We live in a visual culture and a picture truly does tell a thousand words…or at least attract the viewer’s attention long enough to convey the message we put with it. Since you should be incorporating images or memes into your social media content, let’s cover a few rules and tools that even non-graphic-design people like myself can manage.

Tool #1: Know where to find pictures that are legal to use. Just like we wouldn’t want someone to share our creative work (our writing) as if it was their own, we need to be equally aware of the copyright laws as they apply to photographs. Unless you are taking your own pictures, it is important to get licensed photos from a legitimate site. Simply finding a picture on the Internet does not necessarily make it okay to share.

The most comprehensive (and well known) site to find photographs might be iStockPhoto.com. Images are priced based on the quality or size and each purchase includes a standard license to use that image commercially (very handy for book covers) up to a certain amount before you need an extended license. One can buy individual credits to use as needed or pay for a monthly or yearly unlimited access. Similar but also sometimes expensive sites include Fotolia, Shutterstock, and VivoZoom. The bottom line? These sites offer beautiful photographs at a price that can be hard to swallow, especially if you need a lot of pictures. I’ve paid for high quality images to use on book covers but not for everyday blog posts or social media updates.

For a more budget-friendly option, you might have to do more searching in order to find that perfect photo. My favorite places to look for free photos with a Creative Commons license are Pixabay.com, UnSplash.com, Pexels.com, and StockSnap.io but you can discover many more sites with a simple online search for free images. Some sites simply allow you to download the photograph while others request an attribution statement wherever you use it. This can be handled easily on a blog by using the caption feature, but is harder to comply with in a social media update.

Sometimes all you need is the perfect picture, but often creating a meme by placing a few words on the image would help send a clearer message.

Tool #2: Use Canva  or another online photo editor like PicMonkey or Buffer’s Pablo tool to add words to your photos to create memes or simply watermark a photo with your website address. Unlike PhotoShop which holds a steep price tag and learning curve, Canva is relatively simple to use and free. (Plus they have an easy tutorial series to teach you the basics plus more advanced graphic design techniques.)

Essentially, you pick the size of graphic you’d like to create based on where you would like to post it. (Canva has already done the work to know what size image works best where and can also be used to create Facebook page cover images or custom sized website banners as well.) From there you can choose one of their free or $1.00 templates or start with a blank slate. Upload your own images, insert other images into frames including an e-reader screen, add text, change fonts and colors, drag and drop to reposition or resize elements, and then download your creation to your computer. In addition to your own images, Canva has a collection of free images and clip art with others priced at just a dollar.

Tool #3: Plan ahead to let a single graphic do double or triple duty. Let’s say you write a wonderful blog post and then create a square sized graphic to go with it that contains an attractive image and an attention-grabbing headline. That same graphic can then be used on all of your social media sites with a link pointing back to your blog post.

Or let’s pretend you’re creating a batch of memes to promote your next book launch complete with teaser quotes and advance review snippets. First, batching the task will not only maximize your inspiration but also help keep a continuity between the images. Second, you might think you need one size image for Twitter (i.e. rectangular) and another for Facebook or Instagram (i.e. square). However, a rectangular shape still looks good on Facebook. Or with planning to keep the main message across the middle of the image, that same square shape can be used on Twitter.

Some images can become evergreen content to be recycled later to continue advertising your book so don’t make them too time specific. Or if you used Canva to create the graphic, make a tiny tweak to the wording and save a second or third version to be used later. This is ideal for advertising upcoming sales on an ebook by adding a “Free” or “Just $1.99” in a banner across a corner. Save several versions now and you’ll be ready later.

Also images used on a Facebook Page can be turned into Facebook Ads if they meet certain guidelines about keeping the text area to a certain percentage of the overall image. Those rules are always changing, but if you think you might want to boost an occasional post for visibility or take out an ad, do your research and create an image that obeys the rules from the beginning.

Tool #4: Hire a professional to create a coordinated logo, banner, or other graphic elements. (This goes for book covers also if you’re considering independently publishing your work, but more about that process later in the “Building a Career” section.) Instead of spending countless hours yourself trying to create just the right look while still learning a piece of software, it might be worth the investment to hire someone who already knows what they are doing.

On the cheaper side, you can look into gigs on Fiverr.com and you might find exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re more selective and have a bigger budget, try 99 Designs or DesignCrowd. With either of these sites, you basically fill out a job request stating what you’re looking for and qualified designers submit their designs. You pick the one you want, request changes, and/or turn them all down. On 99 Designs, a good logo will run about $300 while a logo and social media package would cost closer to $400 for their lowest tier package. However, on DesignCrowd, you set the individual budget above their $59 fee with the obvious caveat that the bigger the payout, the more designers will enter the contest. While both offer designs for everything from T-shirts and websites to brochures and even book covers, if you have a good logo and color scheme, you should be able to use Canva to create other coordinating pieces on your own.

Now that you have those graphics ready, let’s find the perfect place to share them, starting with Facebook.

(NOTE: If you found this post helpful, the entire blog series can also be found in a single book here.)

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