How to pick branded colors for your social media images

What is color branding on social media?By Paula Wethington / @WethingtonPaula

If you hire a consultant to help with personal or business branding, or purchase a premade branding package, the services will likely include a style sheet or branding board that showcases a selection of colors.

That being said: maybe you are in a do-it-yourself situation for your “look,” and the design concept has become overwhelming.

Don’t skip the color palette decisions.

You’ll love the results when you can pick up a carefully selected crayon box, so to speak, and start using it on a project.

Here’s how I ended up with my choices of dusty rose, off black and complementary colors. As you’ll see, it’s not the first range of colors I had in mind.

1. Set up an idea board on Pinterest

When I decided to give color branding a try, I created a board on my Pinterest account called “color theory,” where I pinned a huge collection of articles and infographics about the use of color in design.

Along the way, I pinned color palettes that struck me as interesting.

If you hire a designer, he or she may suggest as part of the process that you build an idea board on Pinterest so they can understand the direction that represents “you.”

Did anything strike me as “that’s it!” right away? No.

As a result, I went in another direction for research:

2. Use Canva’s color palette generator

You may have heard of Canva, or already use it to create social media graphics. But this particular tool is a terrific feature on its own merits:

Go to Canva color palette generator and upload your logo or a photo that represents the look you want. See how the color range settles out. Do you like it?

I had a lot of fun playing around with this site.

When you seem to be going in the right direction, get a screenshot and / or write down the hexcode numbers on the color bubbles. You’ll use those hexcodes as a reference point at the next step.

3. Make some sample images

Now adapt an idea from the designers and create a simple infographic in your favorite graphic design program to be your “branding board.” This image displays the colors and fonts for your branding look, accompanied by any patterns or inspiration images.

Although you can save preferred colors in some programs once you get going, how do you find and replicate that exact shade to begin with?

The color hexcode from your designer or the generator tool is the key.

5. How do your colors work in real life?

Because I felt overwhelmed with choices I saved on Pinterest, I started my personal brand color efforts spinning off my recent business photos!

I thought my teal blue blazer could be a great signature color and the Canva palette generator came back with this range:

Canva color palette generator example

But after using it for about 20 to 30 images, I decided I really didn’t like this combination at all. It wasn’t “me,” despite the fact I look terrific in that blue blazer.

6. Keep experimenting.

I finally decided I wanted a dark red, dusty pink, and dusty purple as my core colors; with off white and off black as the neutrals. They are feminine and creative, but not too trendy. My teal blue business jacket looks fine with that color range; as do other fashions I tend to wear.

After I made a couple dozen graphics with this palette for my social media accounts, I realized this was right combination. But I needed a few more colors. I don’t like a  “monochromatic” look.

I took another look at my Pinterest board, to see what choices I had saved as “likes” that might blend in. With that review, and some cross referencing on the palette generator, I picked shades of navy blue, purple and tan to include in my collection.

The result: version 2 of my branding board.

paula branding board v 2

You can see the results by looking over my Instagram and Pinterest accounts, as using branded colors on social media images is a huge trend on both networks.





How to make branded Pinterest board covers

How to make branded Pinterest coversBy Paula Wethington @WethingtonPaula

Have you seen Pinterest accounts where each board has a themed cover image that matches the brand or account?

It’s easier to create this visual cue than one might think. If you do it, you can create a very professional appearance for your Pinterest account!

To explain, branded or themed covers is a visual design element. It is possible to do on Pinterest because you can pick one image to serve as the “cover” for each board or collection. Think of the design opportunities as you compare this to the cover images on your Facebook or Twitter accounts. The board cover is seen as a bigger image on your Pinterest page than other recent pins.

However! The vertical images that best work on Pinterest don’t always fit into the square space for covers. How can you get around that?

The answer: you can design a collection of image specifically for the covers. And because so few businesses or individuals create branded covers on Pinterest, this is very impressive when done well!

If you don’t have graphic design software or need a free option, an easy way to do this project is through a image creation service called Canva.

Since writing the original version of this post in March 2017, I have since started using another budget-friendly image creation service, Snappa, for some of my image designs.

Either service will work just fine for this project.

1. Color selections

If you have already picked a color palette as part of your logo or branding kit, those are the colors you will select from.

If not, then pick a photo or your logo as your starting point. Your social media profile image is a logical choice. Now go to the Canva Color Palette generator. Upload your image.

You’ll get something like this – a color palette that was based off a photo of me in a teal business jacket:Canva color palette generator exampleTake screenshot of the five colors with the hexcode numbers that appear beneath them. Paste that along with a copy of your logo into a word document. Now you have the color choices as a reference point.

But as you try these out, you may decide you want other colors. I did.

That’s why I saved a whole lot of ideas on my Pinterest board about color theory. I ended up picking what I liked best from multiple palettes and came up with my new social media color scheme. The rose, gray and off black palette doesn’t exactly match the photo of me in a teal jacket. But this range of colors works much better for creating images!

