Beyond Templates: How to Brand Your Social Media Images
You did everything right.
You have chosen your brand colors and fonts. You have put together a cool image template.
It was hard work, but you are finally happy with your images. People compliment you about your polished brand look. Your social media presence can’t be more consistent and on brand.
So… why aren’t you getting the results you were hoping for? Shouldn’t coherent and quality visuals help you get visible and boost your social media engagement?
Maybe it’s not true.
Maybe there’s something wrong with your images after all.
Before you give up on visuals or trash your Canva templates and start all over again, here’s something you should know: Image templates are helpful, but they’re just the beginning.
Creating visuals that make people care enough to stop the endless scroll and take action (follow, like, comment, share, join, buy, …) takes more effort than just using templates.
What do I mean by “image templates,” anyway?
An image template is an editable image that you create in a design tool (like Canva or Photoshop) and use as a starting point whenever you need to create the same kind of image.
There are many kinds of templates, but the ones I’m addressing here are templates with a text overlay, your branding elements (such as a logo), brand colors, fonts, and filters.
The danger of templates overuse
Image templates add your branding elements to your social media presence and make you look more consistent, trustworthy, and memorable. But image templates are just the beginning.
When we talk about branding, you may imagine a logo, fonts, colors, and similar. But branding is so much more than that. Branding is about how you make people feel, how they remember you, how they relate to you, and what they expect from you.
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.
So, when it comes to creating brand images, using a template with your logo, brand colors and fonts is the bare minimum. When it’s all you do, you create an inside-the-box, playing-it-safe branding experience.
When you only use templates, your social media game gets too predictable and, well, boring.
Also, when overused, templates make your brand look too business-y, cold, and impersonal.
You need to do more than only use templated images with text overlay. You need to find your visual voice and use images to tell the story of your brand.
To add more variety, personality, breathing space, and an element of surprise, share different types of images: Your own photos, other people’s photos (stock photos, brand collaboration = using other people’s content with permission), your own art, and more.
adding more variety to your feed
Branding images without templates
Now, does it mean that you should start sharing all kinds of images without caring about consistency?
No. Consistency is important because it builds trust, sets expectations, and makes your brand memorable.
But consistent doesn’t mean monotonous.
You can share many kinds of images (images made of templates, your own photos, selfies, doodles, …) and be consistent.
You can even experiment with different topics, colors, and fonts, and still be consistent.
By creating variety within the constraints of your branding.
Here’s how you can set the constraints before you get to creating images:
- Define the feeling you want to evoke.
- Choose an overarching theme.
Your topics may differ, but your theme and feeling create a sense of consistency. (Theme is the main idea of your visual story, whereas topics are the subjects, the things your visuals depict.)
Then, when creating images and taking/editing photos:
- Limit your colors. Experimenting with colors isn’t about using all the colors, but about exploring different color stories and styles within the defined limits.
- On photos, use the same light and filters. The topics and styles of photos may differ (e.g. portraits, flat lays, etc.), but consistent light and filters ensure that the atmosphere and the feeling are the same.
- Don’t create/edit your images one at a time. You want to see them next to each other to be able to plan and edit for a consistent look.
Social media images and your brand colors
In the last few weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about choosing your brand colors. We have also talked about the use of color on different social media platforms and found out that each platform prefers different colors.
Now, the question is: Should you use the colors preferred by the social media platform or your brand colors?
My answer: A combination of your brand’s style and the kind of aesthetics that tends to work well on your chosen platform is a win-win. In other words, go for the colors that work for your platform and go together well with your brand colors.
• Image templates with text overlay and brand elements save you time and help you create a consistent social media presence, but they aren’t meant to be used all the time.
• To spice up your social media feeds and get more engagement, it’s a good idea to share different kinds of visuals.
• Then again, you want to aim at consistency, so all of your visuals should be on brand.
• “On brand” doesn’t mean that they feature your logo and brand colors, but that they respect the constraints of your branding.
• You can set the constraints by defining your theme, the feeling you’re trying to evoke, and the corresponding design choices (use of color, light, composition, and more).
• If you want to get more ideas about what visuals you can create for your online teaching brand, sign up for the Bring Your Own Brand workshop.
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