Introduction

This is a basic introduction to graphic design. You won’t be a pro designer after reading through this but you will be armed with a few simple things you can do to make anything you are working on look much better.

I won’t go into detail on these topics. Instead I’ll introduce them and give you enough information to put them into practice. It can be a good idea to do further research on these topics as there are many good pages out there that go into much more detail.

Theory

When most people think about good design they think about making something that looks amazing and mistakenly think they can achieve this with bells and whistles. This can actually work against you. Well designed and stylish items present material in a way that best suits how our subconscious takes in information and draws meaning from it. What you will find is that things which look stunning are normally very simple but in a way that makes it crisp and clear.

Whenever we look at anything (a web page, a photo, a plant, a person, a garden etc) our subconscious immediately starts trying to understand and draw meaning from what it can see. It wants to know what is important and what is less important and what is related to what and by how much. This happens largely without us even realising it and we have little control over it. Our subconscious will do this whether we like it or not.

Our minds have evolved to do this over many many thousands of years and is hard wired to do it in particular ways. For the vast majority of those years we have existed out in the real physical world and so our minds are best suited to interpreting physical things and environments. This is why it is often relaxing to sit in a garden or go on a bushwalk. The mind is surrounded by things it is naturally suited to understanding so it has to do little work and is thus happy.

The modern world is quite removed from this however. The presentation of material on paper and computer screens etc is very recent and quite different from what our minds are evolved to work with. The subconscious has to go to a lot more effort to interpret what it sees. We don’t normally notice it but over time it will drain us.

Good design aims to work with the minds natural ways of interpreting information and thus reduce the amount of work it has to do. The concepts presented below aim to achieve this.

Colour

The first thing we should think about with our material is colour. Most people tend to just throw colours in as needed and the end result ends up being disjointed. If you pick a limited and complementary colour scheme up front then stick with only those colours your content will be much more coherent.

Picking a colour scheme is easy. Picking a good colour scheme is hard. A good colour scheme will make your work shine.

Colour is an important aspect of our minds deriving meaning from what they see. We instinctively know that red means danger or warning for instance. Blues and greens make up our natural surroundings and are calming. Things that are closer to us are brighter and more vivid in colour but as they get further away those colours tend to fade. We should aim to translate these characteristics of colour in the real world into our own material.

Premade Colour Schemes

A colour scheme is a set of colours that you select for your design. All aspects of the design should then use only these colours. The number of colours you will need will depend on your work and its complexity. Typically you would want a base set of colours, then a few that are richer or brighter in colour and a few that are lighter in colour (these could be variations of your base colours or complementary).

There are many sites out there with heaps of pre made colour schemes from people that know what they are doing. They can be good to use directly or as a base to tweak and get just how you want.

 

The Colour Wheel

The Colour Wheel is a basic tool that designers use to create colour schemes. Two quite good ones are Kuler by Adobe and Color Scheme Designer. The basic idea is that the 3 primary colours (red, green and blue) are spaced out around a wheel and evenly transitioned between. You then pick your colour scheme by picking points evenly spaced around the wheel.

Colour Wheel

Like most of these things, with practice you will get better so don’t be put off if your first few attempts at creating colour schemes aren’t that good. It is not uncommon to spend 1/2 an hour or more experimenting and tweaking with different colour schemes before finding one that works. A good approach is to look at other work to find inspiration and get an idea of what general colour scheme you may want. Then go to the premade colour scheme sites mentioned above and pick a few you like. Then head over to the Colour Wheel tools and tweak and experiment further.

 

Depth

We can use the idea of depth mentioned above (that closer items are more vivid and further items are faded) to convey importance. Our minds treat closer items as more important than further away items. A threat for instance that is closer is much more important to deal with than a threat that is further away. Use bolder colours for important items and lighter colours for less important items.

This is less important

This is important

This is irrelevant

Typography

Once we have our colours sorted out, the next thing to consider is how our text will look. For most material, the text conveys the majority of the information. As such, easier to read text (legibility) can play a huge part in how your material is considered.