Branding board Paula Wethington

2. Font selections

Now look through the Ultimate Guide for Font Pairing as found on Canva Design School’s blog. You’ll find samples of fonts that work well together and suggestions of which designs fit specific themes.

Make a note of font names that you think fit your brand, project or persona and try them out on a few samples.

I picked Lora font as my go-to font choice long before I settled on my social media branding colors!

3. Create the square template

You may find tutorials on the web referencing the former rectangle sizings for Pinterest cover images. Use the designs as inspiration, but ignore the sizing ratios.

Instead, the current sizing for that space is square. I’ve experimented with both 800 px by 800 px and 1080 px by 1080 px. Either one will work.

Pick a color from your palette to serve as a background and start making some designs. You will use the hexcode to tell Canva or Snappa what colors you want. (Canva has helpful Design School tutorials to help get you started)

4. Design a sample

If you are working in Canva and hope to keep this effort budget-friendly, I recommend you select from the free templates and icons. The reason is you’ll pay for every download on premium images and you may have quite a few samples and covers by the time this is all done.

But play around with your options.

Font and color sample from CanvaType a headline and text using the fonts you already chose.

Pick colors from your palette and change the colors of your headline and text.

Do you like what you see? If not, keep trying. This sample was made I was brainstorming my early choices.

When you end up with an arrangement you like, save and download it.

Now download and paste some sample designs into the document that has your logo, photo and hex code images. This file is now your style guide, sometimes called a branding board.

5. Make one Pinterest cover

Pinterest add buttonCreate your first Pinterest cover. Include the board name with your headline font.  Download your image.

Go to Pinterest. Tap the + sign and load it up as a image pin to the selected board. You can fill in that link box to lead to your website or even back to that Pinterest board.

After the image pin is uploaded, go to the edit feature for that board and change the cover. Since it’s your most recent pin, you’ll find it quickly.

Do you need to make the words larger? Move the logo to a slightly different spot? Do you want to change the colors?

If it just doesn’t look right, delete the pin and start over.

6. Make the rest of your covers

Pinterest board cover exampleIf you are using Canva, you can’t copy and paste work from one image into a new image. There are options for resizing images and saving brand colors in Canva for Work, but definitely not in the free usage side.

The workaround is treat your first image as a template. Create and download one. Now go back to your dashboard in Canva, change the text on the image, download that with a different file name. Repeat.

If you have a membership to Snappa, you can save and duplicate images as you make a collection.

The ones I made on the Monroe News account are from Canva; the ones currently on my account are on Snappa.

7. How many do you need?

Do you need a branded cover on every Pinterest board? My theory is no. Focus on the boards that complement each other and are the primary theme of your account.

Boards that focus on just for fun or personal interests can have slightly different covers or no covers. Remember that unrelated boards can be sorted to the bottom of your page or hidden in the secret board tab.

example of group board on PinterestGroup boards also are a complicated situation in that only the board originator can create and set a cover. If you are the leader and wish to design a cover, go ahead; otherwise, don’t worry about it. After all, group boards are their own niche purpose on Pinterest.

For example: One of my group boards is a joint board between me and the newspaper where I work. I styled the cover for the design used on the newspaper’s Pinterest account.

Want more tips?

Pinterest works very differently from other social media networks – and not just because of the demographics that skew toward females.

It’s best understood as a search engine where evergreen content can continue to pick up an audience for months (and sometimes years) as long as the image and description fit the visual searches of Pinterest . As a result, it’s a nice counterpoint to time-sensitive or viral content you may be posting on other social networks.

I have quite a bit of pins on several social media topics in my Pinterest collection. If you’re specifically looking for a discussion and examples about branded Pinterest covers, check out what Brilliant Business Moms has posted at How to Make Pinterest Board Covers in 2017 – and Why You Need Them!

This post was written March 24, 2017; and updated May 19, 2017.








5 free resources to kickstart your social media plan

Womens Money Week blog post graphicBy Paula Wethington

One of the projects I participated in several times as a personal finance blogger was the National Women’s Money Week project.

Through that campaign, writers discuss the  money topic of the day from their perspective or expertise. The goal of the community discussions are to “help women move from financial fragility to financial resiliency.”

The Women’s Money Week 2017 project is from Jan. 1-7.

I’m no longer writing about personal finance. (Monroe on a Budget wrapped up in 2015, you can find a history of the project here). But my current favorite topic of social media is definitely applicable to the Women’s Money Week Jan. 3, 2017, theme of Entrepreneurship / Earning Your Worth / Making Money.

Social media for news reporting, special projects and personal branding is a skill I picked up on by experience and watching what worked for other people. At one point, I had Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram pages all branded to Monroe on a Budget. Facebook was a huge referral source to the site for a long time.

But my actual “day job” is newspaper reporter. Even before the personal finance blog wrapped up, I was applying what I learned to our newsroom’s social media accounts. And I was seeing good results.

I also think digital media is fun.

