How to Create Visual Content for Social Media Success

How to Create Visual Content for Social Media Success


If you're a startup or small business you can't afford to ignore visual content marketing.  

The benefits of using visual content as part of a digital marketing strategy are enormous and, contrary to what you may think, you don't need to be a qualified graphic designer to produce eye-catching visuals that appeal to your followers, create a buzz on social media, and pique the interest of prospective customers.   


What is Visual Content? 

Visual content comes in all shapes and sizes, the most popular of which are -  

  1.  Static images
  2. Slide presentations
  3. Infographics
  4. Short explainer videos for business
  5. "How To" tutorials
  6. Gifs
  7. Interactive games and quizzes. 

There is something for everybody in this mix, for B2B as well as B2C marketers.  


Before you start creating any kind of content you need to work out what will appeal most to your target audience and on which social media platform prospective customers are likely to see it.  

For example, Pinterest is favoured by businesses which have a clear and visible product to advertise, whereas business services tend to favour LinkedIn.  Twitter is a good place for everyone.  

So why has there been such a surge in visual content over the past few years? 


Why Is Visual Content So Important?

Visual content is a perfect marketing tool with which small businesses and startups, in particular, can:-

  • get noticed online
  • attract organic traffic
  • quickly communicate a brand message 
  • encourage social sharing
    [ 18 Reasons to Invest in Visual Marketing Now  - Snap Ireland]

    [18 Reasons to Invest in Visual Marketing Now - Snap Ireland]


If you refer to my Visual Marketing page you’ll discover just how much we communicate and digest messages visually.  

For example, it only takes the brain 150 milliseconds to process a visual symbol and a further 100 milliseconds to attach a meaning to it.  That’s quick! 

So humans are hard-wired to communicate visually, besides which images are just so much more interesting than a paragraph of plain text.

We also live incredibly busy and frenetic lifestyles and if there is a way in which information can be conveyed rapidly and in a format that is easy on the eye, then that's going to be the obvious choice for marketers.  

So we know the reasons why visual content is crucial for marketing.  Now let's now consider how we can optimise an image for social media success.


How to Grab Eyeballs with Visual Content

You have approximately 3 seconds to snag someone’s attention online before they lose interest.  

When you first log onto Twitter tomorrow morning, ask yourself what first caught your attention in the Twitter stream (likely an image) and, most importantly, what made you stop and take a closer look.  

Consider the following elements - 



If you're going to post visual content on social media, you need to pay attention to what size works best for which platform.  There is nothing worse than seeing an image posted on Twitter or Facebook that has been 'topped & tailed' because it's too big.  It looks amateurish and slightly unprofessional.  

There are so many tools available now, most of which are free to use, to help you create perfectly sized visuals for each social media platform. 

Here are my top picks -


(2)  Captivate with Colour

A bold, bright image can be very arresting on all social media platforms.  

“Colour captures attention, enhances productivity, improves communications and helps boost sales.” - [Xerox]

As I was scrolling through the Twitter stream yesterday this image immediately caught my attention.  It’s bold, it’s bright, it’s eye-catching and I felt compelled to take a closer look.  A great use of colour!


Martin Shervington from Plus Your Business uses colour to great effect in his visual content.  His brand colours are mainly blue and white but because his business is all about Google and Google Plus, in particular, he also uses Google's primarily colours. 

Wouldn’t this catch your eye?

    [ Plus Your Business ]

    [Plus Your Business]


You don’t always need to use a riot of colour to catch someone’s eye.  

Try using a monochrome palette and add a sharp contrast with a juicy citrus orange, for example, as Rob Russo does of Bold Brand. Fast. 

    [  Bold Brand. Fast  ]

   [Bold Brand. Fast]


So you’ve created a graphic that you think will stand out and demand attention.  What do you need to consider next?  

Because we have such a low attention span, how are you going to hold someone's attention long enough for you to communicate your brand message? 


(2)  Tell It with Text

Text adds more meaning to visual content and snags the attention for longer.  

Infographics are shared three times more than any type of visual content, which demonstrates just how powerful visual content can be when combined with little nuggets of written information.   Together they convey messages that would possibly have taken several paragraphs of plain text to explain. 

Take a look at this beautiful Infographic by Irfan Ahmed at Digital Information World about the importance of video marketing.  



