By Dave McGurgan | @dmcgurgan
“The web is becoming increasingly visual.” It’s something that we tell our customers and our prospects every day. With the rapid adoption of mobile devices and increased download speeds, more people are consuming more images (and video) than ever before.
As social media marketers, it’s our job to help brands and organizations connect with their audience and one of the primary ways we do that is to create social media visual content for both the web and social networks (which, by the way, are well on the way to becoming one and the same).
Here are some of our favorite tools that we use to create social media visual content both for Four Dog Creative’s own marketing efforts and on behalf of our customers as well.
We’ve previously praised Canva for its awesome pre-sized templates and drag-and-drop functionality. It’s a free tool and with add-on stock images available at just $1.00 a pop, Canva is an inexpensive way to create visual content on the fly without making a big investment. Canva for Work is a modestly priced premium feature ($12.95/month) that allows users to create visual content that adheres to brand style guidelines. You can use some of Canva’s templates and pre-made designs, but non-designers may find creating visual content a challenge. See Canva’s design school for help with that. If you’re looking for a less expensive option to Canva, we recommend checking out Pixlr.
The folks at Relay have come up with a very powerful visual content creation tool that takes much of the guesswork out of creating graphics. One thing that we really love is that Relay provides micro-training videos, nearly all of which are under one minute in length. That means the learning curve to start using Relay is minimal. From there you can create all sorts of graphics, banners and/or social shareables, schedule them for distribution (if you’d like) and truly jumpstart your engagement on social. If it’s just banners that you’re after, you’d do well investigating Bannersnack.
There are several online photo editing tools and PicMonkey has been our go-to tool since its inception in 2012. It’s great for quick cropping, editing or optimizing images. You can also use it to create all sorts of overlays on images. It’s relatively idiot-proof, which is why we’ve stuck with PicMonkey for so long, especially when all we need to do is quickly edit or create an image and don’t need to fire up Photoshop. If you’re a little more advanced with your design skills, you can use Gimp, a very powerful and free(!) Photoshop editor alternative.
Haiku Deck is our secret weapon for creating killer presentations. We try to turn as many people onto it as possible! It’s a highly visual tool that helps you effortlessly create beautiful presentations and compelling storytelling, and it’s super intuitive to use. The next time you’re working on a presentation and are waiting for Powerpoint to load up, head over to Haiku Deck and try throwing together something really quickly. You’ll be glad you did, and so will your audience for not boring them to death with another text-heavy Powerpoint presentation. For an alternative, try giving a presentation with no slides at all!
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Quotes are a powerful way to present ideas via social. Whether you’re looking to create an inspirational graphic or highlight a powerful quote from a story, Instaquote makes it easy to create beautiful text-driven pictures. It’s a mobile app that is available for both iOS and Android, so it’s a great tool for creating social media visuals on the fly. Like most apps, the basic version is free and you can unlock additional fonts, colors and text options for a small upgrade fee. Another great tool for creating visual quote content is Shareasimage.
The global Instagram community of Instagram shares more than 60 million photos every day. It’s a great way to share your visual content, but its robust editing tools give Instagram a dual function, in that it can be used to edit/remix visual content as well simply publish content directly. We’re starting to see more flexibility in how marketers can use Instagram including third party integration and the ability to toggle between multiple accounts; two more reasons Instagram is one of our go-to tools to create visual content. Another great photo app to create compelling visuals is the camera-centric app, Hipstamatic, which we like a lot.
There are many choices for mobile apps that allow you to insert text overlays into images, but in addition to text, Over also can add artwork to images. It’s a dead simple app that allows you to make really beautiful and creative designs. The learning curve is next-to-none, so it’s a very intuitive tool to use and doesn’t overwhelm with too many options. Wordswag is another app with similar functionality worth checking out.
This mobile app is multi-functional, with its leading use being its photo collage and magazine features. It also handles photo editing as well as beauty filters and editing tools, so it’s great for those who are producing a lot of selfies, model shots or fashion images. Moldiv has a little more flexibility than most tools when it comes to creating collages, which is why we love it so much. There’s also iCollages and LiveCollage if you need more collage configurations.
This minimalist photo editor has a lot of awesome features that do much more than edit and publish visual content. Adoption among younger users is high and it’s also a potential secret weapon for photographers and bloggers. VSCO has a personal grid where you can show off your photos. Its journal functionality makes it easy to share photos and write as much text as you want to accompany photo sets. The layouts are really clean and can be used as a powerful storytelling tool! We’ve heard some good things about Rocket Rooster’s Lightroom Film Emulation Pack, but you’ll want to check it out for yourself.
“Where can I get free stock images?” It’s a question we get asked at least once a month. And while there are dozens and dozens of sources, MorgueFile is one of the best. The quality of images is high, the search function returns useful results and you can usually find what you’re looking for in one to two passes. Some Reddit users have listed some of their favorite free stock photo sources as well. With this information, you should be able to find what you need. And don’t forget Flickr’s Creative Commons for photos that you can use for free.