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Branding 101 tells small business owners that design is key. But design is also expensive.

There are so many things to design, from website banners to social media posts, and each platform has its own requirements.

If you don’t have the funds to hire a graphic designer, or you just want to try your hand at representing your brand personally, here are some guidelines to help you design effective images for your social media and website.

DO:

Pay attention to what grabs your attention. When you’re scrolling through your newsfeed and an image captures your eye, take a minute to really look at it. What elements appeal to you? Is it the font? The message? The image? The layout? Keep a folder of images you like so you you can go back to it and, let’s face it, copy the good parts.  

small business loan apply nowInvest time or money (or both) in quality images. There is a limited supply of sources for free stock photos, which means we see the same ones over and over, even recognizing the models in different images across different sources. Paid photos are replenished more often and are less frequently used, so front the small amount necessary to buy some. Search for images you like on sites like 123rf.com, iStock.com, etc. and decide where you’ll find the most of what you want before you commit.

You can also take high-resolution photos of your own if you or a staff member have a good eye for photography. It doesn’t get more local than pictures of real places and faces in your community, as long as the people give permission to use the image.

Stick with your brand colors and fonts. Identify two or three colors that represent your brand and stick with them. Change up the way you use them, from background color, to transparent overlays, to fonts colors. Also decide if you want to use black or white for the non-colored parts. This may not seem important, but it makes a big difference in the tone of the image.

Use templates. Websites like Canva, PosterMyWall, Lucidpress and more are great for beginners. Templates are easy to personalize (or brand-ize) and convert to fit each web platform. Because each one has different ideal measurements, in case this wasn’t complicated enough.

DON’T:

Get too wordy. You will feel the need to explain your intentions in the image. Don’t. That’s what links are for. People don’t read when they’re scrolling. Let the image speak for you with only a handful of words, and people will click on what engages them visually in order to read on.

Make it too complicated. While you’re learning, keep it simple. As you figure out what works and what doesn’t, and as you experiment with different templates, you will learn new tricks. Just don’t use them all at the same time. Bold is better than busy when it comes to catching attention and engaging your audience.

Keep it generic. Generic is a starting point. It is also boring. Don’t just stick the photo in the template. Use consistent filters and your brand colors to make it your own.

Ignore analytics. Once a month or so, look at your analytics on your website and social media. Which posts got the most engagement? This will tell you what works and what doesn’t better than any “do” or “don’t” advice.