Viral social media posts today are hyper-visual, and your business posts must follow suit. Users online have all the attention span of caffeinated goldfish so it’s even more important to showcase your fabulosity with stunning, beautiful imagery. That makes hiring a professional graphic designer one of the best investments you can make in your business (except for joining Social Media Marketer of course).

If you are faint of heart, lacking in funds, or aesthetically challenged, then you can’t pass up this here handy dandy roundup of amazing applications. When a high end graphic design and branding strategy is just out of reach, you can get by on your own merit with these high-quality, no-cost online graphics editors. The following are cheap as free, meaning they don’t require a single digit of credit card information, and make creating gorgeous marketing materials a breeze.

Picmonkey

What it’s great for: Perfectly Sized Facebook Timeline Covers (with Flair!)

picmonkey

Picmonkey is by far one of my favorite tools online. It’s considered “freemium”, which means the robust free tool has the option of paying for extras. There are special themes added for every season, such as Halloween flavored overlays or Valentine’s Day sticker styles. You can also export your gorgeous creations in different file formats like jpeg, gif, or png.

You’ll fall in love their fabulous collection of web fonts. A few fancy fonts are exclusively available to the pro users, but those free font collections are still swoon-worthy!  Photoshop junkies will appreciate that Picmonkey has ready-made brushes  that include blush, mascara, and even teeth whitening  in addition to the plain ole red eye fixer. Once you try it, I guarantee you won’t post another pic from girls’ night out without sending it through Picmonkey first!

How To Use It:

  1. Go to Picmonkey.com and click on “Create a Collage”
  2. Change the size to the specific dimensions you need or choose from their premade collages. They have Pinterest and Facebook timeline sized templates at the ready!
  3. Upload your photos and place them in your new collage.
  4. Save this image to your desktop.
  5. Go BACK to Picmonkey.com and click on “Edit a Photo”
  6. Open up that collage image that we just created.
  7. Make it awesome. Use stickers, text, frame it, or import a texture of your own as an overlay.
  8. Save it to your desktop.
  9. Upload to Facebook!

Info.gram

What it’s great for: Making your own infographics.

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You’re being a silly goose if you think giant research firms are the only ones who can make infographics. These visual aids are highly shareable; a good infographic goes viral quickly. Think about all that juicy social traffic! For instance, a florist could create an infographic highlighting the most popular flowers each month. Need more infographical ideas? Here’s a more fleshed out example to get you started:

Example Infographic Report for a Business Coach: Start your infographic with a graphic representation of your ICA (Ideal Client Archetype). I recommend using the “Pyramid” or “Funnel” styled charts to describe your ICA’s priorities and pain points. Then, you’ll pull out a calculator and make numbers look pretty:

  • Total number of minutes you’ve spent on Skype or on the phone coaching your clients
  • Number of “homework” assignments your clients have completed this year
  • Graph the amount of new clients YOUR clients have booked since working with you this year
  • Display how much money your clients have made since working with you
  • (The grand finale) A large equation showing how much money your clients make for every minute they coach with you

How To Use It:

  1. Navigate to http://infogr.am/ and log in with email, Facebook, or your Twitter account
  2. Click ‘”Create” and scroll through the available themes to find the infographic design you love
  3. The first thing you’ll see is an onscreen tutorial developed by Info.gram. Definitely pay attention to these!
  4. Click “Settings” to set the width, style, and specify a share button. Infographics are so visually stimulating, I opt for the Pinterest share button. You can always share from Pinterest to your other social profiles.
  5. Customize your infographic by clicking the buttons to add a map, a chart, text boxes, pictures, or even “Add a Video”.
  6. Click “Share” to send out your fabulous graphic to your social networks.
  7. Give your infographic a title and a description.
  8. Next, decide on your permission settings. Do you want to make this public? Or is it just for your own uses? Would you like to password-protect it?
  9. If you’re sharing publicly, customize a URL for maximum SEO juice.
  10. Enter an email address to share the infographic with a friend or send it to yourself.
  11. Click “Download” to get your infographic as a PNG or PDF file on your desktop.

