The image of success: 5 Steps to making good first impressions on social media

Social media is essential to modern business now more than ever. More and more scaling and established businesses are using social media to connect with their communities, share updates and unique content to tell their story, and build a strong, timeless brand. And, while businesses embracing social media is a good thing, the sheer number of business profiles now competing against one another means a great deal more work is needed if a company is to stand out amongst its rivals. The secret? It’s all in the visuals.

As a business owner, setting up social media profiles can seem a daunting task to begin with, particularly with such a wide-ranging choice of social platforms available and with so much competition to go up against. There is, however, a way of setting your business profiles apart from the rest, and it doesn’t involve any complex tactics or marketing wizardry.

All it does take is the application of a few basic design principles. The human brain craves imagery, which it processes 60,000 times faster than it processes text. This means that using imagery and visually enticing design as part of your business social media platforms is far more likely to get you noticed than text-based posts alone.

This is a guide to setting up your social media profiles and transforming them from the forgettable to the compelling.

Step 1: Choose a social platform

The first step along the road to a stand-out social media presence is setting up your profiles. The key here is to first identify which social platforms best suit your business’ products, services and goals. This way you can ensure that your content is relevant and your messages are being received in the right way, by the right people.

Each platform, from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Pinterest, has its own unique purpose and user demographics. We advise you spend a little time getting to know which platform(s) best suit your business, as not all of them will be relevant. Once you have decided which platform will best help you reach your target audience, you can start tailoring your approach to suit that platform.


Step 2: Set Up Your Business Social Media Accounts

Setting up a business social media profile or page is a relatively straightforward process that only varies slightly from platform to platform. Considering the fact that Facebook has over 30 million UK users (that’s around half the UK population) we’re going to focus our setup instructions on this popular platform, though you can apply roughly the same approach to any of the others.

There will be a small amount of standard admin to deal with first, including inputting all the key information about your company. You will be asked to provide everything from your company name, address and contact information to your opening hours and an engaging description of your what your business does. This forms the bare bones of your profile, ready to be fleshed out with personality.

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Next is the fun part: choosing your profile picture and cover photo. These are often the first pieces of imagery your followers will see when they arrive on your profile, so they need to be good.

If you’re at the stage of setting up a business social media profile then you should, in theory, already have a solid brand identity in place, which includes a logo and colour scheme. Your social media profile picture should, as best practice, feature your company logo to ensure any customers landing on your profile are able to instantly recognise your business.  

Your cover photo is slightly different. Here you can be a little more creative and design imagery that is eye catching and engaging while also remaining relevant and recognisable as belonging to your brand. You could include images of your products, a striking piece of photography that represents your service or a custom-designed image that informs customers about an upcoming event. Whatever you choose, make sure your colour schemes are consistent with your overall branding to prevent confusion and to reinforce your brand. If you are also setting up a Twitter page, you can apply the same profile picture and cover photo as this platform follows a very similar format. And, Sprout Social has a guide to social media image sizes to help you get started.

Here’s a great example from Uber, which has paired up its logo profile picture with a custom-designed, eye-catching cover photo that ties in perfectly with their brand image.

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Step 3: Create a Publishing Schedule

Now your profiles and pages are set up and have the basic imagery covered, it’s time to plan some content and create a publishing schedule. You won’t be able to nail your use of imagery if you don’t even know what you’re publishing and when, so spend some time planning the following:

Publishing Goals

How often do you want to publish your news, updates and content? Decide on an initial monthly or quarterly goal; this could be to post content once, twice or three times per week, or more if this is relevant to your business.

Tip: We recommend quality over quantity, so if you decide you’re going to post something every day make sure you are able to produce high-quality content consistently.

Messaging and Tone

What do you want to say to your customers? Which products or services do you want to promote? In what tone of voice will you speak to your customers? Spend some time deciding on these factors to ensure your messaging is consistent and relevant both to your brand and your audience.

Audience and Reach

What type of audience do you want to communicate to? How many people do you want to reach? Where do they live? What do they like? All of these elements will help you to better tailor your content and imagery once you start publishing.

Content

What type of content will you be publishing to help you reach the above goals? For example, will it be product images, company news, behind the scenes insights or interviews?

Tip: We recommend a combination of content forms so that your feed is varied and interesting. Try to think about creative ways in which you can share team successes, new product launches or client testimonials.

And don’t forget to analyse …  

Once you’ve been publishing content for your planned time span (a business quarter, for example) make sure you’re looking back and evaluating your successes and shortcomings. This will help you plan new (and better) content for the next period.


Step 3: Customise Your Image Content

Before you go any further, take a moment to scroll through your own social media feeds. Which types of image content stand out the most to you? Which types of images make you stop scrolling and click through to a piece of content? These are the types you need to create for your own business profiles, and they most certainly will not be standard stock images pulled off the internet with no effort or consideration paid.

