You’re probably really fucking smart and interesting but people don’t know this after seeing the thousandth customized variation of a popular Canva template.
It doesn't matter how great what the value inside of your content is like if the packaging is forgettable or to be blunt...ugly. The first level content attraction is superficial.
You have to learn how to present the value you bring in a scroll-stopping way.
So today i'm going to define what ugly content actually means so you make content that stops the scroll without needing to actually be or hire a fancy designer (although if you have the budget I'd 100% suggest hiring help).
1. Avoid the colors of the native platform’s user-interface for thumbnails
For example, if you’re on YouTube you want to mainly avoid red and white. Pick colors that have a strong contrast not just against the user-interface but also the content that’s ranking for a specific search you want to rank for. This applies for any social platform with evergreen content.
2. Design for Post Performance, Not Grid Aesthetic
Your content will usually be consumed outside of your profile such as in the explore feed, hashtag feed, reels feed, igtv feed, someone’s home feed etc. You want your post to stand out against the competition. Carry over brand elements like your font of choice but play around with things like color and imagery. Avoid making one of those puzzle grids that forms one big picture or where literally everything connects in a cutesy way. It may look cute but I have yet to see one that actually performs well.
3. People Want to Connect with People. Put Yourself (or Team) in the Design When Possible
Surely you’ve seen all the content where people pick a slick-looking 3D object for their cover image next to some bold text. There’s nothing wrong with this. However, not enough people put themselves on the cover. This makes a lot of accounts look the same because they basically go to the same 3-5 graphic assets sites.
Stand out from the pack and take some good pictures of yourself or team. Use photoshop, canva, or remove.bg to cut out the background. Here’s a free digital download by Mario Trotta with pose ideas for your content!
4. Templatize Whenever Possible
You may not always be able to use the exact layout your last post followed, but maybe some things can carry over. For example, I have 2-3 templates for my CTA slides, several templates for charts, text slides, text + image slides, checklist slides, and more. Take a look back at what you’ve made. Find what’s something you do a lot of and templatize it in a tool you like. It doesn’t matter if it’s Canva, Keynote, Powerpoint, Illustrator, Photoshop, XD, or whatever - the best tool is the one you enjoy and helps create with the least friction possible.
5. Can you read if you zoom out?
One of the biggest mistakes I see non-designers make is adding in tons of tiny details and decorative fonts that are hard to read. Pretend you are a potentially new follower. Can you get an idea of what the posts are about?
Zoom out until your post’s cover slide or video thumbnail is about the size you see when on your phone. If you can’t read it, make it bigger and choose high-contrast colors for legibility and accessibility purposes. I love using WebAIM’s free contrast checker to make sure I choose user-friendly colors.
6. Unless you’re a designer, keep your design process on the simple side
Maybe you saw a badass post designed by someone who designs for a living. People in creative fields who get paid to design DO need to be attentive to how they display their skillset. Their content design may be more intricate depending on the designer’s style.
But as a social media marketer or content creator this is usually not the case for you. I highly suggest learning about typography and layout. I think these basics are the most important things we can learn to be self-sufficient and effective with our content.
Here are some videos I would suggest by The Futur:
- Why Your Instagram Carousels Are Being Ignored— Use AIDA technique
- Improve Your Instagram Design: Critiques, Tips & Advice PT 1
- Four Quick Tips To Improve Your Typography
If you can splurge and don’t feel like digging through YouTube, I suggest checking out the Typography 01 course by The Futur.
7. Learn about copywriting
Technically this is not design. But the words you add to your design are what makes people become curious so they check it out. My favorite place to learn about this topic is Very Good Copy by Eddie Shleyner. I highly recommend reading his short blogs and binging his free mini courses. You will write better headlines, bullet points, everything.
Remember, you will get better with practice so don’t let it stop you from creating and pursuing opportunities. In fact, one of the most rewarding things is to publish whatever your best shot looks like today so you can look back and see how much you progressed!