Social media marketing is one of the most difficult tasks to master for any business owner. It has the potential for huge returns and equally huge exposure for your brand. There is a reason that one of the world’s biggest advertisers, Coca-Cola, went on record saying that they spend 20% of their $3.4 billion yearly ad budget on social media. And that number continues to grow every year.
But for companies like yours and mine, we can’t commit hundreds of millions of dollars to a full-time social media team. Luckily, there are a few tried-and- true practices that we can borrow from the big guys to help us design better and more effective social media posts. As the founder of GoDesignerGo, a company that offers unlimited graphic design for a flat monthly fee, we use these exact same tactics when designing social media graphics for our ecommerce customers.
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Before you begin posting on social media make sure your brand has a document that outlines your design language. This is commonly referred to as a Style Guide, but feel free to name it whatever you want. The main goal here is to give your posts an identity and consistency that people can instantly recognise as your brand.
The format of this document varies from company to company, but a few general elements you want to include are items like font choices (size, weights etc.), how your logo is displayed and, for the sake of this post, basic guidelines that will garner the look of your social posts.
A company that does a really good job of keeping things consistent and effective on social media is Amazon (no surprise there, they are Amazon after all!). In this example, their Instagram posts are not only graphically consistent with a clean, bright look but their product selection is diverse and fun. If you were to click on each of the photos in the screenshot above you would see that some promote entire categories while some promote specific products.
Amazon likely has the budget to shoot all of their social photos in-house, but some good alternatives are to look towards your suppliers (if you sell other people’s products) who will often have a selection of hi-res photos for you to use and modify if you’re looking to posts similar to Amazon’s.
If you are selling your own product, you can either take photos with a green screen background (and then have a designer put in whatever backdrop you want) or do some inexpensive product photography using coloured paper, backdrops around your house or even at your local coffee shop.
Keeping a consistent look across your social platforms is important, but only if you have content to put in those posts. So how do you design effective posts? Good question! Let’s get into it.
For each network – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – I will give you advice on easily actionable best practices along with examples of companies that are using the networks effectively. It should give you a good starting point from which you can better understand how to design posts for your store.
Before we begin, remember that none of these tips are steadfast rules. Rather, each is designed to offer a good starting point from which you can begin to test and see what works best for you and your goals.
The good news about Facebook is that it is still very much a visually-dominated network just like Instagram (which we will talk about next). Visual social media networks are great for ecommerce stores because their products, by the nature of being physical products, are best sold when shown to the customer.
So, what is the best way to utilise Facebook to promote both your store and/or the individual products So, what is the best way to utilise Facebook to promote both your store and/or the individual products within it? Well, not to be a Debbie Downer, but there is no one best way. There are, however, a few best practices and tips that we have seen consistent results with for our customers.
Use text cautiously
Being a visually dominated network means that people are more likely to engage with posts that aren’t dominated by text. Numbers vary, but a recent study by BuzzSumo found that posts with images got 2.3x more engagement than those with just text. That’s a huge increase. The same principle applies to the text within your image.
Another good reason to limit the amount of text is due to Facebook’s policies regarding text when you decide to use a post as an advertisement. They have become slightly more lenient regarding their 20% text rule, but just because you can use posts with more than 20% text doesn’t mean you should. Most posts with too much text will be flagged with a warning notification in Facebook’s Ad Center. This notification will alert you to the fact your ad is not being displayed to its full potential (or not at all). Not great at all.
Because text is so taboo in Facebook images, make sure that when you do use it you do so with purpose. Our main recommendation when designing an image for Facebook is to add a very clear, compelling textual call-to- action. Generally speaking, this call-to-action should look like a button or plain text in a colour, font and position that makes it stand out from the rest of the image. Below is a good example of call-to- action text from DigitalMarketer.
The majority of small businesses and small ecommerce stores don’t add the call-to-action text to their social media image. This is a huge disadvantage due to the simple fact that users will likely make a decision about your ad without ever reading the ad copy you spent so much time carefully crafting. It sucks, but it’s the truth. That’s why we always try and include a CTA within the image itself.
Borrow from popular images & franchises
People love stars, brands and images that are well-known or easily recognisable. Assuming you have legal permission and the use makes sense for your store, using a personality or popular meme can bring with it a huge boost in engagement.
Let’s take a look at this example from Newegg’s Facebook page.
Below we have two posts – one announcing a big semi-annual sale (the better offer) and one offering a free game with the purchase of another product (the lesser offer).
Both are well-designed, easy to read and have good accompanying text. So why did the semi-annual sale receive only 232 likes while the other received over 830 likes?
The 832 likes post used the graphic from a popular gaming franchise – specifically Halo Wars 2. For a site like Newegg that sells tech products, a gaming franchise tie-in is almost always going to elicit a positive response from their fans. Due to that fact, it is only natural that a post with a popular gaming franchise would do better than a post without some kind of tie-in.
If you were a makeup brand, for example, designing a post that incorporates a popular makeup YouTuber or celebrity could be a good option (with permission of course). The options stretch far and wide as to how you piggyback on other brands or popular stories to promote your brand.
While Facebook may be the queen of visually-dominated networks, Instagram is the king. What started out as a purely photo-sharing app dominated by retro filters has now ballooned into the dominant social network for all things photographic and graphical.
It should be no surprise that Instagram posts that have vibrant, bold colour palettes get significantly better engagement than those that use drab, dreary palettes.
