How to create a social media design that boosts performance

Social media is here to stay. The popularity of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest increases every year. And with approximately 3.96 billion users on social media worldwide, it’s a golden marketing opportunity for brands and individuals. Imagine the reach that’s possible when you have a successful page!

So how do you maximize your performance online? Well, that’s where social media design comes in. After all, social media is a very visual space, and your posts have to be compelling to compete with the other great images out there. Here, we’ll take you through the basics of setting up your social media design presence, including everything from the types of content to a breakdown of concrete steps to take to build a strategy all your own.

What is social media design?

Social media design is everything relating to the development and implementation of visual content on these platforms. So that social media banner you whipped up is social media design. The same goes for that infographic you just liked on your For You page. It’s straightforward, but there are tips and tricks to generate a cohesive visual identity

The 10 steps to creating an excellent social media design

Now that you have the “what” in mind, it’s time to develop and deliver your plan. Here’s how to do that:

1. Start with strategy

Like most things in life, you have to have a plan first. Of course, the plan can change, but starting with an adaptable strategy makes the overall process more streamlined — and gives you something to alter when your needs change. 

An overall design, messaging, posting, and engagement strategy informs your content and makes the visual elements easier to incorporate. When cultivating your marketing plan, make sure social media is a part of that system. Know your value proposition, your target demographic, and how to best reach those people. 

2. Know your audience

Social media’s algorithm presents content to users with like-minded interests, so while it’s good branding in general to know your audience, it’s vital for social media. Research to gather the demographics of those following your brand, and then turn that information into personas — actual people instead of facts and figures. Cater your content to that audience and consider related interests that may appeal to that audience as well.

3. Think about your followers' feelings

Part of knowing your audience is having a good understanding of their temperament and emotions. If you’re a wellness influencer committed to meditation and the art of mindfulness, then your followers are probably like-minded. As a result, they’ll appreciate a more mellow feed with calmer blue hues and content that inspires breaks from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The right tones and level of saturation have a tremendous effect on the mood of the page, so keep this in mind while developing your initial strategy.

4. Decide which platforms are best for your audience

Yes, social media is important for branding, but that doesn’t mean your brand needs to have a presence on every platform. Part of your research and strategy is figuring out where your audience hangs out. For instance, fashion content is popular on Instagram and Pinterest, but LinkedIn is probably not the space to share your OOTD. 

5. Create a content calendar

An important part of being organized on social media is building and maintaining a content calendar. This publishing schedule helps businesses and content creators line up their posts and assets, so there’s a rhythm and system behind the madness. You can set up the calendar in Google calendar, use a spreadsheet, or try a third-party tool that helps you visualize your strategy.

6. Develop your assets

When developing your assets, implement the best design principles. An effective graphic about an upcoming event must be informative, but users are more likely to read the information if it’s presented compellingly with balance, contrast, and visual hierarchy. And if you need some help getting started, try a tool like Stencil for Visual which makes creating properly formatted graphics a breeze.

7. Create a mix of post types

Whether informational, promotional, or interactive, a mix of post types keeps your account fresh and engaging. Remember to occasionally go live, link to external content, create polls and surveys, and encourage competitions so that a lucky follower can win your latest product. 

8. Think about the whole picture

There are two components to balance in your social media design: individual posts and the overall vibe of your page. Instagram makes this easy with a full grid that anyone can visit and assess. Other platforms may not display images in the same fashion, but the same principles apply for presenting well-designed content that anyone can check out and maybe even become a follower. Think of the whole picture while crafting all the little details that make your content special. 

9. Take performance into account

Look at the likes, views, saves, and comments on each post. See your follower count. Review the metrics provided by the platforms on each post. Look into whether posting at a certain time results in more engagement. All these components come together to paint a picture of how your content is performing on social media. If some content performs better than others, it’s a great indicator to try more of that type of content. And if you see performance shifting from what it used to be, it may be a sign to give something else a try. Don’t be afraid to pivot!

10. Keep an eye out for changes

Social media is constantly evolving. This pertains to the rules, algorithms, dimensions of standard posts, and much more. So be aware of changes to the platform that impact your content’s distribution. Stay up to date to keep your content relevant and high-performing. 

