6 Effective Graphic Design Tools for Non-Designers

beginner graphic design tools | graphic design program on computer screens

Creating your own visual marketing assets can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re not a graphic designer by trade. You want to make sure your graphics are visually pleasing, while also accurately conveying information about your business.

Fortunately, there are several web-based tools available that are accessible to designers of all experience levels. Below are six of our favorite beginner graphic design tools for non-designers.

1. Canva

Featuring a drag-and-drop interface and one-click professional editing tools, Canva is a great way for non-designers to create compelling visuals. This free tool features a continuously updated roster of free images, fonts, and templates to help bring your ideas to life. The premium plan, starting at $12.95 a month, includes additional features and assets.

Pro Canva Tip: Use the text box shortcut by pressing ‘t’ to save time and frustration. For more Canva information, take a look at these six tips.

2. Crello

Crello lives up to its slogan of “graphic design made easy”. It comes with several templates optimized for various platforms, but also gives you the option to start from scratch or edit any elements you choose. Crello also boasts a plethora of free images and fonts, themed collections, and even tools for motion design. Further images and features are available for an additional cost.

3. PicMonkey

PicMonkey serves as an all-in-one photo editor, graphic design tool, and collage maker. The free version allows you to edit existing photos as well as create original images – a task made easier with the help of tutorials, templates for new designs, and themed backgrounds. PicMonkey also includes vector graphics, which use math equations and geometric elements to create crisp, high-resolution images.

4. Pixlr

Pixlr has been compared to Photoshop in terms of its functionality – and it’s both free and beginner-friendly. The program allows for easy image adjustments and photo edits, as well as the ability to create graphics of any size. You can also upload your brand fonts to Pixlr if they aren’t already available. While the main Pixlr tool is web-based, you can also download the mobile and desktop apps to design on the go.

Designer Tip: Try out some preset filters, or adjust your tint manually, to change the feel of your photo.

5. Snappa

Snappa’s main focus is making each step of the design process as quick and easy as possible. The browser tool allows you to choose the exact image dimensions for various platforms, including emails and social media. It features templates, stock images and one-click design tools to create your digital assets easily. Snappa also allows you to schedule and share your visuals instantly.

6. Stencil

Stencil is specifically marketed toward non-designers who are looking to boost their social media engagement through DIY visuals. In addition to photo editing capabilities and various design assets (including a quote collection, icons and images), Stencil also features a resize option to optimize your images for different social media platforms. The free version comes with a limited number of images; the Pro version grants access to all features for $9 a month.

Great visuals can help you stand out from the crowd and launch your business to new heights. With the help of these tools and a dash of creativity, you’ll have everything you need to turn your design vision into a reality – the only limit is your imagination.

Looking for more DIY marketing help? Our coaching packages will give you the tools and resources you need to power up your DIY marketing strategy. Get more details here or contact us with questions.

You Published a Blog — Now What?

promote your blog post | blog post on laptop screen

You found a niche you can fill by creating consistent, quality content and crafted blog posts with the best intentions for bringing in views — carefully chosen keywords, compelling titles, smart meta descriptions and helpful images.

Without taking additional steps to share your blog, you’ll likely lose out on connecting with the audience you’re hoping for. After all, there are over 500 million blogs on the internet, with new ones created every day.

To engage with your followers and expand your audience, here are seven strategies you can adopt to promote your blog post.

1. Create and publish social media content for all your brand’s channels with unique visuals.   

The average person spends almost two and a half hours a day on social media. 

According to Statista, globally, Facebook has the most user activity, with over 2 billion active monthly users, followed by YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Your brand should have a presence on more than one social media platform, but promoting your blog is more than posting links. Each platform has a unique interface and user experience, so you’ll need to take time and care to tailor content to the strengths and expectations of the platform.      

Take this example from Lightning Media Partners’ recent blog post:

Screenshot of Lightning Media Partners LinkedIn post promoting a recent blog post
A Lightning Media Partners blog post shared on LinkedIn
Screenshot of Instagram post promoting a Lightning Media Partners blog.
The same Lightning Media Partners blog post shared on Instagram.

