content on a master Page, with Graph Search it is important to publish relevant content to local Pages as well. There are tools that let brands publish content to all Pages at once, which, combined with targeted content published to each specific local Page, will keep local Pages relevant to users and highly ranked in Graph Search.

Acquire Relevant “Likes”

The more connections you have the more likely it is that your Page will be discovered. This means that gaining as many fans as possible is more important than ever. Applications and Facebook Ads to drive Fan Growth may now help drive engagement through more than just News Feed interactions. Of course, you want relevant Likes that sustain, so acquiring relevant fans who find value in your brand and providing consistent, relevant content to those Fans will keep your Page high in the Graph Search rankings.

Encourage Photo Sharing and Check-Ins

Where in the past photo tags and check-ins would have a one-time benefit to the Page from a broadcast into the News Feed, these types of engagements will now have a long-term benefit from Search. Encouraging users to tag a Page and check-in to a location will now prove to have additional benefits. In addition, Photos are their own category in Graph Search, making photos with your brand Page tagged in them an important part of your Graph Search strategy. In addition, photos from a brand’s photo albums will appear with equal weight to those posted in status updates, which will provide incentive for brands to be more strategic about what photos they put in their photo albums.

Additional Advertising Opportunities

While Facebook has not announced advertising opportunities within Graph Search yet, it is hopeful that they would not build a feature this big without the ability to include advertising at some point. Expect “Paid Results”, much like we currently see Sponsored Stories in the News Feed. This opportunity extends to the brands, as they will have the ability to insert themselves into searches that users make into their own social Graph, meaning that ads will need to be even more targeted and personalized.

When Graph Search is rolled out to all users we will know more about the unique challenges and changes that this feature presents to brands. For now, all we know is that those who adopt and adapt early will be able to reap the rewards.

How The Black Keys’ drummer could teach brands a thing or two.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the land of Twitter, @BurgerKing and @Jeep were hacked and @MTV and @BET pretended to be.

If you were following Twitter closely, you might have also seen the Twitter spat between Justin Bieber and the drummer from The Black Keys, Patrick Carney.

The Black Keys had enjoyed a successful night at the Grammy’s with three wins for the band and another for the lead singer Dan Auerbach. Afterwards, Carney was interviewed by TMZ and asked whether Bieber should have got a Grammy by now. He replied with “He’s rich, right?… Grammys are for music, not for money… and he’s making a lot of money. He should be happy.”

Bieber then took to Twitter to publish this Tweet to his 34 million followers.


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Almost immediately, Bieber’s loyal following had waged war against Carney. While this would have sent many running for the hills and deleting their Twitter accounts, Carney held his own by replying to comments using humour and retweeting particularly funny ‘disses’.











Finally he boldly started to assume the singers identity by gradually changing his name to Justin Bieber and replying as if he was the singer. This of course, further infuriated Bieber fans – as well as picking up some unsuspecting followers who thought he was the real deal.











Aside from annoying a small number of his real fans with a few days worth of ‘Justin’ tweets, he actually managed to ride the storm by meeting it head-on and he also got a lot of love from how he was handling the angry Bieber-fan onslaught.


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So what can brands learn from how he handled himself?

Carney dealt with the situation swiftly, without fear and he let his personality work for him.

He was of course, able to be far more ‘cheeky’ than most brands could hope to get away with and while we would never advise brands to use these particular tactics, there are some take away lessons here for brands posting their day-to-day content or experiencing their own social media crisis.

Don’t be scared.

Carney didn’t shy away from dealing with negative comments. Brands – particularly if they are new to social – can be tempted to bury their heads in the sand when dealing with difficult posts (or sometimes, any posts) and may choose to ignore them, hoping they’ll go away.

Ignore the ‘wrong’ one and it could have the potential to turn a customer service issue into a full-blown social media crisis. Rule number one — Make sure you respond quickly to questions or problems.

Carney was swift to act, replied to posts and also retweeted them so it was clear to everyone who visited his profile or anyone following his updates that he was dealing with the situation and may have even discouraged some angry tweeters from joining in. We’ve seen a lot of high profile cases recently where people have been driven off Twitter by a furious mob, simply because they felt like it was easier to run away, rather than weather the storm.

