Social media isn’t something that any forward-thinking business can afford to overlook. It may be capricious and often frustrating, but it’s fertile ground for brand development — indeed, it’s essential for establishing a company identity that people can support.

Despite this, however, it’s widely misunderstood. Some believe — incorrectly — that updating social media is inherently worthwhile, when that is far from the truth. If you don’t get noticed, why bother at all? And the average social media post is extremely easy to breeze past, regardless of how many hashtags and emojis get thrown in. If you want to stand out, you need to pull out all the stops — and it starts with including graphics. Allow me to explain why social media graphics are so important, and offer you 5 simple tips for turning them to your advantage:

The value of social media graphics

I think it’s safe to assume that you’re a smartphone user, and fairly likely that you use social media on a regular basis. If so, take out your phone and open up a social media feed, then start scrolling through the latest posts. Scroll faster, then faster still, until everything starts to blur together — then stop, and think back on what you just saw. What, if anything, stuck out to you? Were there pieces of text that got lodged in your memory? Pieces of elegant copywriting that you couldn’t help but retain? I doubt it. If you can remember anything in particular, I suspect it’ll be imagery. Long before written language was developed, primitive humans were capable of rapidly spotting predators and hazards in the undergrowth, so it’s no surprise that we’re so much faster at picking up visuals than words. In a nutshell, that’s the power of social media graphics such as diagrams or infographics. They combine the immediacy and impact of images with the informative power of text, giving you the best of both worlds. They’re also extremely shareable, which is great for virality. Now that we’ve covered why social media graphics are great, let’s get to 5 handy tips:

Use colour associations

Regardless of whether the links are innate, culturally-determined, or both (as is most likely), different colours are considered to have distinct meanings. This is the root of colour psychology, and you can use it to improve the quality of your social media graphics. For instance, red is associated with passion and action, so if you have a graphic about taking action to support a cause, then red is a good choice. Alternatively, green is associated with health and nature, and purple with luxury and mystery. Read up on the options, and make a smart choice.

Brand everything

People often save and share images alone, or even copy them to repost as their own. To make it less likely that your graphics will be copied, you should brand them heavily: including a watermark if needed, and get everything from your website to your social media handles displayed in positions of prominence (and mentioned in the text). You also need the design of every social media graphic to suit your brand guidelines, as this will establish consistency and make it much easier for people to anticipate and recognise your work.

Maximise contrast

Another part of choosing your colours is ensuring that you maximise the contrast, because the higher you make the contrast, the more your graphics will stand out. Most social media channels have white backgrounds, so you can focus on bold and saturated colours that’ll really catch the eye. If your graphic has multiple elements, then confirm that they’re all easy to make out, even when viewed on mobile devices.

Get the sizing right

Every social media platform has specific sizing requirements for all types of imagery, so you need to be very careful when preparing your graphics. Check the latest updates to confirm that you have everything right: the aspect ratio, the file type, the size, and even the subject matter. Sprout Social has a list that’s ostensibly up-to-date, but if in doubt, go directly to each platform’s knowledge base and find out for sure.

Keep it very simple

As we just discussed, space is at a premium on social media, and the problem gets worse when you shrink things to fit mobile screens. Because of this, keep it simple has to be a foundational principle. Not only should you keep graphic elements to a minimum, but you should also space them out as much as possible — in fact, treat negative space as an element like any other, because it’s incredibly important for making something easy to understand. If you want to make the most of social media, you need graphics that are capable of building up your brand identity and getting a lot of attention for the right reasons. Use these tips to help you achieve the goal. With thanks to Kayleigh Alexandra from Micro Startups for this guest post.