11 Simple Design Tips to Enhance Your Social Media Images

Humans are, by nature, very visual beings.

In the brain itself, there are hundreds of millions of neurons devoted to visual processing, nearly 30 percent of the entire cortex, as compared with 8 percent for touch and just 3 percent for hearing.

Each of the two optic nerves, which carry signals from the retina to the brain, consists of a million fibers, compared to the auditory nerve carrying a mere 30,000.

That’s all to say that social media images are a vital part of your content reaching the maximum amount of people, people who are very visual beings!

Marketers that have dabbled in creating engaging images for social media know just how tough and time-consuming it can be. I’m no expert, but I’ve learned a thing or two about creating social media images after lots of practice (and mistakes!), and I’m excited to share with you my favorite social media design tips and principles to help enhance your social media images.

Let’s dive in! 

Enhancing Social Media Images

Social Media Design Tips: 11 Principles & Tactics to Enhance Your Images

At Buffer, we create all of the images for our blog posts and social media without much outside help – and there are a ton of images! On average, every Buffer blog post has five custom images, and some have way more.

To create these, we rely on 11 simple design principles to help make the image creation process easy. We’re excited to share those with you in this post and how you may be able to apply it to your own workflow.

Got any favorite social media design tips or principles that we’re missing? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

11 Design Principles and Social Media Design Tips

1. Color

90% of snap judgments made about products are based on color alone

Color is one of the most important and complex aspects of any social media design. It helps to set the mood, create an atmosphere, convey emotions, and even evoke strong individual experiences from someone’s past.

In a study on the impact of color on marketing, researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products can be based on color alone, depending on the product. Other academic studies on colors in marketing have pointed to the fact that it’s more important for colors to support the personality you want to portray instead of trying to align with typical color associations.

For example, this Help Scout graphic highlights the power of color in conveying personality in a piece of content that reflects positively back on the brand. On the Help Scout Blog you’ll see consistent, eye-catching colors that come off as fun, yet insightful.

HelpScout Color Marketing Examples

The second example from the brand Loulou & Tummie highlights the use of color to market to a specific audience. Loulou and Tummie are known for their eye-catching vector work and the use of color to tell a story and evoke emotion.

Loulou and Tummie Design Inspiration

Use colors in your social media images that guide your audience through a story. Do so by considering which colors help to tell a specific portion of that story. The principles of color theory are a great place to start and can be used to create a sense of harmony within your images.

Here’s a quick rundown of how different colors affect our brain and how they’re often used in storytelling and marketing:

red Red = Energy and urgency

orange Orange = Aggressive

yellow Yellow = Optimistic and youthful

green Green = Wealth and relaxation

blue Blue = Trust and security

pink Pink = Romantic and feminine

black Black = Powerful and sleek

purple Purple = Soothing and calm

2. Balance

The 4 different types of balance (including the one you’re probably thinking of)

The art of balance in the world of social media image design is a tricky one to get the hang of, but well worth the effort. A great way to think of balance is to imagine that each element of your design has a “weight behind it.”

Put another way: If you were to place the image on a balance scale, would it tip to one side?

It’s also important to remember that different elements carry different weight; balance does not have to be split right down the middle. There are 4 varying types of balance:

  1. symmetrical
  2. asymmetrical
  3. radial (picture a spiral staircase)
  4. crystallographic (picture a tray of donuts with different toppings)

All of these can make for a beautiful social media design.

Take for example, this stunning graphic from artist and illustrator George Bokhua:

Pink Lotus - George Bokhua

This image demonstrates the beautiful use of symmetrical balance and the feeling of harmony. Symmetrical balance is great for illustrations, drawings, blog graphics, photographs, and much more.

On the other hand, there’s asymmetrical balance like shown in this image example:

Asymmetrical Balance Example

Asymmetrical balance creates tension through contrast and can be visually interesting when done correctly. Because it’s abstract, there is no symmetry; there are no perfect mirror images.

One place we find balance to be important is in choosing stock images. The collection of photos at Unsplash is a great example of a photo collection that excels by taking balance into account, like with this image:

canyon

If you’re creating an image of your own, in order to balance the weight in your image, play around with different things such as size of items, lightness and darkness of items, warm and cool colors, texture, quantity of objects, isolation of objects, and orientation (vertical/horizontal/diagonal) of objects.

3. Lines

Straight lines imply order. Curved lines hint at movement.