Typography is a big area. Typography is about how we organise and display text. There are many aspects of the text in our material that we can influence including:

  • Font
  • Font size – size of text
  • Leading – Spacing between lines of text
  • Tracking – Spacing of characters within a word
  • Display of characters, bold, italic etc
  • Column width, ie how many words per line
  • and more…

Your aim is to create text that is as easy as possible to read. Doing so involves getting the right mix of all of these. You will probably need to experiment a bit go get it right.

Font

There are many different fonts out there and they can have a big impact on legibility. A general rule is that on the screen sans serif fonts are easier to read and printed serif fonts are easier to read. Feel free to mix and match however. A common combination is to use a sans serif font for the content and a serif font for headings. Keep your use of fonts limited too. Most designers like to work with only 2 fonts on a piece of work. They may touch 3 but only as a last resort.

Font Size

Too small and your readers will find it hard to read. Too large and it just doesn’t look right. Don’t be afraid to try your text a little bit larger than normal. You may be surprised by how it turns out (this is both for headings and main body text).

Leading

If the lines are too close to each other then it makes the content cramped and your mind has to put more effort in to keep on the right line. If the lines are too far apart then if can have the affect of making your text seem disjointed. I find that the default leading is typically not bad but can be improved by making it slightly further apart.

Tracking

As you’re probably guessing, there’s a pattern forming here. Again too close and it’s hard to read and too far apart breaks the flow. Sometimes, headings being a good example, playing about with tracking can actually create some nice effects.

Display

Bold, italics and underline are good for highlighting important parts of your content. Like other aspects, keep it to a minimum for best effect. Ideally use only one of these or two at most.

Column Width

This will largely be affected by the overall design of your work but is something you should consider. The recommended number of words per line is between 9 – 15 but you can generally get away with a bit more than this if you get your other aspects (font, font size, leading and tracking) in balance. One think to keep in mind, if you’re designing web pages particularly, is lines that adjust to the width of the screen. This is especially so nowadays with larger widescreen monitors being common. You want to make sure your lines don’t become too long and unwieldly.

Structure

Next on the agenda is the structure of our material. You should think about where you will place different items such as headings, menus and so on, what shape they will be and what size.

The following ideas relate to the ways that our minds naturally percieve information and the world around us. When things are designed to fit in with the way our minds work then they can absorb and understand what is being presented with much less effort. When we can do that we are happy and that is good design.

Gestalt Theories of Perception

These are general observations about how our minds draw meaning from what our eyes see. Understanding them allows you to organise your material so that people can very easily understand it. It is quite a big area so I will cover some of the main points here but encourage you to do some further reading.

Closure

This involves taking visual hints from several separate objects or shapes that imply continuity and then combining them into one object.

Closure

In the image above we see a square rather than 4 circles with a chunk taken out.

It does this because a square is more common to us than 4 circles with chunks taken out of them and it’s simpler. The mind always seeks the simplest explanation.

A good page layout will be seen as one coherent item.

Simplicity

Sometimes the opposite occurs. We have a complex shape but the mind can break it down into a series of simple shapes.

Simplicity

In the image to the left do you see 4 lines, 2 overlapping lines or 1 item with 4 blades? In the image to the right do you see one complex shape or 3 simple shapes?

The mind is happy when it can easily make out simple regular shapes in what it is seeing. Although you don’t need to restrict yourself to only using them, incorporating them into your overall design in subtle ways can add style.

Relationships

Many people like to group things together using boxes. The problem is, the natural world around us doesn’t tend to relate things by putting them in boxes. As such, it’s not a natural way for our minds to see relationships. It takes a lot more effort for the mind to process boxes.

The mind much prefers to draw relationships by way of similar characteristics. These could be:

  • Items that are arranged close to each other
  • Items that are a similar colour
  • Items that are similar size

Relationships

In the set of dots above I’m sure you can easily make out 3 different groupings.

Find natural ways to illustrate the relationships between different items in your content and it will become crisp and elegant.