In fact, colours are so dominating on Instagram that using bright, happy colours in your posts can be the reason a customer decides to purchase a product. According to an exhaustive study conducted by ColorCom, 93% of consumers said that colour and visual appearance was the single most important factor when deciding to buy a product. While that number will likely vary depending on industry and the type of products you are selling, the study offers a large enough percentage that all sellers should sit up and take notice.
A brand that does an amazing job with using colour in their posts is StudioDIY – every single post is an explosion of colour. Think about how you can spice up your photos by adding a bit of colour. One of the easiest ways is to use the Amazon example mentioned above and put your product in front of a colourful background.
Get Creative with Layouts
When the option to change the layout of your Instagram post first came out it quickly became the only kind of post you’d see on the platform. With the new ability to add multiple photos to one post, however, the use of Layouts has dropped off significantly. That means less saturation and a good opportunity to make your products stand out. Plus, using a creative layout is the easiest way to guarantee that users will see all the products featured in your post. With an album style post, there is no guarantee that a user will scroll through all of your photos.
One of the most effective implementations of this that I have seen is Lime Crime Makeup. I don’t believe they are using the actual Layouts app for these posts, but rather having a designer make them up. You could choose either route and have a solid looking photo with a similar style.
In these photos below, Lime Crime is using a creative 2×2 grid layout to showcase the colours of their lipstick. This design ticks many boxes – creative use of colour, the product is front and centre, bold text and a creative layout. All good design techniques for Instagram posts.
Another good design option is to create a post that has a collage of products on a solid background. The industry term for this varies somewhat – Scene Creator, Mockup Creator, Hero Image Creator – all are terms that work. The idea here is to use a bright solid colour background and place a selection of your products on top of it in an interesting, abstract layout. A good example of this is done by Herschel Supply Co in the post below.
Doing a layout post like this can be done one of two ways.
The first is to physically place all of your items on a background or green screen and take a photo, edit it and post it. The second option is to take a selection of products, have a designer remove the backgrounds and organise them into a post. The second option is usually the easiest option for most owners, as it allows for infinite background customization and is much faster than doing a photoshoot.
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The last of the “big three” networks is Twitter. All things considered, Twitter is a much less visually a focused network than Instagram and Facebook. However, that leads to some interesting opportunities for imagery. Because of the text-focused nature of Twitter, adding imagery to your tweet can generate up to 150% more retweets compared to a strictly text post.
For whatever reason, we have seen quotes do really well on Twitter compared to Instagram and Facebook. This is purely anecdotal from our customers’ experiences, but it could be worth testing with a post or two. One of the best ideas to implement here is to use quotes from people/blogs/companies that are relevant to your store or product.
Unlike using an actual image or depiction of a person, there is much less legal legwork required when using a quote. Some companies that have used quotes to great success have been companies like Foundr. While not strictly an ecommerce website (although they do sell digital products) the style of the quotes they use can be adapted to help sell ecommerce goods on social media, too.
Instead of using a solid colour background, we would suggest taking a similar design approach (big, bold and solid colour font) and overlay that on top of an image that is relevant to your store. If you were a fashion brand, for example, take a fashion quote and overlay it on top of your latest handbag. Just a word of caution, if you plan on using someone else’s quote to sell your product, consult with your lawyer first – I’m not a lawyer but the legalities of that will vary dramatically based on each use case.
GIFs are extremely popular on Twitter and are a huge opportunity for brands. We create them all the time for our customers and, for the most part, they have seen excellent interaction on Twitter. GIFs and Twitter are a match made in heaven – both are designed to provide bite-size pieces of information or content. One of the easiest designs to use for a GIF is a quick, snappy cut through a few of your products with bright, colourful visuals (notice how bright colours work on all networks). This is a specific product or even an overall store category.
— eBay (@eBay) July 13, 2017
A really good example of this was done by eBay’s feed as you can see above. Lots of colours and quick cuts made for a really visually impressive and engaging post. Another option here is to reuse three or four of your ‘Layout Images’ from Instagram to form a GIF similar to the one shown in the eBay example.
There are two really simple ways to make a GIF. First is to use a service like Giphy’s maker – it’s free and allows you download the source file and post it. The only drawback with free GIF makers like Giphy is the inability to choose a resolution – which in certain scenarios can make your GIF look weird or get cut off on Twitter. The second way is to have a designer create and optimise the GIF for you.=
If you are looking for more GIF inspiration, also take a look at Nike’s feed – it is best-of- breed when it comes to GIFs in our opinion (it should be, Nike spends tonnes on creating the videos for those GIFs).
They've got what it takes. pic.twitter.com/yzwqYEk0KE
— Nike (@Nike) July 12, 2017
Whether you choose to focus on one social network or all three discussed here, there are a few universal rules to remember. No matter the network, visuals almost always trump text. And colourful, engaging, well-designed visuals almost always trump poorly designed visuals.
If you are reading this and thinking that you can’t possibly afford the resources required to manage all three networks at such a level, there is a simple way to fix that. Re-purpose your graphics as much as possible. We do this all the time for our clients and, you know what? It works.
Like I mentioned above, one of the most effective re-purposing methods is taking Instagram photos and using them on Twitter as a GIF and on Facebook as a plain ‘ol image (resized to fit properly).
The biggest thing to remember when re-purposing graphics, however, is that each network has different resolution requirements. So before you start posting photos all over the place, remember to consult a social media resolution guide or make it clear to your designer that you are wanting to repurpose the graphics.
I hope this post helped you get some ideas on how to better promote your ecommerce store on social media effectively. If you have any questions, email me at [email protected]