Lines are the visual elements of your image that help to guide the eye to where you want it to go. Straight lines work to give the image a sense of order and tidiness while crooked or curved lines may give the image a sense of organized tension and movement.

Paying close attention to the use of lines throughout your image can help guide your audience along a visual journey, stopping at the most important and intentional elements along the way.

Let’s take a peek at this incredible example of the power of lines from Muti:

Illustration of Lines in Graphic Design from Muti

The use of clean diagonal lines throughout the illustration takes your eyes to different areas in a quick and efficient manner. Almost creating “sections” in the image with different cities as multiple focal points.

Now compare that to the curved lines of this illustration from the same artist, Muti, and how it creates a sense of motion. That motion leading you around the graphic until you land back at the center focal point:

American Express Graphic by Muti Studio

When adding lines to your image, pay close attention to where they draw the reader’s eyes. Aim to create a logical path that the reader can follow along with until they come to the point that you intended them to.

4. Typography

Traditionally, serif fonts are best for print and sans-serif for web

Typography is an art. Selecting the perfect font or set of fonts that work seamlessly together can bring your social media image to life. It also has a big impact on how your design is received by people and, ultimately, the message your brand intentionally (or unintentionally) sends across.

When selecting which font or fonts to use in your design one of the most important aspects to keep in mind is readability. 

Graphic designer Paul Rand may have put it best when he said, “Don’t try to be original, just try to be good.”

Whether you choose a sans-serif font or a serif font or any variation in-between, make sure that your audience can read your message. Here are a few pro-tips for using fonts:

  • Limit your design to a maximum of 3 typefaces
  • Use font sizing that fits well within the medium that you are publishing to
  • Traditionally, serif fonts are best for print and sans-serif for web
  • Kerning is a great technique to use in your titles

And for those that are curious about other typography terminology, this nifty infographic will help!

Typography Principles Inforgraphic

5. Contrast

Add contrast with colors, shapes, and sizes

Have you ever heard someone say that an illustration or design “really popped“?

What they may be referring to is the contrast in an image. Contrast provides differentiation between elements, making one stand out or “pop” more than the other elements.

The use of effective contrast is a great way to enhance your social media images. Without contrast, your design runs the risk of being “flat.” But with too much contrast, your design can become cluttered and nothing will stand out.

Here are my 3 favorite ways to add contrast to an image without under or overdoing it.

Add Contrast with Colors

One of the easiest ways to implement contrast into your image designs is through the use of colors. For example, playing light colors off of dark colors, or vice-versa. In this image, I used a white font in contrast to the dark background making the wording both readable and visually appealing.

Color contrast example

Add Contrast with Shapes

Another way to easily add contrast to your image is through the use of shapes. This beautiful graphic from Canva helps to highlight just how well the conformity of symmetrical shapes can play alongside the asymmetrical nature of organic shapes.

Contrast Shapes and Design

Add Contrast with Sizes

In its simplest form, contrast can easily be added to enhance your social media images by making certain aspects of the design bigger or smaller than others. It can also mean adding more weight (like bolding a word) to elements.

This restaurant advertisement draws the audience to the name, “1913,” first and then to other areas of the image such as the word “restaurant” and eventually to the picture of the food in the background.

Size Contrast in Social Media Image Design

6. Scale

Zoom out on a concept, or zoom in with your font choices

Scale, by definition, refers to the deliberate sizing of various elements within your design. “Scaling” helps to bring certain elements into focus and allows your readers to make sense of a concept.

Think for a second and try to imagine your life in number of months or even days. Can you imagine it?

This wonderful illustration by Tim Urban illustrates the powerful effects of scaling.

Human Life in Months - Wait But Why

Scaling also works well for more concrete social media designs. Take a look at the image below:

 

Social media design tips from Buffer

In this visual, I’m aiming to draw you towards the quote first with a scaled-up font size. Once I’ve gained your curiosity from the quote, I’m hoping your eyes naturally move right to the balloon. And finally, you’re drawn to the message of the graphic, “Happy Teachers Month.”

Did it work?

7. Proximity

Group similar items together to declutter and organize

Proximity is paramount when creating a sense of organization within your design. Similar or related elements are best grouped together to create a relationship between them. The goal is to group items together to declutter your design and “tidy things up a bit.”

You can put the principle of proximity into action by connecting similar elements together. One easy way is by physical placement of the objects near each other. The other way is to connect them in other visual ways with the use of similar colors, fonts, size, etc.

This simple example shows how proximity can be used to help us perceive objects as being related. The circles are spread out, each being perceived as its own object.

