10 Tips for a Successful Social Media Design - dummies

10 Tips for a Successful Social Media Design

By Janine Warner, David LaFontaine

Similar to the evolution of web design, social media design has become increasingly complex, and visitors to social media sites are becoming more discerning. How you present yourself, your brand, your business, or an organization is a key part of social media. Here are some tips to help you stand out from the crowd:

  • Find inspiration from other people. Sometimes the best way to get ideas for your own profile is to look at someone else’s site and then return to yours with a fresh perspective. Social media sites are changing all the time. Keeping an eye on what others are doing is a great way to stay informed about new design options and creative ways to introduce yourself online.

  • Decide what you want your look to be. If you’re using social media for personal reasons, you may think you can be more casual and playful. Even if you don’t have your clients or boss as a contact, that doesn’t mean they aren’t connected to a friend of a friend who might share your latest post with a broader audience.

    If you’re using social media professionally, consider what you want to be known for and how to best build your reputation. For example, if you’re a designer or photographer, you may want to showcase your talents with a quirky or eye-catching design. If you work at a company where you’re expected to be somewhat of a maverick, and you want to convey to your company’s clients that you will give them the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that doesn’t involve using clichés like “out-of-the-box thinking,” you may be best served by taking more risks and be more experimental and creative.

  • Consider using a composite of photos to tell a story.

    You don’t need to be a professional photographer to use these tips!

    • When shooting photos to achieve a special composite, be sure to capture a variety of poses and expressions. The more choices you have when it comes time to edit, extract, and combine photos, the less risk you run of having to go back and reshoot the entire thing.

    • Choose a single-color background when you shoot your photos to use in a special-effect profile. You can then easily extract your subject.

    • Pay attention to the brightness, contrast, and color balance in all the images that you combine in your design. If you put pictures that are really dark next to photos that were shot under bright lights without balancing them, the effect can be jarring.

  • Always size your images for the best results. Although some social media sites allow you to change the display size of an image, you get much better results if you change the dimensions of an image upfront in a photo-editing program. There are several free photo-editing images available that you can use to change image dimensions.

  • Change your profile images only when necessary. Changing your profile image once in a while is a good practice, but you also risk losing the attention of your followers just to look up to date.

    When you do change your profile picture, make sure that your face is still recognizable. If you look radically different because you use a profile image that makes it hard to recognize you, your followers may not be able recognize you.

  • Include share buttons in your designs. Including Like and Follow buttons is a great way to build your network. These buttons are generally best included on the front page of your site, on the about page, and with your biography or other personal information. If you use WordPress, look for the AddThis plugin in the Plugin Directory to add social media buttons.

  • Treat LinkedIn differently than other social media sites.

    LinkedIn is designed for professional connections.

    • As you fill in your information, treat it like you would treat a resume, taking care to be accurate and to focus on your accomplishments and skills.

    • Add examples of your work in the form of images, videos, or documents —look for the Get Discovered field at the end of the Summary and Education sections.

    • Use the same profile image you use for your other sites for consistent branding.

  • Sometimes less is more. Even though a social media site (for example, Google+) gives you a large image format sometimes a close-up shot can tell a more tantalizing story. Resist the temptation to cram in too much.

  • Keep both the header and background images in mind for Twitter.

    • A header image is more important than a background image because the header image is displayed more frequently than the background image. The header photo helps tell your story by conveying information about your personal or professional interests or talents.

    • Carefully design and align your background image so that visitors to your Twitter profile page will see a pleasing design at any resolution. Test your designs at both the highest practical resolution currently in use (1920 x 1200 px) as well as the lowest (currently 1024 x 768 px).

    • Centering the background makes a big difference because the middle of the design area — where the timeline, profile photo, and header graphic appear — is always centered, no matter how large or small the screen.

    If you create a design that integrates the header and background images, keep in mind that the background image doesn’t display on mobile devices, so the header image also has to work alone.

  • Use YouTube to extend your social media reach. Link your YouTube videos to all your social media profiles can help drive traffic to your other profiles. This can also be help your site rank higher in search engine results.

    Most search engines value inbound links — that is, sites that link to yours — and a link from a site as popular as YouTube to your website can really give you a boost.