Sometimes it is a case of using these principles to your advantage. Other times it’s making sure you haven’t set up your material to inadvertently invoke one of these and introduce confusion.

Quiet Structure

As we saw with Gestalt Theories above, our minds naturally seek to draw meaning from what they see. They want to know what is important and what is not, what is related and the order in which they should work through the information. Quiet structure seeks to prevent our minds doing this in areas where it is not needed. We achieve this by having even spacing around the different sections of our design.

When spacings are uneven our mind decides that this must mean relationships are present between the items and our subconscious takes to trying to understand them. When we space everything out evenly we are telling our subconscious that there is no inherent meaning here to derive so focus instead on other areas. The amount of work our mind has to do is reduced and it is happy.

Quiet Structure

Vertical Rhythm

Vertical Rhythm is similar in theory to Quiet Structure. We are aiming to introduce a consistency that reduces the effort the mind has to go to to take in information. This time we are focusing on text however.

Imagine a set of horizontal lines, evenly spaced, drawn down the page. If all the text on your page lies on one of these lines then you have achieved Vertical Rhythm.

It can be a lot of work to achieve this but when you do the result can be dramatic.

 

Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio is one of those things that ‘just works’. It’s found in nature all over the place and if you use it in your designs it has a tendency to make things balanced and pleasing. We don’t really know why but it does so just accept it and benefit from it.

The Golden Ratio is 1 : 1.61

The Golden Ratio can be applied in many areas of your design including:

  • Images – make the height and width follow the ratio (in either portrate or landscape).
  • Typography – make headings larger according to the ratio.
  • Layout – for example the menu column in relation to the content column.

Other Tips

Here are a few more tips to help you along the way:

  • Keep it Simple – When in doubt, find the main points and focus on those. Bells and whistles seem cool at the time but you have to ask if it really adds value and if it’s just cluttering things up.
  • Imitate others – Don’t just blatantly copy, that’s not cool. To draw inspiration from others though is fine.
  • Always keep on the lookout for good design. Ask yourself why it works. Also keep an eye out for bad design and ask why it doesn’t work.
  • The graphic design concepts discussed here should be used as guides, not as absolutes. Implement your design using the concepts but don’t be afraid to bend or break them in areas where they don’t quite work. For instance on these pages I have used vertical rhythm for the majority of the content but it made the menu and major heading look awkward so I broke vertical rhythm there in favor of spacing that looked neater.

After Effects has some powerful tools that we can use to mimic augmented reality. You may find this necessary if, for example, you wanted to make a pitch video to show what an app with augmented reality capabilities could look like.

Our final design should look like this

Our final design should look like this

01. Get familiar with the 3D Camera Tracker

Select the footage layer you want to track and click the Track Camera button in the Tracker Panel – you’ll see a blue bar appear across the footage that says Analyzing. To get a better solve, click on Detailed Analysis in the Effects Controls Panel for the 3D Camera Tracker. You can also get a better solve by specifying the Shot Type, if you know which one you want for your particular shot.

In the Advanced tab you can specify the solve method or just leave it set to Auto Detect. Choosing the correct solve method can sometimes result in a better track than using the default Auto setting.

 

02. Solve your footage

Remove any points that are not using good data

Once your camera begins solving you’ll notice the banner colour changes from blue to orange, and when it’s finished the banner will disappear. Sometimes you may get points in the sky or on areas that you can tell are not using good data. Delete those points.

Select at least three or more of the points that represent the ground plane. Right-click with those points selected and choose Set Ground Plane & Origin. With the same points selected, right-click and choose Create Null & Camera. You’ve now solved your footage and set yourself up for success with a Camera and Null object that can be used as a reference point.

 

03. Add a graphic

This map marker will pop up inside the stadium

Now you can begin adding graphics to the timeline. I’m using a map marker that I want to pop up from inside the stadium. Edit the Anchor Point of the graphic as needed, so the correct edge is used for the position data. In my case, I moved the anchor point to the bottom middle using the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool.

