How to Create Visual Content for Social Media on the Fly

My favorite free (or cheap!) tools for non-designers

So, we’ve all been hearing it. It’s all over the Web: the future of social media is becoming more and more visual. You can no longer get away with simple text and links to blog posts and call it content. Photos, graphics, and other visual content are ruling nearly every popular social media platform.

But, let’s say you’re not a designer. Let’s say you work in communications, you want your posts to look great, stand out — and, let’s be real, you want people to share them – but you don’t have the time or the resources to spend all day on Photoshop. I can totally relate.

That’s why I’m so thrilled about the free and cheap apps and tools available now. These tools are going way beyond cutesy photo apps geared toward teens – now we’re seeing useful photo editing, layout tools, infographic templates, and even tools that let you easily add video and music. How exciting to come up with an idea for a post, and add a high-impact visual in just a little more time than it takes to post a photo? So cool. There are so many great tools out there, so I wanted to share a handful of my favorites. I hope you find these useful.

Desktop tools and apps

Pic Monkey is an amazing desktop app that lets you do everything from making photo and image collages to quickly designing Facebook cover photos, banners, featured posts, avatars and more. You can easily edit and touch-up photos and add eye-catching special effects, too. And even better – it’s free!  A cheap paid version gets you more effects and fonts, ads-free editing, and some cool premium layout designs. So, if you need to design just about any visual to promote events, conferences, new initiatives – you name it – this tool will let you quickly get them noticed on social media.

Sizing images can be a total headache for non-designers. So ICF International has created Pixel This – a social media sizing chart that helps their clients correctly size images for use on Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Vine and Tumblr – and they are making it available free to the public.

A similar desktop app, Social Media Image Maker auto-sizes everything for you. They’ve already plugged in the exact sizes you need for newsfeed images, profile photos, cover photos and featured posts for pretty much every social media site you can think of. [NOTE: This has not been updated with new Twitter sizes yet].  And, very cool bonus: they have a QR code generator that will make your content scannable on mobile devices or printouts.

 

Now, I love a good infographic. But the thought of creating one myself is daunting – and they even look pretty time consuming for designers. So, that makes Infogr.am all the better. You can use this desktop tool to create eye-catching infographics yourself with more than 30 different types of charts to illustrate your data. The content you’ll create here will probably take you a bit longer than a simple visual for a Facebook post, but it’s nice to know there are tools out there to make it easier!

Mobile tools and apps

So, maybe you’re at a conference and want to promote what your organization is doing there. You’ve got a bunch of photos on your smartphone, and maybe some video clips from a presentation. There are lots of apps out there that will let you collage together images and video with text for short moving visuals that get a lot of attention on social media.

Pic Play Post(for iPhone and iPad) is one of those low-cost tools. You can edit videos up to 10 minutes long, loop videos, add music, and even export animated GIFs. Choose from a wide range of colors to match your branding. And the tool makes posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites easy.

 

If you’re looking for a similar tool for Android, Magisto is a great option. This free app will clip together still images and videos, and will let you make simple movies using just five photos, along with text and music. So, if you have a few key slides from a presentation that you want to go social – just clip them together, add a few photos to put a human face on it, add some free stock music and you’re good to go.

 

Flipagram is another free moving story app – and this one is available on iOS and Android. The app lets you make short video stories from photos and still images. And not only can you add music, you can even record your own narration for your story. And, they have a great watermark feature that helps you protect branded, copyrighted, or proprietary info and visuals – a great feature for business and professional use.

So, there are lots of apps out there to help you easily create visual content for social media on the fly. These are just some of my favorites. Here’s a quick look at how they stack up (chart created with infogr.am).

 

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