Following up on this experience, I looked for free and low-cost resources about social media and related topics. While you can now find master’s degree programs in digital or social media studies, that’s a bigger investment than I can make. Even the paid training I’ve taken has been carefully chosen and spread out so not to take a huge hit all at once. If you are an entrepreneur, or making a move into a new career, your goal of low budget training or subscription services certainly coincides with mine.

Therefore, this article focuses on free resources.

If you later decide to seek out paid training or hire a social media management agency to help out, now you’ll have some understanding of the topic.

1. Your public library

One of the first places I looked for information about digital and social media was my local library. About once a month, I’d find a book, or two or three, and settle in for an afternoon of studying in a cozy reading chair with a cup of mocha coffee nearby.

Yes, it is true that best practices change so fast that very specific strategies become outdated within a few months to a year. But it is also true that general topics such as copywriting, design and photography easily cross over from one genre to the next. Don’t overlook marketing and communications fundamentals. They can help you understand why certain social media tactics work – or don’t.

To explain: one of the first library books I read focused on Search Engine Optimization. That discussion explained why unsolicited pitches were arriving in my email, offering guest posts for my blog “with just a link;” or in the alternative, requesting link embeds from my posts to their sites. Something had always seemed odd to me about those emails. Now I had enough  knowledge about SEO strategy to see through the spammy, scammy, sleazy link requests.

Go find your local library and pick out a few books.

2. Hubspot Academy.

Are you interested in a course that explains digital marketing concepts as they are typically applied today? Take the Free Inbound Marketing Course offered by Hubspot Academy. You will learn how blogging, SEO and website setups such as landing pages can encourage potential customers to be interested in your products and services, and hopefully lead to sales.

The current version is a 12-class program with an exam. It took longer for me to work through the course than the hours listed, but you can stop and start as needed. I also picked up on the concepts faster when I took it the second time.

If you want to understand how and why specific content and formatting strategies get results for your business or a competitor, the Inbound course is worth your time.

3. Facebook Blueprint.

Another resource accessible from your desktop is from Facebook itself: Facebook Blueprint.

Earning a Facebook Blueprint Certification badge costs money. The annual, renewable exam and certification is meant for digital advertising professionals. But there are over 50 free webinars and modules in the resource collection for certification students — and you can access those modules for free! The topics include Audience Insights, Boost Your Posts and Direct Response Best Practices.

As explained by Facebook: “Blueprint eLearning is a series of free, self-paced online courses and learning paths teaching the best practices of Facebook marketing — perfect for small businesses, agencies, advertisers, graduates, MBA holders, or anyone wanting to market more effectively on Facebook.”

Poke around the collection and complete a tutorial or two.

4. Canva Design School.

Canva is a popular site for creating social media graphics fast and easy. It’s free if you use your own images or pick from their basic collections. The paid graphic elements are very affordable. You can create your designs via desktop or an iPad.

After you start using Canva, you’ll notice which of your favorite Facebook and Twitter pages use this tool. Some of the preset templates are quite popular!

What if you have no idea how to work in graphic design?

Canva has a collection of free tutorials in its Design School library with topics such as Building a Brand Kit, Marrying Text and Images, and Creative Color Palettes.

If you create just one image that looks good, I think you’ll be hooked.

5. Pinterest.

Did you think Pinterest’s practical usefulness was limited to cookie recipes and wedding theme ideas? Not so fast! The do-it-yourself culture on Pinterest also has extended to entrepreneurship skills and marketing concepts!

Create a board where you can collect pins on this topic – I started with Digital World, but also have some spinoff topics such as Public Relations.

After you create a board, search for keywords such as marketing, social media, or business goals. After Pinterest learns what you are looking for, it will suggest more to you via the news feed. After you pin an image from the web, you’ll see a splash page of another board that image was pinned to and perhaps you want to follow that as well.

Tip: You can create a new topic as a “secret board” while you brainstorm this and flip it to a public board later.

Bonus: Now for a little bit of money.

If you are willing to spend (some) money on a subscription or an online short course, look over the possibilities from these resources:

  • Hootsuite Academy – Hootsuite is a social media management dashboard service; and the related products include a collection of webinars. Whether you can stick with the free services or need to spend money depends on how many accounts you want to connect, the features you want and the courses you want to take.
  • Udemy – Webinars and minicourses in topics ranging from mobile phone photography to marketing fundamentals. There often are specials – sometimes as low as $10 a class. Put the webinars you want on a “wish list” and cue them up as you have the funds.
  • LinkedIn Learning – LinkedIn members who have Job Seeker, Business Plus, and Executive LinkedIn subscriptions can access a collection of webinars and short courses as part of their paid service. Pay close attention to the expiration date of your trial or membership, as you may be locked out of a course before completion.

A tip of the hat to past and present participants and the organizers of Women’s Money Week. Look for hashtag #WMWeek17 on your favorite social media networks. I’ll be tweeting my favorite links of the campaign at @WethingtonPaula