Example of Proximity 1 - Social Media Design

Then, once we bring all of the circles in close to each other, they appear to lose the feeling that they are separate objects. It is perceived to be more of a whole, singular shape.

Example of Proximity 2 - Social Media Design

When put into something like a social media design, proximity can help to bring elements of a product or concept together through spacial relationships.

8. Hierarchy

Place the most important elements in the biggest fonts

It’s quite likely that you’ll be working with multiple elements in your social media design. And chances are each of those elements will be important to your overall message. Hierarchy is a great social media design tip to make sure that you’re getting your most important message across first.

Taking full advantage of the hierarchy design principle starts with an understanding of your goals. Establish the most crucial message as the focal point and then use the other design principles in this article to make it stand out.

Once that’s in place, you can start to build your second or third pieces of information in without taking away from the overall goal.

A great example is here in this travel advertisement. The image draws the reader into “travel” and then leads them to the secondary messages.

Example of Hierarchy - Social Media Design Tips

It even works for simple social media designs such as quotes. The main focal point being the quote itself followed by any secondary information such as author or source.

Social Media Design Tips - Hierarchy Example

 9. Repetition

Always use the same set of fonts, colors, and logos

One of the easier design elements to enhance your social media images is the principle of repetition. Repetition is an important part of the process because it helps to establish and strengthen different elements.

It’s also what people often refer to as “consistent branding.”

Three things to always try and be consistent with in your designs are fonts, colors, and logos. Over time, repetition of these 3 elements will give you or your brand a unique and instantly recognizable look. Let’s check out a few examples to illustrate the simple use of repetition in design.

Remember this Apple advertisement? Catchy for its colorful and playful nature, the use of repetition in this image helps to create consistent association. It also does just what it set out to do and that’s give a sense of movement or dancing in the image.

Apple Ad, Repetition, social media design tips

Repetition is also important when building a personal brand. Take these beautiful business cards from Alan Murphy, for example. Whether you’re a big brand or a one-person shop, repetition helps you become recognizable over time.

Personal Branding Business Cards - Social Media Design Tips

10. Direction

People read in an “F” pattern, an “E” pattern, and a “Z” pattern

The way the human eye moves across designs, images, websites, and other visual elements is unique, but often consistent. That’s why it’s important to guide your audience along the “path” that you’d like them to follow in your image. In other words, create a deliberate “flow.”

Website design research has given us an inside look at how people tend to view websites when arriving for the first time. What they found was that we read in an “F” pattern, an “E” pattern, and sometimes a “Z” pattern. So placing important and eye-catching elements on the upper left and left side of your design is key.

Crazy Egg created a great infographic on data found from their eye-tracking experiments along with ways in which you can improve your design. Enjoy!

Crazy Egg Eye Tracking Social Media Design Tips

11. Space

Look for outlines in your images. Advanced tip: Try knolling!

I saved one of my favorite social media design tips for last and that is the use of space. Put simply, negative space or white space is the area surrounds other objects in the image. More often than not, what you choose to leave out from your image is just as important as what you add.

Try not to underestimate the power of simplicity in your design. Space can help bring a certain aesthetic quality to your image while also highlighting the most important elements.

I’d love to show you two examples of the wonderful effects of using space in your designs. The first is from artist, illustrator, and graphic designer Tang Yau Hoong who has seemingly mastered the art of space in design. Tang Yau Hoong intentionally and cleverly carves out shapes in negative space to create a mesmerizing feel.

Negative and White Space in Design - Social Media Design Tips 2

When adding shapes, fonts, or colors to your design, consider what shapes or outlines are forming around them and use them to your advantage. You may quickly realize that your design is taking shape in ways you hadn’t originally planned.

The second example is from the world of photography. Knolling is a technique that has really come on strong in the last few years. The white space surrounding each element really helps to bring out each piece individually.

Knolling Example 1 - Social Media Design Tips 2

Keep your images simple and use the space around objects to bring attention to important elements. I love this graphic from Cinch that really highlights the power of simple design.

Cinch, Graphic Design Example, social media design

“Designers and marketers know they have ‘achieved perfection’ not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Over to You

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about social media design! It is truly amazing how small tweaks to images can have such a huge effect on quality and outcome.

Did I miss any of your favorite social media design tips above? I would love to learn from you! 

Please feel free to drop a comment below to keep the conversation going.

