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Expert Tips for Creating Engaging Visual Social Media Content

Experienced marketers aren’t necessarily fluent in social, but with the right guidance, any brand can create a compelling visual identity.

The old phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is usually associated with a print photograph, but the same messaging can be applied to images on social media. Like the physical photo, the quality, story and strategy behind social media images are of vital importance. Why? Photos, as well as other social media visuals, give consumers a reason to follow, like and eventually buy from you. What you post on your social media accounts gives consumers insight into who you are and what values you hold as a brand.

Social visuals are different from other marketing content. There are a lot of brands that dominate in their marketing efforts, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the same strategies or visuals translate for social. With the right style guide, best practices, guidance and content strategy, any brand can create a compelling visual identity and excel at their social media efforts.

Style Guide

Every visual on social media must follow your style guide, becoming instantly recognizable to your audience.

  • Themes: Content should follow color palettes, fonts and logos in alignment with the brand’s overall guidelines. Content should also be based on recurring content buckets linked to overall business objectives and social media marketing goals.

  • Audience research: Knowing what your audience’s interests are is also important when developing strong visual content. What would they like to see? How does this vary across each social platform? Pro tip: If you’re not sure, ask! Even established brands with great social check in with their audiences frequently so they can continue to adapt their content to meet their audiences’ needs. Take Food 52’s Instagram Stories as an example. They constantly take the temperature on their audience to see which colors, sizes and shapes their potential customers desire (and their asks are on brand visually!)

Best Practices

Following best practices such as posting content at peak times based on when your audience is most active is just as crucial to success. But what components make a visual stand out?

  • Photography 101: There is a clear, single focal point in the image or graphic and it follows the rule of thirds. Using natural light whenever possible, but if additional lighting is needed, avoiding overexposure, out-of-focus, overly warm or cool photos. It’s also helpful to add complementary colors as well as subtle contrast for balance.

  • Social platform specs: Another mistake that must be avoided is ignoring platform spec rules for visuals and their thumbnails. Nothing is more unappealing to look at than a low resolution, stretched or crunched image. It will reflect poorly on your brand.

  • Clutter: One of the biggest challenges content creators face in social media marketing is translating complex ideas into simple and clean visuals. Visuals should also be tasteful and, if using text, is should be legible, bold, concise and straightforward.

  • Angles and crops: When reviewing a marketing trifold or mailer, compare the images with those on social. What are the differences? It’s typically the angle of the shot and the crop made in post production. You’ll see a lot of food photography shot overhead or fitness content shot without the model’s full body in the frame, making it “social friendly.” Notice how the athlete in this photograph is off center and part of her body, along with the fitness equipment, is cropped out. It’s also a unique overhead perspective, highlighting the athlete’s physique.

  • Attention Grabbing: Consumers have an average 3 to 8-second attention span. Crazy, right? In those eight seconds, the visual needs to capture their attention with compelling video titles, interesting cover images and make them crave more content frame after frame. Santa Monica-based mescal brand El Silencio is a master in this department. Their brand content is out-of-the box and visually stunning.

Hiring the Experts

Since social has proven itself to be a lucrative and necessary channel for building brand awareness and closing sales, determining your budget is next.

According to, companies spend 46 percent of their annual marketing budget on digital marketing. In 2018, businesses spent about $200 to $350 per day, or $4,000 - $7,000 per month, or $48,000 to $84,000 a year on social media marketing. In the end, the budget will depend on brand goals, cash flow, target audience and the product or service your brand offers. We recommend spending 10 - 25 percent of your digital marketing budget on social media marketing, with experts behind the wheel.

If costs seem too high, do not turn to an intern or family member for guidance on social. Unfortunately, they:

  • Don’t have enough experience

  • They won’t stick around forever

  • A rookie mistake can cause a social media storm or PR nightmare

  • They don’t know that there is more to social media than posting updates and slapping on a few hashtags.

Working with internal team members is safer, but hiring a content marketing agency is the most advantageous step toward succeeding at social media and seeing the highest return on your investment (even if we are a bit biased). Working with experts at a content marketing agency doesn’t require a salary, benefits, tech gear and office space like internal teams do. What you can expect when hiring an agency:

  • Social media management (scheduling, publishing, listening, engagement)

  • Audience research and growth

  • Strategy and analytics

  • Content creation

  • Community management

  • Campaigns and promotions

Still have more questions about social media and why you should invest in hiring a digital marketing agency? We’re here to help you with FREE consultations to figure out how best to pivot your marketing in our current climate. Give us a call at 323.596.0606 or email us at

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