The Ultimate Guide: How To Create Stunning Social Cards

By: Deborah O’Malley| 2019

Social cards – they’re one of the most important, yet least talked about elements of digital marketing.

They’re probably also one of the most frustrating.

What Are Social Cards?

Simply stated, social cards are those little image previews that you see when you post a link on a social site, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

Here’s an example of a social card I recently posted on LinkedIn:

See that nicely formatted image, with the explainer text below? That’s the social card.

It’s basically a thumbnail image, with a short text blurb below.

The social is meant to give life to your content and set it apart from all the other posts out there. The image and descriptive text should, ideally, help draw readers in get them to click, to convert.

In fact, it’s claimed social cards can transform your social platform into dynamic marketing tools and increase your website traffic by 250%!

So, clearly, social cards can help conversions.

Ok, so now that you’ve seen a social card, you’re probably like, yeah, I’ve seen tons of them, every day, when I go on line. What’s the big deal?

The thing is, you’ve probably also seen lots of posts like this:

See that cut-off image preview? Oops. That’s an example of a social card gone wrong. (Sorry Bob.)

That cut off B2B text probably wasn’t supposed to happen. But, I bet if we talked to Bob, he’d say the image looked fine when he copied the content into LinkedIn. And, then, all of a sudden, for some reason, the image preview got cut-off. But, by then, the post was up, and it was too late. He didn’t want to delete it. Cause, he wanted to get the content out.

If you’ve ever posted a link to a social site, and ended up with an image that looks like you’re walking around like a chicken with you’re head cut-off, you’ve fallen victim to the difficult world of social cards:

Sorry Lisa Libin.

It seems like it should be simple enough to fix this image preview issue.

Select an image, plop it, and format it accordingly. But, wow. Can trying to do so ever cause a headache!

So, What’s The Deal?

The problem is, every social site requires a different sized-image preview, formatted to look proper.

Facebook needs one image resolution, with certain pixel parameters, Instagram another, and LinkedIn yet another.

How’s a marketer supposed to know what image to format where?

You truly need a cheat sheet — like this great one developed by Social Media Examiner or this one by Buffer— to tell you the optimal image size for each social platform.

But, even if you know every image size, who has time to format a different images for all the social media channels?

Most of us are busy marketers. We just wanna post our link – get lots of likes and shares – and move on with our day.

There isn’t enough hours to be delicately designing each image post for each social site.

There’s gotta be a better way, right?

Social Cards: The Answer To Everything

Step in social cards.

They’re supposed to be the answer to everything. (Well, actually, according to the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, the number 42 is the answer to everything. But, that’s a whole other discussion. . .)

Social cards – at least in theory – make it easy to grab an image, plop it in, share your content across all social sites, and have that little (problematic) image preview look good.

Resources like AnyImage.io and MailChimp have tried really hard to make social cards work well. And, be easy to implement.

But, as I explain in this video, they have their fair share of problems, too.

Even Yoast SEO — a great WordPress plugin that enables image previews and helpful SEO titles and descriptions –- doesn’t completely solve the problem.

With Yoast, I’ve only found a way to post to Facebook and Twitter (not LinkedIn or Instagram).

Also, with Yoast, if you include an image and decide to later change it (or realize it doesn’t look good once posted), there’s caching issues.

As a result, the new image doesn’t get updated very quickly. It seems to take about a week for the update image to appear. By that time, you’ve likely already sent out your content and moved on to something new.

So, what’s a marketer to do?

How you can easily post a link, with an image, and have it look good – across all social sites?

I’ve been wondering this question for months and have tried what feels like everything.

I admit, I’ve had my fair share of blunders:

With images getting awkwardly cut-off – and not knowing what to do about it.

But, finally, I think I’ve found the answer!

Consistently, over the last few weeks of posting weekly content, across several social sites, I’ve been able to finally get an image preview, with a link and text, that looks good.

Here’s a couple examples:

I think I’ve cracked the social card code. . .

And, now, I’m going to share it with you!

In this video, I outline the exact process I’ve discovered – through much trial and error — for making and creating social cards that look good.

As much as possible, I’ve tried to apply free tools that you, too, can use. No expensive software or sign-ups required.

An important note, however, the process I’ve found works specifically for WordPress sites. If you’re using a different platform, results may vary.

What I’ve discovered can tremendously help save you time and energy. The process is outlined for you so, you don’t have format a bunch of different images for each site.

Instead, you can focus on what you do best and easily post content that actually looks appealing – across all social sites.

If you don’t have time to check out the video, here’s the basic steps outlining my process.


Step #1: Select An Image You Want To Use

Some Guidelines To Consider:

Ideal image selection is going to depend on the content and topic you’re posting about.

Know Your Audience

To select an ideal image, it’s important you know your audience and what appeals to them.

Consider Demographic Factors

Try to consider demographic factors, like age and gender, and select images that you think will resonate with you audience.

Select Stock Photos, Vector, Or Custom Images

Determine if you’re going to use stock photos, vector images, or something else, like a custom, hand-drawn illustration. As this article explains, stock photos may work against you, if they appear inauthentic. So, beware.

Image Resources – Deposit Photos vs. iStock

If you don’t have an illustrator on hand, you might find it best to turn to a stock photo site (that has both photos and vector images).

My recommendation is to use Deposit Photos. It’s a stock image site that has decent digital marketing photos and vector images available for downloading.

It’s not the best stock photo site out there. I actually prefer iStock. I think they have nice, quality images and a larger image selection. But, iStock is WAY more expensive.

