DIY Social Media and Blog Content for Authors

In the last few years we've seen a huge shift away from text toward visual imagery dominating social media. Sharing a text blurb isn't often enough anymore. Much of the reason for this has to do with retention. Brain Rules author John Medina tells us that "we are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you'll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you'll remember 65%." It's part of the reason that Pinterest took off and why Instagram is hot right now. But for an author whose primary skill isn't graphic design, but instead, sitting down with the blank page and filling it with words, the idea of developing content might feel daunting. 

Fortunately, today there are a number of online tools and services that can help an author (or any graphically challenged individual) out. Below you'll find four online content creation services and eight sites to help you find free images. All of the sites listed offer free access although the content tools provide even deeper services on a subscription basis. Let's dig in!

1. BeFunky - This is my new fave content tool. It's really three tools in one - photo editor, collage maker and content designer. BeFunky enabled me to create the "up the ante" image above within just a few minutes. It also has some insanely cool photo filters and ways to organize photos. The free version has a lot of features but at under $35 a year, upgrading is a steal. Here's an example of six different images created from a photo I took at the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy last year. Then I used the BeFunky collage maker to put it all together. 

2. Canva - What I love most about Canva is that it has all templates in the proper sizes for everything you need to create right at the tip of your fingers. Need a Twitter image, great! Then easily resize it for Facebook or Pinterest without having to entirely recreate the image. You can store images in your Canva library so that everything is easily in one spot. Canva also gives you the option to use their library of thousands of photos, art elements, templates and illustrations, many of them for free, or for $1 a piece on average (with a limited license but enough for most web needs). Here's an example of an Instagram post I created in Canva. Their free tools are limited, but a $12.95 a month subscription won't break the bank. 

3. Snappa - Like Canva, Snappa has a whole bunch of ready-made templates in every social media image size. I whipped up the below Facebook ad with their free tools in less than five minutes. As with the other services, you'll have limited functionality until you upgrade to their $10 a month plan, at which point you'll be able to save your designs (vs. just downloading), and will be able to access a slew of additional images and templates.

4. Pablo - This completely free, easy-to-use image creator comes from the folks over at Buffer, a fabulous social media scheduling service. The overall functionality is very simple, but the images available are plentiful and free. If you need a fast, simple image, head to Pablo first. 

Ok, so now you have some tools to start building your social content, but where can you get quality, royalty-free images? Bookmark the following sites...they each offer great imagery that can help you take your content to the next level. 

5. Unsplash  - One of my favorite sites, this photo repository is always adding new, gorgeous content. It's where I found the feature photo for this blog (flowers on the phone) by Dimitri Tyan and the girl with camera (above) by Evan Kirby. Credit is not required but it's always nice to include. 

6. Pixabay - A huge repository of free photos, over 1.1M images. Some of them are beautiful, some of them you will need to wade through. 

7. Nappy - There aren't very many images on this site yet, and I hope that they will continue to build their catalog. There just aren't enough photos of black and brown people in our media. Nappy aims to help change that. If you are looking for ways to showcase more diversity, check out this site. 

8. Pexels - The quality of Pexels is much higher overall than Pixabay, I find, but there are less free images available. They partner with Twenty20 to offer up paid alternatives if you can't find what you want. 

9. Shot Stash - Another great, but small trove of quality free stock photos. 

10. Kaboompics - Gorgeous free, royalty-free photos, each accompanied by a color palette that corresponds to the photo. You can even search photos by color. 

11. The Public Domain Archive - A fantastic collection of both modern and vintage public domain photos.

12. VisualHunt - This is the grand-daddy of free photo search engines. As of this writing, it had cataloged over 354,191,553 Creative Commons Photos, pulling in images from all the sites above and a whole lot more.

While you still have to find the time to put your social content together, hopefully these tools will help make the whole process much easier to manage. 

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About the Author

Crystal King is a 30-year marketing, social media and communications veteran, freelance writer and Pushcart-nominated poet. She is the author of the FEAST OF SORROW, about the ancient Roman gourmand, Apicius, and THE CHEF'S SECRET about the famous Renaissance chef Bartolomeo Scappi. Currently Crystal works as a social media professor for HubSpot, a leading provider of Inbound marketing software. Crystal has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet writing center. A former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in media res. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at her website:

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by Crystal King