You may have noticed in your own daily social media use that in recent years it has become considerably visual. Animated gifs, memes, infographics, illustrations, and, of course, videos have taken over. Lower costs for higher speed internet is a part of the picture. But the key insight is that organizations and brands found that people are more likely to engage with visually engaging content. According to the Social Media Examiner, 74% of social media marketers use visual content, greater than the 68% that run blog posts. Organic engagement was found to be higher on posts with videos and photos on Facebook.
You might be thinking, "I'm sure you're right but neither I nor anyone on my staff has the design skills." Or maybe something along the lines of, "My organization can't afford to invest in someone to design content. And the pro software is expensive!" Your right, but that doesn't mean you can't improve your social media capabilities. In fact, there are quite a few tools out there that make it near instantly possible to make great pro-level looking graphics with beginner-level skills with a penny-pinching budget. Donor acquisition is tough, but with the right amount of small investments in your online marketing, you can glean some considerable gains. Here are some of the best free to low-cost tools for nonprofit organizations that need an easy way to create eye-catching content
Social Media Graphics
Tweets and Facebook posts with images are 70% or more likely to be shared. Tweets with images get 150% more retweets than those without. Visually engaging content simply performs better than without. This kind of content doesn't always have to be photos. It can be graphics that make announcements from fundraising events to board member anniversaries more than just 140 characters. It can be a bit intimidating to pick out colors, nice looking fonts. And once you get things made, it's another ordeal trying to fit everything onto all the different platforms. The following tools makes this all super easy. No need to worry about looking up different social media platform dimensions or looking for fonts beyond Impact and Arial.
Spark is a super easy way to immediately start upgrading your social media game. The service is accessible online or via the app. You can start from scratch or pick from a wide array of templates based on purpose or medium. The post creator is a WYSIWYG, click and toggle interface with a lot of options but simple enough to keep things manageable. For example, the Magic Layout feature lets you switch out various layouts and post sizes and the rest of the content automatically adjusts the text and other elements to fit. Resizing tools allow you to make one design and export auto-adjusted posts, covers, thumbnails, and ads for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Youtube and more. Picking colors are also super easy as Adobe offers suggested professional looking color palettes. Finally, there’s a style suggestion radial toggle that lets you try various preset designs for your text.
Cost: Free to use most features with Adobe branding. Paid 'Premium' plan for branding features.
App: Free on iTunes App Store. Not yet available on Android.
Canva is also a very easy, very accessible way to create beautiful graphics for social media as well as a variety of other uses. It is also accessible online as well as via app. You can also install the app to your Chrome browser. Canva also makes designing very easy as it guides you through thousands of templates according to your purposes. The drag-and-drop interface is very easy to work with. There’s quite a bit of room to play around and they offer lots free icons, photos, shapes, grids, and illustrations as well as some you can pay for. The basic plan is free and allows you to work with up to 10 other team members and 1GB of storage for your own photos and assets. The next plan up, called “Canva for Work” gives you resizing tools and lets you do more like upload custom fonts, set color palettes, or save templates. While this costs $12.95 a month per user, the good news for you is that they offer a free subscription to that plan for nonprofit organizations!
Not all social media platforms can properly feature animated gifs (like Facebook). In fact, you might think, those reaction gifs are funny and all but they’re not necessarily appropriate for our nonprofit’s brand. You may be right and the reason I am suggesting gifs is less to use them for necessarily humorous purposes but to consider them as a nice alternative to videos. Videos are great but you shouldn’t just use them for the sake of videos.
Think of it like the moving images in newspapers in the world of Harry Potter. Let’s say you’re a nature conservation organization and you have some awesome hyperlapse footage of mist clearing from a forest for your introductory video. Repurpose that footage later on for a visually stimulating gif to share with your donation page link. Stand out from the typical stock photography and add a bit of motion to your posts. Or maybe you’re a children’s health organization that held a marathon event. Create a slideshow gif that features some great photos from the event that people can see immediately from your tweet. The possibilities are endless.
Giphy is one of the most well-known repositories of animated gifs. They have a free animated gif maker that works well. Either pull together images to create a GIF slideshow or enter a video URL from YouTube or Vimeo to edit your own custom GIF. The video GIFs can be up to 15 seconds and you can select when the GIF begins in the video. Add static or animated captions and stickers as you see fit. It’s easy, free and fast.