Simple image manipulation can make all the difference between an image your customers scroll right past, and an image they stop and click on. Spend some time sourcing good quality, interesting imagery and customising it to suit your message and purpose. This can be as simple as overlaying some text (perhaps an interesting quote from the article you’re publishing) or adding a standout statistic or a compelling question.

But don’t just throw things on. A well-designed image should take into consideration a variety of basic design principles to ensure it is visually appealing. These include everything from making sure text and imagery are properly aligned for a neat, sharp appearance, to ensuring overlaid text contrasts well enough with background imagery to make it legible. 

Not sure how to physically go about customising imagery? Move on to the next step; we’ll tell you how. (And it’s easier than you might think).


Step 4: Build Up an Image Editing Toolkit

There are lots of free and affordable apps and online tools out there that can help you create surprisingly effective social media image content. Whether you’re looking to create a new cover photo, a blog post banner or simply an image-based post, there’s always a way to do it if you’ve got the right tools to hand.

Here are some of the best basic image creation and editing tools you can start using straight away: 

Canva

This is a one-stop online image editing and design tool that’s free to use in its most basic form. There are options to buy some of the more advanced imagery and features, but you can use the basic toolkit to create truly eye-grabbing content including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram graphics, blog banners, infographics and advert imagery, to name just a few. This tool is also packed with tutorials and design tips to help you grow your image creation skills. Get started with Canva here.

 

Unfold

This simple yet incredibly effective app has taken the world of social media stories by storm. Unfold ‘lets you create beautiful and engaging stories for Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook with minimal and easy-to-use templates’. The app has gone from strength to strength and our favourite thing about it is you don’t have to sign in or create an account. You can purchase paid-for versions as well as the great free options that are ideal for getting started on your stories journey. Get the Unfold app.

Word Swag

The Word Swag app is an affordable app (just £4.99) that instantly transforms your word-based posts into beautiful designs. Choose from the thousands of inspiring images in its library and overlay quotes or words in an array of attractive font styles for instantly awesome images that will grab the attention of any scrollers-by. Take a closer look at Word Swag here and download the app.

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark is an ingenious collection of graphic design tools that allow you to create stunning mobile graphics, web pages and videos. Its easy-to-use interface and learning tools guide you through the basics of content creation and ensure your branded stories and visual content creations are far from ordinary. Its basic package is free to use and comes with everything you need to get started. Take a look at the range of features and sign up for Adobe Spark here.


Step 5: Ensure Your Images Stand Out

Today’s internet users now own an average of 7 social media accounts each, a statistic which increased by 3 in the space of just 4 years, according to data from Global Web Index. This means that you have a matter of seconds (1.7 seconds, to be exact) to grab the attention of potential customers as they scroll through an increasing number of cluttered social media news feeds. 

You’ll need to distinguish your visual imagery from the rising tide of competition if you’re going to have a chance of getting noticed. Luckily there are a few simple design tricks you can use to make this happen.

Make Them Move

Moving images and animations are naturally more attention-grabbing than still images, so try strategically sprinkling some of these into your social media content where appropriate. GIFs in particular are incredibly popular and highly shareable, plus they are cheaper and easier to make than video content. Giphy is a great website for finding existing GIFs to share as well as for creating your own GIFs in minutes, but keep these to a strategic minimum or you may begin to irritate your followers if you go overboard.

Colour Them Beautiful

Colours account for 90% of the reason why consumers buy a specific product, so the use of alluring colour palettes in social media posts is essential for standing out. Your use of colour for social media imagery should be just as well considered as all other design elements, so spend some time experimenting with different colour schemes and see which ones visually stand out the most. Here’s a definitive list of 25 great colour scheme tools to get you started.

Simplify Them

Cluttered and chaotic social media feeds are often crying out for something minimalistic and stark. Sometimes it’s the simplest of images that stand out to us the most, so make your images the breath of fresh, clean air that your audience may be craving. Simple photography is a great way to achieve this minimal look, or you could try experimenting with typography and letterforms to create clever-yet-simplistic imagery.


And one final tip … 

Brand Absolutely Everything 

The beautiful, shareworthy imagery you create may (if you do it well) get shared far and wide across the social media world. And, while this is a clear success indicator, it’s worth absolutely nothing if nobody knows it was your brand that created it. To this end, make sure all of your social media imagery carries your logo or brand name in some form to ensure everybody knows which clever business it comes from.

Apply these five key steps to your business social media imagery and you’ll be well on your way to making the best possible first impressions, improving click through rates and enjoying some well-earned, loyal followers.