Aviary

What it’s great for: “I’m so boooooored of the Instagram filters.”

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Not only is Aviary a fancy schmancy graphics editor, it has free apps for Apple, Android, and Windows phone for when you’re on the go. You can find extensions in the app store to add frames, filters, and stickers to your tool. You can also pay for extra features from within the app if you’re so inclined. Capture some sweet behind-the-scenes shots from your smartphone of works in progress or goofing off with interns. Then, make those photos look like boudoir pics from the 1930s.

How To Use It:

  1. Go to http://aviary.com/ to download the app or search for “Aviary” in the app store
  2. Install the app and let the magic begin.
  3. If you’re an Instagrammer, this will all look very familiar. There are plenty of photo treatments, frames, stickers, red eye fixers, and other fancification tools at your disposal.
  4. Click “Done” to save that gorgeous image to your phone’s library.
  5. Now share it with the world! Send to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Hootsuite, and even Evernote (for safe keeping).

Prezi

What it’s great for: Interactive presentations when you’re allergic to PowerPoint.

prezi

If you’re a member of LKR Social Media Marketeryou may recognize the seamless transitions and beautiful features of Prezi‘s presentation tool at work. Their custom themes are so simple and user friendly that you would hardly believe the fabulous presentations that come out the other end! Why not try using Prezi to create an interactive video for your web site’s list-building opt-in? With tools like Camstudio, Screenr, or Screencast-o-Matic, you can record yourself walking through a beautifully designed presentation and never have to appear on camera. Don’t let a lack of expensive video recorders or self-consciousness get in the way of your next viral video!

 How To Use It:

  1. Sign up for their free package (unless you’re ready to get techie with it) and start to play right here.
  2. Click “New Prezi” to begin your new presentation.
  3. Choose a template. You simply cannot go wrong with the awesome templates that are already available.
  4. On the left hand side is where you’ll find your navigation. Click from “slide” to “slide” or select “Edit Path” to customize the route Prezi takes through your presentation.
  5. From the top navigation ribbon, you can select options to add text and images, view a tutorial, and to share your new Prezi with your networks.
  6. To see what your Prezi looks like when it’s all done, click on the “Preview” blue button at the top left.
  7. When you’re done, you can share it to Facebook or save it to your desktop at a PDF file.

Wordle

What it’s great for: Super simple and pretty word clouds.

wordle

Wordle is an easy tool for creating beautiful graphics out of word clouds or tag clouds. Bonus Points: You can also use it to visualize your keywords. Copy and paste your next blog post into Wordle. Know that, as terms increase in frequency, they increase in size. What words stand out most? Which phrases or keywords are you most commonly using? If you’re not SEO optimizing for those words, try rewriting a few sentences and make sure your choice keywords pop out.

How To Use It:

  1. Visit http://www.wordle.net/ and click “Create”
  2. Either copy & paste text from your blog or enter a URL to generate a word cloud from a website RSS feed.
  3. Choose a layout to change the way the words are displayed, such as horizontal or random.
  4. You can also customize the colors of the cloud to match your branding.
  5. Choose a prepared palette or create a custom color palette for the cloud.
  6. Finally, you can print your creation or save it to the public gallery for all to see!

Colourlovers

What it’s great for: Get a seamless pattern for your Twitter background.

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Colourlovers helps you design beautiful palettes, pin-worthy patterns, it integrates with Moo.com, plus you can make friends as it also has a social network component. Within the site is another editor for creating your own tessellations (the original seamless patterns) out of custom shapes. For a crafty digital scrapbooker, this website is a must-have for your online arsenal.

How To Use It:

  1. Go to Colourlovers.com and find ‘Tools’ from the navigation bar
  2. Click on ‘Themeleon’ from the menu
  3. Sign in with Twitter and authorize the app
  4. Select a theme, an image, or use one of their seamless tileable patterns
  5. Apply the color palette of your choice
  6. Save to Twitter!