More Awesome Design Resources

Design Elements and Principles – Canva

8 Basic Design Principles to Help You Create Better Graphics – Adobe

Why Every Marketer in 2016 Needs to Be a (Part-Time) Designer – Buffer

Here’s how ISIS recruits and coerces children

Iraqi security forces detain a boy after removing a suicide vest from him in Kirkuk, Iraq.Ako Rasheed/Reuters

This week the world once again witnessed an Islamic State’s use of at least one child bomber, perhaps two.

A child between the ages of 12 and 14 was reportedly the culprit behind a suicide attack – blowing up the wedding of Besna and Nurettin Akdogan in Gaziantep, Turkey and killing 54 people on Aug. 20.

Although now the Turkish government is not certain whether it was a child or an adult, it’s certainly not the only time children have been used by terrorist networks to perpetrate attacks.

The following day, a child was caught before he could detonate a suicide bomb at a Shi’a school in Kirkuk, Iraq.

During the course of research for our book, “Small Arms: Children and Terror,” John Horgan and I have learned how IS socializes children into their terrorist network. We have also had the opportunity to meet with children who have been rescued from terrorist groups in Pakistan.

There are important differences in how groups engage children in militant activities. Differences between children in terrorist groups and child soldiers include how children are recruited and what role the parents and community play in recruitment.

Understanding these differences helps us know how best to approach treating the children’s trauma, and figure out which children can be rehabilitated and which ones might be vulnerable for recidivism as adults.

Access to youth

A boy plays with a wheel at a camp for internally displaced people in SyriaAko Rasheed/Reuters

We have been researching IS Cubs of the Caliphate, so called “Ashbal al Khilafah,” for two years, tracking how IS is grooming the next generation of fighters. Since Syria fell apart, IS has assumed de-facto control over schools and mosques. Though many of the original Syrian schoolteachers remain, they must now teach an IS-controlled curriculum to gender-segregated pupils. Parents continue to send their children to school, although coercion is always present. Failure to do so might place the entire family at risk. IS will punish such families by taking their homes and refusing to provide food and protection.

This is where children systematically learn IS ideology. The school curriculum is little more than indoctrination, but it brings children closer to each other to create a band-of-brothers effect, and brings the children to the attention of IS personnel who talent-scout for children exhibiting early potential for “Cub” status in IS’ dedicated training camps. Through a socialization and selection process, IS implies that entry into the Cubs of the Caliphate is a rare commodity and something desirable for each child. By limiting access, IS creates a competition.

It is unlikely that the children share the radical views of the adults. Rather, they have been manipulated, brainwashed or coerced. It is a trend that IS started in January 2014 and has only increased exponentially. Our experiences in Swat Valley, Pakistan demonstrate that children barely understand the IS ideology. At most, children parrot what they have heard from the adults, but are not radicalized in any real sense.

isis child soldierAko Rasheed/Reuters

Ease of access to children appears to be a key reason why there were so many child soldiers in the 1990s. Whether militias exploited orphans, street children or refugees living in camps for internally displaced persons, a common theme was that children who lacked adult protection and supervision were especially at risk. Some militias transition street children, who were previously organized into gangs, into military units. The ease with which militia groups access camps in search of child recruits exacerbates the problem.

Evidence from Sri Lanka suggests recruiters target schools. During the course of my field research in 2002, mothers in the areas under control of armed rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, confided in me that they had started to homeschool their children for fear that they would be recruited during the day.

The 15-year-old bomber who was caught with explosives in Iraq this week had been in an IDP camp for a week when he was sent to blow up a Shi’a school. When stopped for questioning by the police, the child froze in fear and quickly surrendered. Experience shows that children who are coerced will often allow themselves to get caught, since they were coerced in the first place.

Children are the ultimate weapon of the weak. They cannot back out, but they also don’t want to carry out the mission.

Child soldiers vs. children in terrorist movements

Sinjar children flee isisAko Rasheed/Reuters

It is not just terrorist groups and militias that exploit children.

Paramilitaries and rebel groups, and 10 national governments, recruit or conscript youth under 18 to their national armies, including Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, the United Kingdom and Yemen.

The army in Myanmar recruits children en masse. The reason is that the military is required to fill recruitment quotas and recruiters are rewarded accordingly. Recruiters have an incentive to recruit the maximum number of children and youth possible. If adults are unwilling to join the army, children can and will be picked up, threatened and coerced to “volunteer.” The children are instructed to lie and claim that they are 18 years old.

The Maoists in Nepal and groups in Palestine recruit children into cultural organizations well before the age of 15. The Maoists go so far as to abduct children for a few weeks to expose the children to the group’s propaganda and then let them go.