LinkedIn is a social media platform focused on professional development and networking. Users come to LinkedIn to interact with recruiters and professionals in their fields. They aren’t looking for entertainment. Because of this, LinkedIn favors succinct, no-frills content. Instagram, however, is a network with a more casual feel, created specifically for sharing photos and videos. Successful content on Instagram has artistic visuals and easily-accessible language.

Pay attention to the culture of the social media platforms linked to your brand. By creating unique content for each of your outlets to promote your blog post, users will be more likely to view and find your content.

2. Share it directly with industry peers and colleagues who might find it interesting.

You know who your content is created for, so share it with those in your network who might utilize it. Is there a problem your blog can speak to? Offer a solution through an email or social post that pulls from content in your blog, and share the link. If your content is useful, your connections may pass it on to others as a resource. 

There’s no guarantee to word-of-mouth sharing, but promoting your blog through real-life applications may give you insight into whether or not your content is useful. This can help you decide if your content needs a new direction or a new audience. 

3. Send out an email newsletter to your subscribers.

Email is a common way to connect with followers. Most internet users check their email regularly, with the ability to do so almost anywhere. It’s inexpensive and beginner-friendly, and with email tools, you can manage distribution lists, include links to social media profiles and even personalize newsletters to address subscribers by name.

The voice and feel of your newsletter should match the content of your blog. However, your newsletter shouldn’t just be a repost of text. Why should someone read your blog? Why is it relevant right now? Think about how the content of your blog posts relates to seasons, local events or current events. If you have an older post that can use a little love, this can be a great way to get more views and revive content.

4. Reach out to media contacts who cover the topic you wrote about.

This can be a challenge if you are still establishing a budget and authority on your content. However, if you are able to prove that your content knowledge and expression are worth sharing, you can increase your exposure and brand awareness to audiences that are already engaging with specialized content related to your niche.

For example, podcasts, due to their specificity and convenience of access, cultivate a unique loyalty in media. By being a guest or advertising on a podcast that is targeted at a similar audience to your brand’s, you can bring appreciative eyes to your blog — with viewers who will be more likely to share it with like-minded people.  

5. Run a paid social media ad to promote your post.

Posting to your brand’s social media pages and accounts will get your content to your current followers, but to reach a larger audience, consider using paid advertising. With paid ads, your social media posts can be promoted to users who aren’t followering your account — yet — based on demographics you select for your target audience.

Who needs your content and finds it interesting? Where do they “hang out?” Understand this, and budget for advertising on the platforms your audience is most likely to use.

6. Republish it on a self-publishing platform like LinkedIn or Medium.

Once your post is indexed by Google, consider republishing it for more readership.

Medium is a collection of published material — amateur and professional — with over 120 million readers. By creating an account, you can directly import your blog post to Medium to republish. From there, subscribed readers will be recommended your blog post if its content matches their interests. 

LinkedIn also has a built-in publishing platform that will share articles you write with connections and followers. Articles remain on your LinkedIn profile and can be searched, so they have lasting power compared to posts. When republishing on LinkedIn, consider sharing the most relevant parts of your blog post if you are constricted by word count.  

7. Share your link on content aggregator sites or community forums for more exposure.

Where do people go when they don’t go to Google? Content aggregator sites and community forums.

Reddit, known as “the front page of the internet,” is a combination of both. With “subreddits,” communities dedicated to specific (sometimes very specific) subjects, you can find audiences who will be exceptionally receptive to your content. However, beware self-promotion posting. Reddit users are especially negative toward users who post simply to promote their own content, and many community rules won’t allow it.

If you’re planning to share your blog with Reddit, other aggregator sites or a community forum (like a Facebook group), make sure you’ve established yourself as a community member and regular contributor to conversations — and only share links to your content when it is addressing a particular community need.

To bring awareness to your blog and your brand, try one of these promotion strategies. Each works best when it is given focus and time to develop.

If you need help with creating great blog content and/or implementing any of these tactics, Lightning Media Partners offers content marketing packages that can meet your brand’s needs.