Types of social media content to design

There are several types of content to consider when creating a social media design. Let’s explore the main ones: 

  • Profile photo. The profile picture is your digital expression. Combined with your social media handle, it forms initial first impressions for your online identity. The icon follows you, appearing next to posts and representing you in a small circle for the stories feature, so its size is a factor to consider. This means that simplicity is key along with dimensions. Typically, the logo of your brand or business is the image you’ll want to use for your profile pic. And the ideal logo size depends on the platform since the dimensions can vary widely. 
  • Cover photo. Bigger than the profile pic, the cover photo is a banner that sits atop your page on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Yes, there is more space to play around with for this type of social media design, but it’s still good practice to avoid overwhelming the viewer. Use the additional room to coincide with the profile and potentially incorporate text, like a slogan. 
  • Posts. Social media post designs are super important — this content is the space where you can truly engage with your audience. This is what users are judging when they stumble across your page and see your grid or feed in all of its glory. So adhere to post dimensions to ensure your followers can see each post as you intended. For Facebook, the ideal dimensions for a post are 1200px by 630px. Instagram’s are 1080px by 1080px (square), while LinkedIn uses 1104 x 736px, and Twitter 1024 x 512px.   
  • Stories. Stories on Facebook and Instagram are another popular form of engagement with potential customers or current fans. Stories are brief clips set to a timer where a user witnesses a series of videos or still images available only for a period of 24 hours. The standard dimensions for Instagram and Facebook stories are 1080px by 1920px. 

What influences social media design?

Now you know the importance of a visual identity online as well as the types of content you’ll need, but what impacts design? Here’s what to look for when creating designs for social media: 

  • Color psychology. There’s a strong connection between colors and emotions, and color psychology is the study of this relationship. We associate certain colors with feelings such as happiness, peace, sadness, energy, etc. Warm bright hues like yellow are linked to happiness, whereas cool colors like light blue are calmer and not as energizing. 

When developing a brand identity, colors come into play in the early stages, and that’s why that palette should be included in your social media presence. Incorporate the right hues in your icons, or have a theme throughout the page that’s even present in how you edit images. 

  • Consistency. Make sure all of your posts and online content are consistent with your brand's image. A great way to maintain this all-important consistency is with a brand style guide, which tells you and anyone that works for you how to best represent your company. For example, if your website features blues and greens, then do not center your Instagram color palette around oranges and yellows. Use the same common font type in infographics and other designs to further cement the connection between your social media pages and your company.
  • Design best practices. There’s a reason why design best practices like visual hierarchy and negative space work. The priority of social media is to be visually appealing, so you can then bolster engagement. Familiarizing yourself with basic design principles will help you have a better understanding of what attracts the human eye and helps deliver important information in a way that’s impactful and memorable.
  • Relevance to your company. While you might have a witty post idea, it should still support your branding and overall mission. Everything on your professional social media account is supposed to work in tandem, telling an overarching story about your company and what it stands for. Funny and irreverent fragments in the form of unrelated memes might take away from the overall plot of the narrative you’ve crafted. 
  • Balance between posts and profile. While consistency is important, it’s also key to strike a balance between the effectiveness of an individual post and its relationship to your overall feed. Keep it fresh, but think of everything as a piece to a larger puzzle. 
  • Usefulness to your followers. If you have a small business, your followers are looking for information, announcements, and sales. They may not be in the market for inspirational quotes and sunsets without substance. The content you post has to be both nice to look at and serve a greater purpose for your followers. Post a graphic celebrating an upcoming sale, providing relevant dates and times over a compelling background image. 
  • Ease of reading. Typography in any design, including logos and social media design, has to be legible, so keep that in mind when creating graphics. Use an easy-to-read font and space out your content so it’s simple to digest. And when coming up with the copy, be sure to trim the fat, using as little content as possible to convey your message.

Get creative on social media 

Having an effective marketing strategy on social media makes a world of difference. And since these platforms are so visual, social media designs have the power to boost your performance. If you follow the above tips, tricks, and steps, you are more likely to make the most of your reach with the possibility of billions of new followers, subscribers, fans, or customers. Just remember to do your research, find your people, be strategic, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Additionally, you can make use of tools like Namecheap Visual to make brand design simple. Create a logo in minutes that accurately represents your brand’s mission and gives viewers all the right feels. Then, use that same logo in your profile pictures or as part of your cover photo. Plus, it’s completely free! While you’re at it, take those branding skills and try building a website, too. With a website, you can link to your socials and vice versa — getting the word out in style. 


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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