As with any controversial issue, data collection is complicated. The United Nations does not systematically break down the number of militarized children, which is purported to be in the hundreds of thousands, nor do they explicitly explain their methodology for arriving at that number, saying instead that:

hundreds of thousands of children are used as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. Many children are abducted and beaten into submission, others join military groups to escape poverty, to defend their communities, out of a feeling of revenge or for other reasons.

Volunteering or coerced?

isis child soldierAko Rasheed/Reuters

The willingness of parents to provide extremist organizations access to their children is different from children who are forcibly conscripted as “child soldiers.” Parental “consent” is further complicated by the exigencies of war and the coercive environment in which the family lives. At times, parents will allow violent extremists access to their children not because they subscribe to the ideology, but because they might have no choice if they are to survive.

At other times, parents have been enthusiastic supporters of the movement and encourage and laud their children’s involvement. Such coercion was evident among the parents in the Swat Valley in Pakistan where the Pakistani Taliban went door to door and demanded exorbitant financial payments from residents. Those unable to pay – which comprised most people – then were required to provide one of their children.

Some programs to treat children in militant organizations exist, such as Sabaoon in Pakistan. In Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation programs in Africa and in Pakistan, a child’s family is able to play a positive role in his or her reintegration into society.

With IS, it is often the family that encourages and exposes the children to the violence in the first place, especially among the children of foreign fighters. The children conceivably may need to be separated from their family – making normalization all the more challenging. The number of children who have been exposed to violence in the so-called Islamic State requires efforts be taken to address the trauma, and determine whether these children are victims or perpetrators.

Mia Bloom, Professor of Communication, Georgia State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

https://theconversation.com/javascripts/lib/content_tracker_hook.js

NOW WATCH: Here’s why the Olympic diving pool turned green

Here’s how ISIS recruits and coerces children

Iraqi security forces detain a boy after removing a suicide vest from him in Kirkuk, Iraq.Ako Rasheed/Reuters

This week the world once again witnessed an Islamic State’s use of at least one child bomber, perhaps two.

A child between the ages of 12 and 14 was reportedly the culprit behind a suicide attack – blowing up the wedding of Besna and Nurettin Akdogan in Gaziantep, Turkey and killing 54 people on Aug. 20.

Although now the Turkish government is not certain whether it was a child or an adult, it’s certainly not the only time children have been used by terrorist networks to perpetrate attacks.

The following day, a child was caught before he could detonate a suicide bomb at a Shi’a school in Kirkuk, Iraq.

During the course of research for our book, “Small Arms: Children and Terror,” John Horgan and I have learned how IS socializes children into their terrorist network. We have also had the opportunity to meet with children who have been rescued from terrorist groups in Pakistan.

There are important differences in how groups engage children in militant activities. Differences between children in terrorist groups and child soldiers include how children are recruited and what role the parents and community play in recruitment.

Understanding these differences helps us know how best to approach treating the children’s trauma, and figure out which children can be rehabilitated and which ones might be vulnerable for recidivism as adults.

Access to youth

A boy plays with a wheel at a camp for internally displaced people in SyriaAko Rasheed/Reuters

We have been researching IS Cubs of the Caliphate, so called “Ashbal al Khilafah,” for two years, tracking how IS is grooming the next generation of fighters. Since Syria fell apart, IS has assumed de-facto control over schools and mosques. Though many of the original Syrian schoolteachers remain, they must now teach an IS-controlled curriculum to gender-segregated pupils. Parents continue to send their children to school, although coercion is always present. Failure to do so might place the entire family at risk. IS will punish such families by taking their homes and refusing to provide food and protection.

This is where children systematically learn IS ideology. The school curriculum is little more than indoctrination, but it brings children closer to each other to create a band-of-brothers effect, and brings the children to the attention of IS personnel who talent-scout for children exhibiting early potential for “Cub” status in IS’ dedicated training camps. Through a socialization and selection process, IS implies that entry into the Cubs of the Caliphate is a rare commodity and something desirable for each child. By limiting access, IS creates a competition.