For what you get, I think Deposit Photos gives you the biggest bang for your buck. It’s what I use to create my social cards and articles images.

Consider Visual Cues

Once you’ve narrowed down your image selection, don’t proceed until you’ve consider the subtle visual cues the image portrays.

Are you using a picture of people with their arms crossed? If so, what is this behavior signaling to your audience? Is it the right message you’re trying to get across?

Ask yourself these types of questions before choosing an image.

Consciously considering these factors will help you select the most appropriate, highest converting image.

A/B Test The Best Image

Of course, to really know what converts best, it’s suggested you try testing one image against another. As this study shows, selecting the appropriate thumbnail image can certainly make a conversion difference, at least for app downloads.

Download and Save The Image

Once you’ve selected your image, you’ll want to download and save it so you have a copy on hand. Then, you can modify it, as necessary.


Step #2: Modifying Your Image

Editing Elements

You may have found a great image you’d like to use, but there’s text you want to take out, or a color you want to change.

If you have the software and ability to edit a vector, my suggestion is to bring the image into Adobe Illustrator, modify and elements you want, then save the image as a .png file.

In Illustrator, you can do so by going File/Export.

Name the file and save the format as PNG (png).

Determine where you want to save the file. (I always save to my desktop, then organize later.)

Then, click export.


Step #3: Formatting Your Image

Using Canva

Here’s where the magic happens!

Once you have your image go to Canva.

If you’re not familiar with Canva, you should be! It’s a great drag and drop image editing tool that makes it easy to custom create images, designs, and best of all social cards!

You can sign-up for free and do pretty much every thing you need.

I have Nicki Laycoax, from Oogur, to thank for telling me about Canva. And, now I’m paying it forward, sharing this great tool with you.

Canva has a lot of different options for pre-formatted images. I’ve tried a lot of different image formats and styles, until recently without much success.

For example, if you use the Facebook Post option, it’ll look good on Facebook, but not on Twitter.

Finding the right image format has been really tricky.

The Social Media Savior

But, Canva now offers a “Social Media” option that can truly save the day.

Simply click on the “Social Media” template and go at it.

In the video I explain my exact process for formatting a great-looking image in Canva. There’s a KEY CONSIDERATION you’ll need to know about formatting your margins and text.

Knowing this rule will save you hours of frustration.

But, otherwise, the tool is pretty intuitive. So, you’ll likely figure what works best for you.

When you’re ready, download your beautiful Canva image. And, get ready to share with the world.


Step #4: Uploading The Image

If you use WordPress, your next step is to into the back-end of WordPress, select the article or post you want to publish, and go to the Featured Image selection.

Here’s what it looks like on my GuessTheTest.com site:

Click “Remove featured image” if you already have an image there, or “Set Featured Image”, to put in a new image.

Upload your image:

And, press “Set Featured Image”:

Ideally, add title tags and descriptions, as necessary, and use an automatic image smushing program, like this one to condense your image size, making the image smaller and, as a result, your site quicker to load.


Step #5: The Final Frontier

You’re nearly there!

Now, copy and paste the link that you want to post into social media and go to you’re preferred social media channel. We’ll use LinkedIn, as an example.

Start a new thread or post, copy and paste your link, and viola, your beautiful social card will appear:

Add any text or hashtags you want to use and post away! ☺

Your awesome post – with a beautiful, nicely formatted social card – will go out for all the world to see.

Sounds simple. And, it really is! Now that you know exactly what to do.


Step #6: A Few Guidelines

Now, that you know how to post beautiful social cards, you can go at it with reckless abandon.

But, beware. According to Bulk.Ly, there is such thing as too much self-promotion on social media. As Bulk.Ly explains, you need to find the perfect balance of not overwhelming your audience with too much of your own stuff, mixed in with sharing other people’s content.

Social Sharing: The Rule of Thirds

It’s recommended you use the “rule of thirds” to share your social posts. This guideline means:

  • 1/3 of social posts are your own content (blog posts, articles, promotions, etc.)
  • 1/3 are other people’s content (blog posts, articles, ideas, etc.)
  • 1/3 are for personal interactions and brand building (thoughts, experiences, quips, etc.)

The idea is to split these types of content evenly among your posts so you have a good, well-rounded profile that’s not too self-promotional.

It’s hard because it takes time to achieve this goal. You have to constantly be on the lookout for other great resources and curating them appropriately. But, it’s likely worth it.

The 5-3-2 Rule

You may also want to consider the 5-3-2 rule, summarized by Bulk.Ly, but originally described by the American Association of Inside Sales Professional.

This guideline states:

    • 5 posts should be relevant content created by someone other than your organization
    • 3 relevant posts that are non-sales content created by you 2 posts should be something personal and non-work related to help humanize your account
    • 2 posts should be something personal and non-work related to help humanize your account

This approach is about building a personal relationship with your audience, rather than promoting your brand.

Alternatively, you might want to follow the 5-5-5 guideline, which takes a slightly different approach and advocates you create:

      • 5 posts about you or your content
      • 5 posts about about others (retweet, links, etc.)
      • 5 posts around engagement (replies, comments, etc.)

As explained in this in-depth Facebook article, 5 is the recommended amount of posts. But, you can also try switching it up and seeing what works best for your audience. Maybe do 4,6 or another number of posts. Just keep the ratio even so there’s not too much self-promotion going on.

Your Thoughts?

Hope you’re found this guide helpful and useful for your social media posts and content promotion.

If you have any thoughts or questions, put them in the comments section below. And, if you take a different approach to social cards and content creation, let us know.