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The 6 Design Elements of Scroll-Stopping Social Media Graphics

You put a tremendous amount of effort into organizing an event, launching a product, or writing a blog post. Excitedly, you share it across your social channels and eagerly await the response. However, you check the analytics and the results are not quite what you expected. While you did see some engagement from a few select users (hi, Mom!), the overall engagement with your social media channels isn’t quite meeting your goals.

But fear not, if you’re experiencing this, you’re not alone. Brands in every industry saw less organic social engagement in 2022. But it’s still important to utilize social media for publicizing your brand, as the average social media user spends two hours and 11 minutes on social every day (and no doubt encounters content from your competitors). As marketers know, engaging your social audience is key to fostering meaningful connections with current and potential customers.

Use the following social media graphic design and strategy elements as a guide to help you up your game, stand out on the feed, engage users, and meet your goals on social media.

1. Use the Billboard Approach

Users scroll past social graphics about as fast as you drive past a billboard, and they’re speeding through tons of posts each day. In fact, Statista looked at how far the average user scrolls with their thumb—fascinatingly, that average user can scroll Mount Everest in 20 days. (If only your smartwatch counted scrolling as exercise.)

With users zooming through social posts in their news feed, you need to stop the scroll and attract attention. Use the billboard approach to help share your message and brand on a graphic in those few seconds:

  • Use dynamic images. Consider which images can best tell your brand story in an impactful way. Choose images with a strong focal point and prioritize those that spur an emotional response from the viewer.
  • Keep it to eight words or less, if needed. If you can share your message effectually with no graphic copy at all, it’s even better.
  • Determine location. Just as you’d change your approach depending on where your billboard would appear, think about the audience that is using that social channel. How do they use that channel? Will your imagery resonate with them?

Here’s an example from Berres Brothers Coffee Roasters. These images are bright, bold, and focus on the product in a playful, memorable way. The coffee is bursting with real flavors, so much so that it tastes like it’s brewed with the real ingredients.

bold dynamic social media graphic design examples from Berres Brothers Coffee Instagram

2. Define What Good Photography Means to Your Brand

Marketing copy is powerful, but imagery really packs a punch. Research suggests that people only remember ten percent of what they’ve learned after 72 hours. But, if you pair an awesome image with your content, people can retain 65% of the information after three days.

Photography is the basis of effective social media graphic design, so it’s up to you to define what good photography means for your brand. Then, you can execute it so that it supports your efforts—or hire a pro team to capture on-brand, on-strategy photos.

We define great social photos as those that:

  • Grab users’ attention and stop the scroll: How can you stand out from the clutter?
  • Communicate your brand identity: Keep it consistent and users will recognize your content by name, allowing you to build a rapport with them.
  • Are professional quality: Images should be 4K, in focus, and well-lit.

Wondering how to establish and communicate your brand identity with social media photography? That identity will start by setting consistent visual rules to follow, including standards for the color palette, lighting style, props, and more.

3. Be a People-Person Marketer

The power of social proof on social media cannot be understated. On social media, social proof takes many forms, including influencer reviews and content created by real customers. These customer-created posts are called “user-generated content,” or UGC. It’s efficacious in persuading customers to trust your brand. People love and trust people—as EveryoneSocial states, 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions.

Pro tip: There are several ways to encourage UGC creation. For example, you can run hashtag campaigns to entice users to jump on the bandwagon and use that hashtag themselves. Just check out the traction on the Barbie movie’s publicity campaign hashtags and their selfie filter.

tiktok social media graphic design and video for barbie the movie with ample engagement

Best yet, when you run UGC collection campaigns using a hashtag, you’ll be able to easily monitor and measure engagement by following the hashtag.

4. Think Big: Go Vertical to Expand Mobile Impact

Most people (83%) use social media on mobile devices, which favors photos and graphics sized vertically to maximize real estate on a phone. Check out these recommended aspect ratios to make best use of mobile screens to stop the scroll and engage your audience.

guide for social media graphic designers on aspect ratios

Recommended Social Media Graphic Sizes and Aspect Ratios:

  • TikTok: 1080 x 1920 (9:16)
  • Instagram Reels: 1080 x 1920 (9:16)
  • Instagram Stories: 1080 x 1920 (9:16)
  • Instagram Main Feed: 1080 x 1350 (4:5)

5. Make the Most of Your Brand Assets

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 79% of marketers reported the goals set for their efforts would increase for 2023, despite overall marketing budgets remaining flat. (1) Experts (like us!) aim to make the most of excellent content. Focus on quality, not quantity, and repurpose what you create across channels.

For example, you might make a top-quality e-book your focus for content creation during Q4. Use that e-book on social and link posts to your e-book landing page. That repurposing content mentality applies to graphic design, too. Resize and rework your e-book cover page and internal graphics to use across your social channels. This tactic will be an efficient use of your budget and time, all while offering a cohesive brand presence.

6. Add to Your Tool Belt and Partner with a Professional

These are just a few elements to get you thinking about creating successful social media graphics. Get more tips and tools for capturing great social media photos in this article.

Want more insight on making your social graphics stand out and increasing user engagement with your posts? Connect with us to learn more about creating premium social content and executing an effective integrated strategy with measurable results.


(1) Webinar slides: “The Future of Content Marketing: Top Insights, Trends, and Challenges for 2023.” Via Content Marketing Institute.


This blog was originally published on March 11, 2019, but was updated on June 16, 2023 to align with the current landscape of social media best practices.


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