It is unlikely that the children share the radical views of the adults. Rather, they have been manipulated, brainwashed or coerced. It is a trend that IS started in January 2014 and has only increased exponentially. Our experiences in Swat Valley, Pakistan demonstrate that children barely understand the IS ideology. At most, children parrot what they have heard from the adults, but are not radicalized in any real sense.

isis child soldierAko Rasheed/Reuters

Ease of access to children appears to be a key reason why there were so many child soldiers in the 1990s. Whether militias exploited orphans, street children or refugees living in camps for internally displaced persons, a common theme was that children who lacked adult protection and supervision were especially at risk. Some militias transition street children, who were previously organized into gangs, into military units. The ease with which militia groups access camps in search of child recruits exacerbates the problem.

Evidence from Sri Lanka suggests recruiters target schools. During the course of my field research in 2002, mothers in the areas under control of armed rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, confided in me that they had started to homeschool their children for fear that they would be recruited during the day.

The 15-year-old bomber who was caught with explosives in Iraq this week had been in an IDP camp for a week when he was sent to blow up a Shi’a school. When stopped for questioning by the police, the child froze in fear and quickly surrendered. Experience shows that children who are coerced will often allow themselves to get caught, since they were coerced in the first place.

Children are the ultimate weapon of the weak. They cannot back out, but they also don’t want to carry out the mission.

Child soldiers vs. children in terrorist movements

Sinjar children flee isisAko Rasheed/Reuters

It is not just terrorist groups and militias that exploit children.

Paramilitaries and rebel groups, and 10 national governments, recruit or conscript youth under 18 to their national armies, including Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, the United Kingdom and Yemen.

The army in Myanmar recruits children en masse. The reason is that the military is required to fill recruitment quotas and recruiters are rewarded accordingly. Recruiters have an incentive to recruit the maximum number of children and youth possible. If adults are unwilling to join the army, children can and will be picked up, threatened and coerced to “volunteer.” The children are instructed to lie and claim that they are 18 years old.

The Maoists in Nepal and groups in Palestine recruit children into cultural organizations well before the age of 15. The Maoists go so far as to abduct children for a few weeks to expose the children to the group’s propaganda and then let them go.

As with any controversial issue, data collection is complicated. The United Nations does not systematically break down the number of militarized children, which is purported to be in the hundreds of thousands, nor do they explicitly explain their methodology for arriving at that number, saying instead that:

hundreds of thousands of children are used as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. Many children are abducted and beaten into submission, others join military groups to escape poverty, to defend their communities, out of a feeling of revenge or for other reasons.

Volunteering or coerced?

isis child soldierAko Rasheed/Reuters

The willingness of parents to provide extremist organizations access to their children is different from children who are forcibly conscripted as “child soldiers.” Parental “consent” is further complicated by the exigencies of war and the coercive environment in which the family lives. At times, parents will allow violent extremists access to their children not because they subscribe to the ideology, but because they might have no choice if they are to survive.

At other times, parents have been enthusiastic supporters of the movement and encourage and laud their children’s involvement. Such coercion was evident among the parents in the Swat Valley in Pakistan where the Pakistani Taliban went door to door and demanded exorbitant financial payments from residents. Those unable to pay – which comprised most people – then were required to provide one of their children.

Some programs to treat children in militant organizations exist, such as Sabaoon in Pakistan. In Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation programs in Africa and in Pakistan, a child’s family is able to play a positive role in his or her reintegration into society.

With IS, it is often the family that encourages and exposes the children to the violence in the first place, especially among the children of foreign fighters. The children conceivably may need to be separated from their family – making normalization all the more challenging. The number of children who have been exposed to violence in the so-called Islamic State requires efforts be taken to address the trauma, and determine whether these children are victims or perpetrators.

Mia Bloom, Professor of Communication, Georgia State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

https://theconversation.com/javascripts/lib/content_tracker_hook.js

NOW WATCH: Here’s why the Olympic diving pool turned green

There’s No Perfect Headline: Why We Need to Write Multiple Headlines for Every Article

Most people don’t read content online. In fact, eight out of ten people will only read the headline.

For content writers, that fact is alarming. But it also places extra importance on the headlines we choose for our content, as headlines have the power to influence readers even if they don’t read any more of the article.

I don’t believe the perfect headline exists, though. Not anymore, anyway.

The evolution of social media and search has also complicated the playing field. When we write a headline, we no longer think only about driving clicks from a single channel like our homepage; we now need to think about search and social, too.

In this post, I’d love to share with you what I’ve discovered about headlines, how they’ve evolved and what makes a headline stand out on Facebook, Twitter, and search.

Let’s dive in.

What makes an irresistible headline

One of my favorite headlines of all time is:

“How to Win Friends and Influence People”

win-friends

This headline helped to sell millions of copies of Dale Carniegie’s book of the same name. It’s brilliant. Short, simple and intriguing and makes me want to know more. However, if it were to be written again in 2016, it may sound a little different.