Fatpaint

What it’s great for: “I used to have Adobe Photoshop, but then I ran out of money.”

fatpaint

Real talk: Their website may look like your free GeoCities website from high school, but don’t let that fool you. Fatpaintis like an awesome dive bar: it may look a little jank, but you’re gonna have a whole lot of fun. All of the features you actually used in Photoshop are available:  layers, pages, textures, custom shapes. Perhaps the greatest feature of all is that it’s complete in-browser. Remember how long it took you to download Creative Suite 3? Those days are over!

How To Use It :

  1. Go to Fatpaint.com
  2. Go to “Project” from the left-hand navigation bar and then click “New Project”.
  3. Here’s where things will start to look a lot like Photoshop. Enter in the image dimensions.
  4. Click on “Pages” to get InDesign-esque and start creating a multi-paged document or brochure.
  5. The ‘Products’ menu is where you’ll find the templates to design common promotional products such as iPhone covers, coffee mugs, neckties and totebags.
  6. Go to “File” > “Save Pages as Image” to get that sucker on your desktop.
  7. Note: You cannot go wrong by skimming through the free on-demand tutorials provided by Fatpaint – especially if Adobe Photoshop is foreign to you.

Vector Magic

What it’s great for: Creating vectors from your DIY logo.

vector

You have got this fabulous logo you made yourself, but it only exist as a JPEG or PNG. Oh noes! If you need a big banner or table runner for your business’s next conference, the printing company will need a vector file or EPS. Enter Vector Magic to the rescue! This is invaluable if you have plans to work with a graphic designer in the future, too. They’ll almost certainly ask for a vector or Photoshop file of your logo and materials so they have something to work off of.

How To Use It :

  1. Visit http://vectormagic.com/home and select “Upload Image to Trace”. It’s a big yellow button right on the home page. You can’t miss it!
  2. Select the image from your desktop.
  3. Wait a moment while the image is being processed. Depending on how complex your logo is, this could take awhile.
  4. On the left side you’ll see your original image, and on the right side you’ll see the vectorized graphic.
  5. If something looks funky, try changing the detail level or color palette.
  6. Click “Download Result” to have your new vector graphic emailed to you.
  7. You’ll be sent a verification email with a code in it. You’ll need to hold on to that and copy it to the next screen in Vector Magic.
  8. Click “Enable Download” and decide which version of your image you need: EPS, PDF, SVG, or even PNG.

Note: You can always click “Have Re-drawn by a Pro” if you just can’t get it to look right. Mind you, there will be a fee for that option.

Animoto

What it’s great for: Viral videos for the camera shy.

animoto

Even if you’re scared to death of appearing live on camera, you can still make viral videos to help market your business. Animoto is a freemium tool (remember: this means they offer both a free and a paid version) that creates breathtaking videos from your pictures. The easiest way to get started on this one is to import your photos from Facebook or Instagram.

But, I want you to get more creative than that! For example, instead of uploading pictures of your face, create your own pictures that feature only text copied from your squeeze page. Create a video using the “Birthday Gift” style that you can embed onto your opt-in page. Now your free gift really looks like a free gift!

How To Use It :

  1. Go to http://animoto.com/ and click on the ‘Get Started’ button
  2. Choose what style of video you want to make. For business, I’m a huge fan of their “Brilliance” and “Animoto Original” styles.
  3. You’ll be prompted to sign up and taken to their pricing plans. Click on the “Free” package and connect to your Facebook account for easy access.
  4. If you get lost, click on the picture of your face and go to “My Videos” where you’ll be able to see all your open projects.
  5. Upload your photos or import them from Facebook, Instagram, or a gaggle of other social networks.
  6. Choose your music, add text, and customize your 30 second masterpiece.
  7. Save your video.

 

Originally posted at LKR Social Media by:  Ann Harris
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