How to build a strong social media brand with no design skills
Today’s social media users want random shopping experiences — where new brands and ideas pop up in their feeds like shriveled wizards in an RPG. In this world, your social media profile is your showcase. How you wear it matters.
If you’re a solopreneur or influencer, social media will likely be one of the first touchpoints your audience will have with your brand, and it will be key to expanding your reach to new audiences in the future.
Of course, when you run a one-person business, time is of the essence. Given the choice between client work and working on your business, you will likely choose the former. Growing a social following from scratch can seem daunting, especially for people who have no design skills or social media know-how.
So how do you build a social branding strategy that gets the right amount of attention but doesn’t turn into a full-time job?
We spoke to a successful solopreneur and two design experts from Vista Create, a graphic design platform for small business owners.
Social media is your new resume – make time for it
Used to playing at intimate gatherings with friends and cozy little cafes, singer-songwriter Samuel Andryk has always been said to have the talent to make it big in the music industry. But even with an amazing voice and a setlist of soulful songs, how could he break into a scene where connections and networking are everything?
Whether you’re a pipe musician, a future startup founder, a fitness guru, or an extremely talented piñata maker, you need an audience to finally quit your job and pursue your passion.
“I put a lot of effort into making my branding coherent. Because of this, people have contacted me on Instagram asking for advice,” says Andryk. He now works part-time as a branding coach, helping other solopreneurs get their businesses off the ground.
Your audience won’t wait for you to send them your resume before deciding if they like you. They will snoop around on your social networks. So make yourself better worth it.
“I even use my Instagram when I meet people in person. It’s like a digital business card,” says Andryk.
You don’t have to be a design genius
Perhaps my biggest surprise talking to Andryk was that he had almost NO design skills and little experience with social media (apart from his personal accounts) when he started. Instead, he turned to the free design programs that have sprung up to help solopreneurs, influencers, and fledgling startups create quality visuals.
Kateryna Larina, a design expert at VistaCreate, free graphic design software for design newbies, reflects on how social media design has changed: “Today, visual elements are much more complex with trends like maximalism, 3D shapes and more recently Time – the popularity of animation.”
Know how you want people to feel.
But thanks to easy-to-use software and a plethora of pre-made templates to choose from, creating a compelling social brand just got a whole lot easier. This gives solopreneurs room to play around, experiment and develop their own unique brand identity. With so much room for creativity, the main things Larina wants you to keep in mind are the following:
A thoughtful, balanced composition, a color palette that reflects your main idea, high-quality photos and videos, and interesting typography that catches the eye. This is the magic sauce.
When asked about the biggest design trends, Larina said:
There’s one trend that’s been gaining momentum, and that’s the Y2K aesthetic. However, if you’re looking for a trend to jump on, this isn’t the best choice. The Y2K design trend is huge and it’s here to stay, so it’s worth taking a look at, but redesigning your graphics to match the early ’00s aesthetic could be out of place for your brand.
A similar trend worth mentioning is the “Trendy Zine”. It’s a much more versatile trend that will likely grow and evolve over time. It gives you more room to express yourself and stay on brand while also following a popular trend. You can also opt for a wide range of different elements specific to this trend, such as neon or pastel colors, funky shapes, playful fonts, a combination of objects and stickers, and contrasting shades.
As the Instagram face gives way to clean girl aesthetics, Gen Z users are demanding more authenticity from social media.
“You know how you want people to feel. For me, I want my Instagram to make people feel at home in themselves. So everything I share aims to create those feelings of warmth, security and belonging,” says Andryk.
For him, that means neutral and earthy colors and soft fabrics, lines and lighting (sunset works great). High-quality, intimate images captured at home or in nature with candles, friends and a cup of tea help evoke this mood.
While this aesthetic has helped Andryk attract the right audience for his genre, if you’re a punk musician or extreme sports influencer, you should consider completely different design choices. Andryk says:
I think it’s important to recognize that there’s a superficial component to Instagram. The first thing you see when scrolling is the visual aspect. So make sure images are visually compelling for the audience you’re trying to attract. It’s about finding a way to be authentic while still playing by the rules of the platform.
Use theme to catch scroller’s attention
It is important to be noticed on social media. Remember, you only have a few seconds to make an impression before your post is sucked back into the content gap.
Consistency goes beyond design.
“One trend that’s really noticeable among leading brands and accounts is experimental typography. You only have one chance to get someone to stop scrolling a feed, and unusual, high-contrast fonts really help draw attention,” says Sandra Iakovleva, Head of Content at VistaCreate.
“Knowing how to work with typography and combine different typefaces is an art in itself. When the visuals aren’t enough, bold fonts and experimental typography are the way to generate more interest in your designs.”
Believe it or not, while it’s not a flashy design trick, staying consistent is what will really help you stand out from the crowd. Yakovlev explained:
To best explain this, imagine the Counter across from you – what at first glance appears to be a rather random social media feed. If it’s a business, a potential customer won’t remember a specific post in a feed trying to play the “catch-all” strategy. Inconsistency creates confusion about the message and aesthetic, resulting in customers not knowing who you are or what you stand for.
Now, when we talk about a coherent, consistent social media profile (with your own branding), you stand out in the mind of a potential consumer as someone with your own branding, personality, and tone of voice. All of these elements are critical to your social media success when trying to target a specific audience.
Consistency goes beyond design. It’s about what you post, what you say, and how you represent your brand visually. Your unique aesthetic then becomes memorable, which can be a deciding factor for someone trying to decide whether to follow you and check out your product and/or services.
Create a strategy you can manage
Do you have your sights set on an influencer future? Maybe you should get your eyes tested.
“When I started I thought it would be super easy to become an influencer,” admits Andryk.
I thought you had to be one to be successful, but in reality you just need to consistently post content that is on brand.
It takes a lot of effort to come up with compelling content ideas. Andryk recommends narrowing the scope so you don’t get overwhelmed.
“One of the things I do with new solopreneurs is help them develop some columns of content. If you’re stuck and don’t know what to post, try this formula here:”
• 20% advertising contribution – what you offer
• 20% Lifestyle posts – how you live your life
• 20% Behind the Scenes Contributions – Things you do to run your own business and/or take care of yourself that people don’t normally see
• 40% posts about your core values, beliefs, vision and mission
Remember: it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. It’s better to have a weekly post that embodies your brand than mindless daily posts.