For these larger, social media crises, make sure you have a process written down for managing this type of event – while we’re sure Carney didn’t have his plan in place before the Grammy’s, his quick thinking did help him survive the fallout. Brands may have to go through a series of different stakeholders before a plan can be acted upon, so it is essential that this process be nailed down.

Be yourself. Be human.

We’ve all heard it before, but it’s true. Social should be social. People aren’t interested in interacting with boring staid messaging. They want to feel like a brand or person has an identity. Whether that’s in everyday posts or in how they handle a crisis.

Behind all the big strategies, campaigns and messaging should lie a human heartbeat. Carneys’ decision to go bold and his brilliant use of light-hearted humour in the face of some pretty nasty and sometimes homophobic posts, made this into a much more positive news story that it would have been if he’d hidden away from it. He could have passed this over to an agency and released a statement but he chose to ride the storm with his own personal brand of humour.

For brands, you will know when posts require a serious response but it’s just as important to know when it’s okay to interact in a more human, relaxed way.

People want to feel like they are interacting with a real person. I’m sure everyone following Carney’s news feed feels like they know him a bit better, even when he was masquerading as Bieber, and if you manage to convey this type of messaging for your brand, it will go a long way to help building some brand love amongst your following.

Use humour.

Don’t be afraid to use humour in your messaging if the situation or your branding allows it. A serious customer service issue would not be the place for this method but as Carney saw, treating his crisis with light humour, worked pretty well for him. You also saw this with the recent Burger King hack on their Twitter account. Once they had regained control, instead of releasing a very serious statement, they made it light-hearted and recognised that they had picked up a lot of new followers.


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Carney, Burger King and Jeep have all have seen this positive side of their recent social media crises as they’ve added some hefty numbers to their Twitter follower count. It goes to show that if dealt with in the right way, a negative can be turned into a positive. If they keep the right mix of entertainment, value and transparency and let their ‘brands’ personality shine through, they may just keep all their new followers happy.

Keep this mix in your social feeds and you’ll start to reap the benefits too!

Have YOU heard it on the grape…Vine?


Vine –- The new kid on the block. We all like new toys to play with but does this one add value to a brand’s marketing efforts? We take a look…


What is Vine?

Vine is a new app launched by Twitter. According to them, it “lets you create and share beautiful, short looping videos” that will play directly in your Twitter or Vine news feed (Vines uploaded to Facebook will play in another window). These videos are limited to six second loops but you can stop and start the recording at will, so you can shoot in tiny sections like a flick book if you wish and videos are shareable if uploaded to a social network.

Can we really create good video content in six seconds?

Urban Outfitters shared a simple video that will appeal to one of their core demographics.


Bacardi UK have been demoing cocktails made with their drink, and inviting further engagement by asking followers what they’d like to see next.


Everyone had the same reservations about Twitter, how could we possibly say what we needed in 140 characters or less? We soon saw that the real beauty of Twitter was exactly that limitation — it forced you to creative and concise.
Brevity is particularly important online as a readers attention span is short. So when it comes to Vine, six seconds is pretty perfect for someone whizzing through their Twitter feed and this means that the right content could be incredibly shareable.

How can brands can use it?

  • Behind-the-scenes clips — share a snapshot of a day in the life of your brand or the history behind your brand
  • Demo your products in six seconds!
  • Show sneak peeks of upcoming products, announcements or new advertisements
  • Create a Vine competition where your fans submit the content to Twitter using a specific hashtag
  • Let your staff get creative! See what content they can come up with that might be interesting to your fans and customers. Maybe they can answer common questions or share tips?
  • Endorsements! Film your happy customers recommending your brand! (With their permission of course) Or ask them to submit Vines to you, for you to share.

If you decide to use Vine as a content creator for your brand, above all, remember that Vine is like any other medium you would use to create content. Make sure your videos are creative, shareable and relevant to your audience, and continue to test what works best for your community. Your content should still be high quality, even if it’s in six-second snapshots.

The Rules

  • Make your Vine visually exciting and creative
  • Ensure the message is on-brand
  • Ensure it has a message! Whether that’s promoting office culture, or showcasing a new product – it should have value for the both the brand and the viewer
  • Include tags/hashtags to make your content searchable
  • Share on other social platforms to ensure maximum visibility

Still need some inspiration? Check how other brands are already using it —