10 Best Practices for Instagram Marketing

best practices for instagram | instagram analytics screen

Instagram has come a long way from mirror selfies and #tbt photos since its inception in 2010. 

With over 1 billion users on the platform each month and 500 million using Instagram’s story features every day, marketing on Instagram is a powerful and cost-effective way to build your business’ presence online. 

New features on Instagram has given businesses the chance to spread their services with shoppable posts, IGTV for long-form content, and Instagram Stories features including polls and Q&As to engage with followers. These creative innovations allow your business to virtually touch every corner of the internet and have an effective engagement with your audience. 

Below, we explain 10 of the best practices for Instagram and how you can leverage them to market your business.

1. Share high-quality, engaging photos and videos

While this may seem obvious, Instagram is first and foremost a media sharing app. Therefore, photos and videos will always be at the forefront of your business’ handle. High quality images and interesting, thought-provoking captions will keep your followers coming back to your page and drive new leads to your services. 

You don’t need to be a professional photographer to have engaging photos. By catering to your audience through interesting photos that provide the tone you want your brand to portray, you’ll ultimately attract your desired audience and keep them coming back to your page.

2. Keep up with trends and updates 

Instagram is continuously providing new updates, trends, and features to assist users in engaging with their audience. Pay attention to these updates and try not to fall behind on trends as they could be a game changer for your business. Additionally, be aware of any policy changes that could impact the way you create content or communicate with your audience.

3. Know your audience

Users value authenticity in a brand and what it can provide to their lives. Quite simply, the more you cater to your audience, the more quality leads are generated to your content. Knowing your audience comes from engaging and creating a connection with your followers. This can be done through asking questions in the Instagram Stories feature and being active in the comments section of your posts. 

4. Implement user-generated content

Posting user-generated content is one of the best ways to engage with your audience and grow your brand’s authority. Featuring users’ content of your service or product shows your followers you’re paying attention to them and to the recognition they’re giving your business. Simply ask your followers to tag you in a post of them utilizing your business’ service then share with your audience for a fun way to get your followers involved in your branding. 

5. Host contests and giveaways

Contests and giveaways are another great way to engage with your audience. When you host them and have your followers “tag a friend in the comments,” more leads are generated to your business by piquing interest from potential newcomers visiting your page. Contests and giveaways are fairly easy to implement and can spark great interest, especially when you’re launching a new product or service. 

6. Optimize your posting times

Instagram’s algorithm seems to be constantly changing, incentivizing you to practice quality over quantity. Posting consistently during optimal times, when most users are online, will give your content a better chance of being seen by followers. Finding the most effective times your posts reach your audience will also require some experimentation. Try varying the amount of times you post in a day to see what works best for your business.  

7. Use hashtags

Hashtags cause posts to circulate widely through either individuals following certain hashtags or by clicking on them in one post that leads to another. The best way to utilize hashtags is for them to be relevant to your audience and non-overbearing in quantity. Using hashtags that speak directly to your desired audience could also cause your page to land in the “Explore” tab of Instagram where users can find new content. 

8. Make data-driven decisions

The best way to improve your presence on Instagram is by looking at your posts and stories to see how you can create a greater user experience. As you build up data points through analyzing the qualities of your successful vs. unsuccessful posts, you’ll be able to make changes in future posts to boost engagement. 

9. Maintain your brand voice

With today’s audience valuing businesses with a message or mission, it’s important for your brand’s voice to be maintained throughout your social media posts. The best way to maintain this voice is through a branding guide. Creating guidelines for your marketing team when writing captions or creating content brings consistency to your business’ social media platforms, websites, and ads. 

10. Include a call to action (CTA) in your posts

Providing a CTA in most of your Instagram posts is not only a fun way to interact with your audience, it also provides you with more content ideas and gives your audience a chance to voice their preferences in these content ideas. Having your audience tag a friend that reminds them of your post or asking your followers what they want to see more of on your page generates thoughtful responses for you to create content that drives more users to your page. 

A little overwhelmed with these best practices for Instagram? Lightning Media Partners has social media marketing packages especially tailored for your business’ needs with unique content, high quality graphics, and much more. Contact us for additional information and inquiries!