Snippets of text combined with enticing visual content is also what makes SlideShare a powerful marketing tool. 

If you're considering creating slides as part of your visual marketing strategy, here are a few useful tips to remember - 

  • Don’t be tempted to overload a slide with too much text; it's boring and you'll lose your audience's attention.   


  • Be bold but brief.  Use one slide to make one point, add a little explainer text below, and move on to the next slide.    


Adding text overlay to static images like the ones above is very quick and easy to do. Think about using the text in the same way as you would a blog headline to ‘hook’ a reader’s attention.  

These kinds of graphics are incredibly popular on all social media platforms and are the easiest visual content to create.  Try and remember the following useful tips - 

  • Keep the text simple and don’t use fussy or cluttered images.  
  • The best image to use is one where you have a natural, open space on which to add your text, such an expanse of sky, the side of building, or a stretch of beach.  


  • Contrast text with the background image to make it stand out better.
  • Be brave! Use a plain, coloured background as a backdrop and add a more intricate text style for added interest.  
No rain no flower.png




One of your key aims when creating any kind of content online is to encourage people to share on social media in order to spread your brand message.  The more people who see your content the more likely it will pique someone’s interest and hopefully generate a new lead.  

So how do you optimise visual content for social sharing?   

People feel a need to share things with their work colleagues, with friends or family for several reasons but one of the main motivators is our emotions. 

“When we care, we share” [Jonah Berger]

In his book, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On”, Professor Berger discusses the reasons why certain subjects are talked about more than others, why we feel compelled to share information and what makes content go viral, for instance.   

One trigger is an emotional reaction to something we’ve seen or heard, whether positive or negative.  We feel compelled to share that experience.  

Here are some examples of how marketers have appealed to different emotions to entice sharing on social media -  


(1)  Unexpected & shocking

The King of Marketing, Sir Richard Branson, shows how to combine the unexpected with humour to make a huge and lasting brand impact.  Who wouldn't want to share this photograph?!  


(2)  Humour

Rand Fishkin of Moz always injects a little humour into his WhiteBoard Friday blogs. 


(3)  InspiratioN

How many of you have shared photographs of Eddie Izzard recently completing his 27th Marathon in 27 days for Sport Relief?  What an incredible way to raise Sport Relief’s profile worldwide as well as a huge amount of money.

So far this image posted by Sport Relief on Twitter has shown phenomenal engagement levels. 



Food and eating is one of the most pleasurable experiences so it stands to reason we'd want to share photographs of delicious plates of food.  

On Instagram there are currently 187,821,230 million posts using the hashtag #food; 34,461552 million posts using the hashtag #cake. 

This particular photo of a berry cheesecake has been liked almost 20,000 times! 



Even if your business doesn't involve food, that doesn't stop you from being smart and including an image of food as part of your visual marketing (provided it's relevant to the content).

Peg Fitzpatrick has done exactly that and used an enticing photo of peanut butter to accompany her article, "How Google+ and Pinterest Go Together Like PBJ" [total shares: 64,000, of which 62,000 shares were on Pinterest).  



It's worth mentioning at this point that pictures food and recipes in particular are incredibly successful on Pinterest.  They are in the top 10 most popular Pinterest topics.

In fact, the word “recipe” is the third-most used word on Pinterest out of 2.9 million Pins and 989,000 'pinners' [Source].

NOTE: ensure you make it super-easy for followers to 'pin' images from your blog or website by downloading the 'Pin It' button.  



Let me just give you a few more recent statistics to underline the important role visual content plays on social media -


"When people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later." - [Why Infographics Work - LifeLearn]


'Visual content is more than 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content' - [9 Infographics to Guide your Visual Content Marketing - Buffer]


I'll also let you into a secret: when I first started creating visual content I was terrible.  I think a 10-year old could have done better. However, with a little practice using Canva I improved and created my own style.  

You can do the same!  

For more help with visual content marketing please feel free to send me an email.  



If you'd like to know how to add your own business branding to an image for social media, for your blog or website, drop me your details and I'll be happy to send you a quick video tutorial. 




Is there something you'd like to know more about, or maybe you have a question you'd like to ask?  

Just drop your comments in the box below and I'll get back to you.