If you heard the word “social” ten years ago you probably imagined a group of people talking to each other. Today, you’re more likely to associate this word with social media. You’d be hard pressed to find a brand or an individual that didn’t have some sort of social media presence, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or otherwise.

Different social networks are useful for different purposes, but the main idea behind each of them is to communicate a message. Written content is important on social media for obvious reasons, but really successful brands also know how to use visuals to communicate with their audience.

You may not realize it, but as you quickly scroll through your favorite social media site, you’re probably reacting to visual clues that help you determine what you’re interested in learning more about. Even if you’re just killing time, you’re more likely to stop and read further into a subject if there is a graphic of some sort accompanying the text.

So what can brands do to make the most out of visual social media posts?

Keep it clean and simple:


Unless we’re playing one of those I Spy games, no one wants to see a lot of clutter on their social media timeline. People are often scrolling fairly quickly, especially on mobile, so a clean, easy to read graphic is much more likely to be noticed. The key here is to catch people’s attention and get them interested enough to want to learn more. Bold colors, interesting photographs and large text are often the most effective way to accomplish this.

Stay on Brand:


This doesn’t necessarily mean slap your logo and web address on every image you post on Twitter or Instagram, but keeping things cohesive is always a good idea. Take themes and styles from your website and other marketing materials, and you’re more likely to create a recognizable social media presence. For instance, if your brand always uses black and white photos with text overlay in an on-brand color, and you suddenly start tweeting graphics with generic icons and full color stock photos, that may create confusion for the viewer.

Be real:


If every single thing your brand posts is the same overly “salesy,” generic content, viewers are going to start scrolling past your content. Change things up, and be authentic with your fans. Part of what makes social media so great is that we’re aware there are actual people behind it. Giving a glimpse behind the scenes, or into the history of your business from time to time adds a human aspect that can make you seem more trustworthy.

Encourage action:


Not every single thing you post on social should have a giant BUY NOW!! graphic, but it’s a good idea to have some sort of a plan for what you want people to do once you get their attention. Sometimes a subtle, less prominent action item like “learn more” or “sign up here” works better. Sometimes you can even encourage an action without explicitly saying it, through photos and icons.

Be interesting:


This is pretty self explanatory, but many brands seem to struggle with it. One of my favorite examples of a brand that succeeds at this is Target. Their Instagram account is worth checking out if you haven’t already. Their images all feature products sold by Target, but in really clever, quirky ways. Their posts always get a lot of interaction and there’s no denying it has to do with the creativity behind the images.

If your brand still isn’t taking advantage of all the possibilities available when it comes to visual content on social media, it’s time to step up. Successful companies are spending more time and resources on these graphics and the way we use social media is evolving. You can either invest some time in the appearance of your brand’s social media, or keep your posts dull and image free, and risk being overlooked by brands who are on top of their graphic game.


Watch a webinar on this topic to learn more.