The evolution of headlines

It’s pretty safe to say that a headline determines how many people will read a piece. But, the evolution of social media has led content publishers to rethink their approach to headlines completely. As a result, the perfect headline no longer exists and we now must craft an eye-catching, clickable headline for almost every channel where our content can be discovered.

We now have to craft an eye-catching, clickable headline for almost every channel where our content can be discovered

It’s important to think about all the various places people may discover your content: search engines, Facebook, Twitter, your homepage, etc. And it’s very rare that one size fits all when it comes to headlines. What stands out on Facebook might not get any clicks from a Google search results page.

For example, in 2016, the famous “How to Win Friends and Influence People” headline may look something like this:

On Facebook:

12 Life Lessons to Help You Win Friends and Influence People 

On Google: 

Life Lessons: How to Win Friends and Influence People

On a homepage:

How to Win Friends and Influence People: 12 Lessons to Live By

Headlines change the way we think and set our expectations

First impressions matter. Even with the articles we read online. And just as we choose to make a good impression offline through the way we dress and our body language, the headline of an article can also go a long way to shaping the reader’s perception of what is to follow, as Maria Konnikova explains in The New Yorker:

By drawing attention to certain details or facts, a headline can affect what existing knowledge is activated in your head. By its choice of phrasing, a headline can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting.

For instance, the headline of this article I wrote-”A Gene That Makes You Need Less Sleep?”-is not inaccurate in any way. But it does likely prompt a focus on one specific part of the piece. If I had instead called it “Why We Need Eight Hours of Sleep,” people would remember it differently.

Headlines affect our memory

Ullrich Ecker, a psychologist at the University of Western Australia has completed a couple of studies on how headlines that are even slightly misleading can affect how we read content.

In the first study, Ecker and his team discovered that misleading headlines affect readers’ memory, their inferential reasoning, and behavioral intentions. Essentially, if a biased headline influences you, that tends to be what you’ll remember no matter what you’re subsequently told in the rest of the article. 

In the second study, Ecker had people read four articles (two factual, two opinion). What’s interesting in this study is the difference Ecker discovered between headlines in factual and opinion-led pieces. Misleading headlines in factual pieces were easier to ignore, and readers were able to correct the impressions left by the headline. However, in the case of opinion articles, a misleading headline impaired the reader’s ability to make accurate conclusions.

In summary, the headline of your article can greatly affect what your reader takes away from it.

For example, if I had titled this article “The evolution of headlines” it’s likely that you may remember more about how headlines have changed as the internet has evolved. And the headline “How to write headlines for Facebook, Twitter and Search”  would likely put the reader’s focus on the section below, hopefully putting more emphasis on the actionable takeaways you can use from this piece.

As writers and content creators, we have a great duty to ensure our headlines best reflect the content of our articles. And give readers the best possible chance to remember the key points of our piece.

8 strategies to help you write great headlines for social and search

Writing great headlines is hard. And in this section, I’d love to share 8 headline strategies to help you craft headlines for Facebook, Twitter and search.

How to write great headlines for Facebook

Facebook is a huge traffic driver for many websites. (It’s been our number one or two social referrer for the past three years.)

And after recent algorithm updates, we’re now likely to see a lot less clickbait stories sticking around in our news feeds and seeing sustained engagement. This feels like a good move, but also raises the question: What kinds of headlines perform best on Facebook?

In order to dig a little further into what works on Facebook, Newswhip studied the various types of headlines that resonate with users on Facebook and that consistently receive high levels of engagement.

Here’s a quick summary of what they found to work:

  1. Conversational and descriptive headlines
  2. Headlines focused on personal experience
  3. Headlines that aren’t misleading

1. Conversational and descriptive headlines

Newswhip found that many of the most successful stories they analyzed had extremely descriptive headlines, or used language that reads in a conversational tone. For example:

business insider

These types of headlines tend to perform well because you are letting the reader know what they will gain from reading your content.

At Buffer, we also like to accompany our content with a descriptive status:

http://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fbufferapp%2Fposts%2F1164501596955619&width=500

One trick I like to use for writing descriptive, conversational headlines is to think about how you would describe this story to a friend in a coffee shop and use the same, warm, friendly tone in your headline.

