A picture is worth a thousand words. And on social media, content is king. These two realities alone should be driving you to include more visuals on your social media channels. Visuals are engaging, they tell a story, they make a strong impression, and they convey your brand in a way that words cannot. Consider these stats (HubSpot 2016):

  • Of marketers responding to a recent study, 46% say photography is critical to their current marketing and storytelling strategies.
  • Of senior marketing executives surveyed, 65% believe that visual assets (photos, video, illustrations and infographics) are core to how their brand story is communicated.
  • Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.

You don’t have to have design experience or own an expensive program like Photoshop to create stunning visuals for your social media channels. This article highlights some tools and apps that can build up your visual game and engage your social media audience.

Inspiration Boards

First things first: You need to decide on an overall look for your visuals, so that there is some consistency in what you post. From a brand perspective, a consistent look will always make your marketing more powerful. Are you quirky, with bright colors? Or are you more subdued and inspirational?

This doesn’t mean you need to hire a designer or marketer to chart out a brand identity; it just means you need to give your identity some thought and lay out some guidelines for yourself. Your posts will be more interesting and engaging if you are mindful of the look you are going for.

One secret to deciding on a look for your visuals is to use a mood board. Designers do this all the time to seek inspiration and draw ideas from various places. You can create a mood board on Pinterest, or you can use an online device like Moodboard. Decide where you will keep your mood board, and then venture onto the Internet and collect examples of branding that you like. Samples could include pictures from your favorite fitness Instagramers, ads from your favorite brand . . . whatever appeals to you.

Infographics and Visuals

Once you’ve collected some inspiration and decided on a look and feel, start creating. Making great visuals doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. There are plenty of free, straightforward options. Here are a few to check out:

Canva, a great tool that’s becoming more and more popular, has image-sizing templates for most social media channels (Facebook cover photos, Instagram posts, etc.) and even for infographics. Canva also has premade designs you can manipulate with a drag-and-drop editor, as well as hundreds of free design elements. Offering everything from shapes to text layouts to fonts and even stock photos that cost $1, Canva has been a go-to design program for many small businesses. Setting up an individual account on Canva is free. Canva for Work, a paid version of the program that costs $9.95/month, allows you to upload your company fonts, save your brand colors and do even more.

Sumo Paint
Sumo Paint is another website that gives you the functionality of Photoshop or other professional design aids for free. It’s not as easy to use as Canva, but you can do more complicated design work with it—for example, remove a background, draw or paint with the Sumo Paint painting feature, erase pieces of an image or edit out flaws.

Paper and Pencil
Paper and Pencil by FiftyThree put the creativity into your hands. Paper is a free app (available for iPhone and iPad) that allows you to take notes, draw on photos or create sketches. Pencil is a stylus that you can purchase to add more precision to your sketches.

Photo-Editing Tools

When it comes to marketing in the fitness world, photos are crucial. Because you offer a service that is very personal, you need to put yourself out there. If you are a fitness professional, you yourself are the brand. If you’re representing a fitness facility, you’ll want to highlight your trainers, your classes and the facility itself.

You don’t need to be a professional photographer to make great-looking images. Here are some photo-editing apps that can help you produce high-quality pictures.

Photoshop Express
Adobe Photoshop Express is a Photoshop app with lots of great photo-editing capabilities. Cropping, filters, collage templates, color corrections, borders and blemish removers are all at your fingertips.

PicMonkey is an online tool with plenty of editing and design features. In addition to removing blemishes and creating photo effects, you can add filters, fonts and quirky shapes to your photos.

Fun Videos/GIFs

GIF stands for “Graphics Interchange Format.” A GIF is essentially a format for image files that supports both animated and static images. While GIFs should not be used frequently, they are fun to throw in every once in a while. We would be remiss if we didn’t tell you about some clever apps for creating them.

Boomerang is an app created by Instagram. “Boomerangs” are videos that move forward and backward. They’re a great way to add some spunk to your marketing.

Flipagram is a video storytelling app. You can create a short video, then add text, music and photos—anything to tell your story.

GIF Creator
If you just want to put together a simple GIF, the GIF Creator app is an easy choice.

Use any or all of these apps to create stunning and engaging visuals for your social media channels. Remember to be mindful of what you post. A consistent look will make your visuals more engaging and your brand more professional-looking.

SIDEBAR:Further Reading

The Canva design blog: great for design tips and inspiration; also offers short design lessons

“A Handy Little Guide to Creating Visual Content for Social Media”


Hubspot. 2016. 37 visual content marketing statistics you should know in 2016. Accessed Feb. 20, 2016. http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/visual-content-marketing-strategy.

Ashley Ray

Ashley Ray is the founder and owner of Emergent Social Solutions, a full service social media management consulting business. Ashley has experience managing social media for national healthcare providers, mayoral campaigns and a variety of other industries. She brings true social media experience and expertise to her clients and agency partners. Find her online at www.BeEmergent.com or on Twitter @ARayRVA or @BeEmergent

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