Do you remember the days of scrolling through Facebook and Twitter seeing only text and not any imagery? That was quite a long time ago. Nowadays it’s rather difficult to make two swipes at the scroll wheel and avoid seeing at least one image on your news feed. That’s probably because images have been statistically proven to bring in more engagement across all social media platforms than postings purely comprised of text. Take some of these statistics via Hubspot for example:
- Colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%. (Xerox)
- Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. (Kissmetrics)
- 46% of marketers say photography is critical to their current marketing and storytelling strategies. (LifeLearn)
- People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations. (Springer)
These are just some of the many stats to consider when wondering why your social feeds are inundated with imagery. Think about it. You have likely clicked on a post you wouldn’t normally click because it has a neatly designed infographic, a well-edited photograph or just a simple GIF of a cat dancing on a sofa. This isn’t a new phenomenon by any means either.
Consider book shopping. Whether you’re browsing through your local Barnes & Noble store or online through Amazon’s Kindle market, chances are that if you are merely looking for something new to read, you’re focusing a lot on the covers. If something catches your eye you might pause and glance through the pages and maybe even decide to buy it if it appeals to you. Same applies to window shopping around a strip mall. That mannequin standing on a brightly lit pedestal wearing a sleek black dress might draw you into the store to look around a bit more.
Visual content marketing has been around for a very long time, whether you have realized it or not. It’s an ever-evolving method of attempting to get a potential customer’s foot in the door, so it only makes sense that in an era where social media and easy-to-use websites have become popular platforms for marketers that images and videos are the spearheads of modern marketing campaigns.
Kayla Burkholder, Digital Marketing Manager for Ovivo USA, attests to the powerful use of visual content in her marketing strategies. “I try to use a visual for everything we put out into the world,” she says. “It makes a huge difference and often you can combine powerful images with simple text to really drive points home.”
Burkholder works with a small team of marketers and states that “crafting good content and giving it a strong visual” really helps her company stand out next to larger names like GE with entire departments dedicated to marketing execution.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a Photoshop wizard to stitch together some images for your content marketing strategies. There are several free platforms that allow you to intuitively create your own images for use with your social media posts, blog updates or whatever else tickles your fancy. Even better, they’re (mostly) free to use, so you won’t have to worry about dishing out a monthly subscription for Adobe Creative Cloud. Here is a list of some of the ones I’ve found online:
Canva is one of the most popular graphic design interfaces on the internet. I would describe it as a simplified version of Photoshop and Illustrator, not to mention it’s free to use (for the most part). All it requires is registering a free account on their website or through their iOS/Android app and you’re ready to design your own graphics.
Choose a pre-made template or define your own dimensions. You’ll be directed to a screen with a blank canvas and a toolbar on the side. This toolbar contains hundreds of different design elements to place on your graphic; everything from speech bubbles to backgrounds are available for use, or you can upload your own images either straight from your computer or from your Facebook albums. Unfortunately, not all of the supplied designs are free (hence, “free for the most part”), but there are still enough to get you started.
Usage is quite intuitive. It’s a simple matter of dragging and dropping, cropping and adjusting as desired. You can always save your designs and come back to them later if necessary. Once you are happy with your final creation, you simply save it to your computer with the option of uploading it to Facebook or Twitter or attaching it to an email, and there you have it!
Piktochart is virtually the same as Canva with more of an emphasis towards infographics. The interfaces are near identical and using it is just as simple. With Piktochart however, you can create graphs, pie charts and other types of data graphics. You simply choose a design that fits your data and how you want to represent it and then fill out the provided data table. This can be done either manually or by importing your own data files. Customize colors, add your images, and once you’re happy with your design, you can save it away to use or share it with others however you well please.
GIMP is an old time favorite of mine. It was the first design program I was introduced to prior to getting my hands on Photoshop. Unlike the first two, GIMP is a program rather than a website. You can download it for free and get started right away. However, it’s not as simple to use as Canva or Piktochart. This one takes some getting used to, but once you start to get a feel for it there are some pretty neat things you can achieve with your designs. You can find some decent tutorials on YouTube. There are also some parallels you can draw to Photoshop if you ever decide to upgrade to Adobe, making it easier to transition over.
Image quotes are everywhere. It is about as basic of a graphic as you can get that combines images and text. Making your own is quite simple with Pixteller. Once you sign up you can start putting together simple designs using text and a background of your choosing. Adjust as desired and save it to your computer. Easy.
Have a Microsoft account? Fortunately Powerpoint is still around, and it is actually a practical means of creating graphics. There is an online version if you don’t have it installed on your computer already (if you’re a Windows user). It may not be as in-depth as Canva or Piktochart but you can just as easily make your own designs using Powerpoint’s tools and your own imagery.
There you have it. Five (mostly) free alternatives for designing images to use in your marketing strategies and social media posts. Each one is relatively simple to understand (aside from GIMP) and allows you to throw together some basic but visually appealing graphics to help boost your engagement with your audience.