App: While GIPHY has a free app for iOS and Android, it’s not meant for creating animated gifs. You can install the GIPHY Capture app for Macs on the App Store to create gifs of anything on your screen.
Social media videos
In an Internet Trends report by Kleiner Perkins, video content is projected to represent 74% of all internet traffic in 2017. Cisco expects 80% by 2019. Studies by Hubspot found that 43% of consumers want to see more video content in 2016. Vimeo claims that 4 times as many consumers prefer to watch a video over reading about a product. SEOmoz says posts with videos attract three times as many inbound links than just text.
Spark, again for video content, is a really easy way to create and publish video content. As long as you have some footage or even just photography, Spark Video’s interface is super simple but can help you make a surprisingly good video in no time. The interface looks more like Powerpoint than a pro tool like Adobe Premier so it’ll be quick to adjust to. You can add narration, free soundtracks, or your own music. And there are a number of visual themes that you can use to spice up the style with a professional look.
Cost: Free to use most features with Adobe branding. Paid 'Premium' plan for branding features.
Apps: Free app for iOS devices.
Looking for something with some more stylized flair? Don’t really have the resources for a lot of footage? Or do you want to make an animated explainer video like all the cool new startups? Biteable is uniquely suited for those types of videos. It has thousands of stock footage and hundreds of awesome animations and special effects footage that you can stitch together with what video assets you have. It’s like having a video content marketing agency at your fingertips.
Cost: There is a free plan that you can create HD videos with but the selection of clips is limited and exports with Biteable’s watermark. It’s honestly more of a trial version. The premium plan is $99 per year and lets you upload footage and download the videos.
App: No mobile app.
Not looking for something too fancy? Animoto is probably most bare-bones video builder on this list. Not to say that that’s a bad thing. Its simplicity can be ideal for those strapped for time but want to put out videos regularly. It’s more suited for creating simple slide-show style videos. These can be powerful in their own way, especially in telling a story that balances text and photos/footage. Many news sites like AJ+ use this sort of style to quickly put out news stories. If you would like to publish stories somewhat regularly Animoto can save you a lot of time and allow you to consistently and easily put out video content. Animoto offers many pre-built storyboards and thousands of commercially licensed songs.
Cost: Three paid plans each with monthly or annual subscriptions. Details here.
App: The service comes with an app version for iOS and Android.
Who doesn’t like infographics? They make information, particularly data, more interesting and comprehensible. And it shows in metrics as those who use infographics has been found to have an average of 12% greater growth in traffic than those that do not. Moreover, infographic content is "liked" and shared on social media platforms 3 times as more than any other type of content. But infographics can be challenging for even those with some design chops. Here are a few accessible tools that can make it easier.
Venngage makes this coveted content style more accessible. With an intuitive drag-and-drop interface and over a hundred templates to choose from and build, anyone can make data or instructions a little more exciting. You can import spreadsheets of data and generate 12 different chart styles. You can pick from thousands of icons and illustrations or upload your own assets. While it's relatively new, it's among the better solutions that balance ease of use with range of features and options. Notably, the premium plans are half-price for nonprofits. Get acclimated to the software through the free trial version before you upgrade.
Cost: Nonprofits get half-price on plans. $10/month for the Premium and $25/month for Business plans.
This one is perhaps the most affordable option in creating infographic content. It also appears to have a relatively lower learning curve and has considerable access to support and advice from the company’s designers. If easy graphics creation is important to you but you're on a very tight budget this might be an option worth considering. However, it does appear to generally have relatively less of that "pro-look" compared its competitors. It may suffice for educational or youth services organizations. Easel.ly also provides a discounted price point for nonprofits that is even lower than its regular rate.
Cost: Free access to a limited lite version of the software. $3/month for the pro account, $1.50/month for nonprofits.
Piktochart is widely used by bloggers and other online content creators. It has a fairly robust yet easy-to-use WYSIWYG drag-and-drop interface. In many ways it is the most like a simpler browser-edition version of InDesign. It has hundreds of templates that look great and offer thousands of images and icons. One of the coolest things is that you can directly important data from an MS Excel or Google spreadsheet and generate charts and even maps. Piktochart is the most expensive among those featured here but the discount rate is a considerably enticing deal. It is also the only one other than Canva capable of generating infographics to have an iOS app. Sign up for free to play around with the software.
Cost: Free basic access to create but limited uploading and downloading. Nonprofits get a discounted pro individual account for $39.99 for 12 months (originally $290)
App: iPad app is available on the Apple App Store.