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Why you need a great cover photo on social media

Call up a profile on almost any social media channel, and what’s the first thing you see? The cover photo is the immediate focal point, yet it’s surprising how few businesses use it as part of their marketing strategy.

On Facebook, Twitter, Google+, your LinkedIn business page and more, a good cover image is vital – it helps to create a positive impression and is also a prime spot for communication with your audience.

Here are a few key points to bear in mind that will help you make the most of your cover image:

Go for quality

Whether you’re using a photograph or a graphic image, you need to make sure it’s good quality – you don’t want it to appear blurred or pixilated. You wouldn’t turn up to a meeting with a potential new client wearing scruffy jeans and a crumpled t-shirt, would you? Think of your cover image as the virtual equivalent – you want to make a good impression.

Use a professional photographer or graphic designer to ensure you get images that not just stand out, but send the message that your business operates to high standards.

Size matters

Don’t assume you can use the same image for every social platform. Social media channels often change their specifications and it’s important to make sure your cover picture is the right size for each one. Too small, and it’s likely to appear stretched and distorted; too big, and vital information could be cropped out.

This is where using a professional designer really helps, as they’ll be able to produce a custom image that fits exactly with the size requirements for each network.

Stay on brand

It’s not the first time we’ve said it and it won’t be the last – it’s crucial your marketing activity is visually consistent so people recognise your brand. Make sure the colours, fonts, logos and any other elements you use on your social profiles reflect those used by your business so that people make the connection.

Be original

It should go without saying, but using other people’s images without permission is an absolute no-no. However, social media is a hotbed for this as many people – and companies – seem to think that if something appears on Facebook or Twitter, for example, then it’s in the public domain. Not so – copyright still applies, and you could end up in court if you ignore it. There are plenty of websites where you can find royalty-free or low-cost images, and of course if you commission your own from a reputable graphic design agency or photographer, you’ll be able to use them wherever and whenever you like.

Stay visual

There used to be a rule on Facebook that only 20% of your cover image could be text. While this no longer applies, we’d still advise against using too many words. Make sure your photograph is engaging and informative, and keep any text concise and relevant – it’s not something people will spend much time reading.

Be clear

Don’t use over-complicated images – too much fuss or detail is distracting and can dilute your message. Many of the best cover photographs focus on a single subject. Use white (or empty) space too to make text stand out, and don’t forget the importance of drawing attention to call-to-action (CTA) buttons, such as ‘Like’ or ‘Shop now’ on Facebook.

Be aware also of where each social media channel positions other elements, such as your profile picture; you don’t want important information hidden away, and you also need to bear them in mind when it comes to composition to make sure your image looks balanced. For example, if your profile picture is on the left, it is likely to be more aesthetically pleasing if the key subject in your image is on the right.

Mobile in mind

With so many users accessing social networks from mobile devices, you need to keep them in mind when designing cover images. Profiles are often displayed differently, typically with information on top of the cover picture, and this may affect the design of your image.

Pin a post

Some platforms allow you to ‘pin’ a post to the top of your timeline – right under your cover image, putting it in prime position to be seen by visitors. This is a great feature if there’s something you really want to emphasise and it’s easy to do – on Facebook and Twitter, for example, once you’ve published your post or update, just click on the drop-down arrow to the right of your update to find the ‘pin’ option.

Once you’ve got your cover image, that’s not the end of the story. There’s no rule that says you can’t change it as often as you like, which means it’s an ideal way of sharing your promotions, new products or services, or just keeping your design relevant to the time of year. This is an ideal way of using a graphic design service like Designs Unlimited, as it allows you to change a key feature of your social media profiles on a regular basis, keeping it fresh and interesting for new visitors and potential customers.

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