When it comes to writing in a conversational style, it often means forgetting a lot of what your English teacher may have taught you, too. If you’ve ever looked at a transcript of a conversation, you’ll notice it’s full of grammatical mistakes, half-finished sentences, and similar faux-pas. Writing in a conversational tone doesn’t necessarily mean writing as you talk. But instead, writing so that it doesn’t sound like writing.

2. Headlines focused on personal experience

Facebook has traditionally been a place for  personal stories and blogs, opinion articles, and other personal angled stories to flourish. And Newswhip found that first person posts and unique viewpoints tend to get people sharing heavily, especially if it’s a topic that they can relate to personally.

Here’s an example of a recent headline from our Open Blog that focused on personal experience:

family-leave

3. Headlines that aren’t misleading 

In the blog post accompanying their latest algorithm update, Facebook explained that there are two specific criteria they use to determine whether a headline is misleading:

  1. If the headline withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is
  2. If the headline exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader

For example, the headline “You’ll Never Believe Who Tripped and Fell on the Red Carpet…” withholds information required to understand the article (What happened? Who Tripped?). The headline “Apples Are Actually Bad For You?!” misleads the reader (apples are only bad for you if you eat too many every day).

This means the “You’ll never guess what happened next” headline formula will no longer be as successful on Facebook. And instead, we should switch to more detailed headlines that inform the reader what they’ll be reading about once they click.

How to write great headlines for Twitter

Tweets are just like headlines.

They need to attract attention and get the reader to read to click on the link. And while there’s no guaranteed formula for success on Twitter, we’ve found the best headlines and Tweets are the ones that state a benefit and generate curiosity.

Twitter is also a great place to share content multiple times and test out various headlines to see which ones resonate most with your audience. This approach helped Tami Brehse to increase her traffic by nearly 50% in just 30 days.

To give you an example of what’s working for us, here are a couple of our most-clicked tweets:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Both of these examples have clear images to convey the message within the tweet, making it more eye-catching for people as they scroll through their feed. The images also give the reader a great idea of what the content within the article will be.

Both tweets also create curiousity and a knowledge gap for readers. This entices readers to click on the link and feed their curiousity.

Further reading: Check out our research into our most successful tweets and why they worked

How to write great headlines for search

Standing out in search is a completely different game to standing out on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. With social platforms, you’re trying to grab the reader’s attention and stand out in their timeline. Whereas in search, the user is specifically looking for content focused on their search phrase.

Here are a few tips that have worked for us:

1. Front-load your title 

Google puts more weight on the words at the beginning of your title tag. And if you’re trying to rank for specific keywords, a good strategy is to place those keywords at the beginning of your headline.

If you wanted to rank for “social media tips”, then chances are that this headline:

Social Media Tips: 10 Ways to Grow Your Social Media Audience

… would be seen as more relevant to the topic “social media tips” than this headline:

Grow Your Social Media Audience with These 10  Awesome Social Media Tips

Of course, there’s much more that comes into play when it comes to Google rankings, but keeping your keywords as near to the beginning of your title as possible can help.

Here’s a real-world example. If you search Google for “Instagram stories” you’ll notice many of the results will have those keywords right at the front of the headline:

seo-headlines

Keep it short (between 50-60 characters)

SEO experts Moz explain:

Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of a title tag, or as many characters as will fit into a 512-pixel display. If you keep your titles under 55 characters, you can expect at least 95% of your titles to display properly. Keep in mind that search engines may choose to display a different title than what you provide in your HTML. Titles in search results may be rewritten to match your brand, the user query, or other considerations.

Use your brand name

If your brand is well-known within your target market then attaching it to the end of your headline can lead to more trust and clicks. A study from Engaging New Project found that people react not only to the type of headline but also to the source of the headline.

If you’re a trusted source, it can be beneficial to share your brand name in search results.

How to create multiple headlines for your content

At Buffer, we use a really handy tool called Yoast SEO which allows us to set various headlines for different channels. This means every post we write can have up to four separate headlines at any one time:

  • Headline on our homepage
  • Headline for search
  • Headline for Twitter
  • Headline for Facebook

Here’s an example of Yoast in action:

yoast-seo

To write a custom headline for search, Facebook, and Twitter, you can toggle between the different Yoast SEO tabs by clicking on the icons at the left.

Over to you

Headlines are fascinating and probably the most important part of any piece of content. Right now, it feels like we’re in the midst of another evolution and moving away from some sensationalistic headlines that become popular with the rise of social media and towards more descriptive and detailed headlines.

Do you create multiple headlines for your content? What have you found works for each channel?

I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments below.