Click the 3D switch for the layer so it can also move in Z space. Select a point in the picture where you’d like the graphic to appear, right-click that point and choose Create Null. Now copy the position data from that Null to the position of your graphic, scale and mask the graphic as needed. It may be necessary to key the mask over time.

 

04. Integrate larger graphics

This larger graphic covers the ground like a map

Now you can repeat step 03 to integrate more graphics. For instance, you can integrate something along the entire ground plane like a map. To do this, select several points over the ground plane area. Note: to select the points now you’ll need to actually have the 3D Camera Tracker Effect selected in the Effects Controls Panel. Right-click those points and create a Null.

Repeat the process of copying data and moving the anchor point if needed. This time you should also copy the orientation of the Null to the graphic so it’s lying on the ground. You may still need to adjust things a bit to get the graphic to line up with the streets in the footage.

 

05. Add text

You can also add text to follow and flow along with the footage. For text that only needs to track with static objects like buildings, you can use the same method of match moving as we used for the markers and the map. If you want text to follow along with a walking person or driving car, you’ve now got two types of motion involved: the movement of the camera and the movement of driving or walking.

For these types of tracks we’ll use a more traditional tracking approach. With the footage selected, choose Track Motion from the Tracker Panel. To prepare for the track, create a Null Object and name it Car Tracker. Choose a car on the road (you may need to turn up the brightness and contrast of your footage to see one).

 

06. Track moving objects

Text can track static or moving objects

Because the cars in this footage are so small, there isn’t enough data to do a two-point track to get scale data. We’ll have to hack this just a bit! Proceed as if you’re only gathering the X and Y tracking data.

Place Track Point 1 on something highly visible like the headlights. It may take some time to get your track correct, and you may need to fix some parts by hand. Once your track is ready, it’s time to apply it to the Null Object we created called Car Tracker. Jump back to your footage and select the 3D Camera Tracker effect in the Effects and Controls panel.

Choose the closest point to the place where the car begins, right-click that and create a Null. Rename this Null ‘z start’. Repeat the Null creation step for the closest possible point to where the car ends, and rename this ‘z end’. Now change the Car Tracker Null object into a 3D object and add two keyframes: one key with the Z value of the ‘z start’ Null, and another at the ‘z end’ value. These keys should be at the beginning and end of the tracking keyframes.

Finally, parent the text you want to follow along with the car to the Car Tracker Null. Rejoice that your small hack job has achieved the results you wanted!

Place Track Point 1 on something highly visible like the headlights. It may take some time to get your track correct, and you may need to fix some parts by hand. Once your track is ready, it’s time to apply it to the Null Object we created called Car Tracker. Jump back to your footage and select the 3D Camera Tracker effect in the Effects and Controls panel.

Choose the closest point to the place where the car begins, right-click that and create a Null. Rename this Null ‘z start’. Repeat the Null creation step for the closest possible point to where the car ends, and rename this ‘z end’. Now change the Car Tracker Null object into a 3D object and add two keyframes: one key with the Z value of the ‘z start’ Null, and another at the ‘z end’ value. These keys should be at the beginning and end of the tracking keyframes.

Finally, parent the text you want to follow along with the car to the Car Tracker Null. Rejoice that your small hack job has achieved the results you wanted!

 

07. Tweak your work

Use trim paths to animate your text boxes

If you need to change anything, select the whole Position property and then drag the position value. This will change everything relative to the existing data so you don’t accidentally make a fix for just one frame.

If you built your text boxes in After Effects, try using trim paths to animate them on-screen as they become relevant to the action. Animate your text on as well, perhaps with a typewriter or word processor effect. Feel free to add other animated graphics as needed to flesh out the composition.

  • Software: Illustrator CS5 or later
  • Project time: 2 hours
  • Skills: Use the Gradient Mesh tool, Make opacity masks, Work with colours and transparency

Although a lot of Illustrator tools are fairly simple to grasp, using them with finesse and perfecting the finer details can take further practice. In this tutorial we’ll look at a selection of transparency and gradient tools that aren’t always used as subtly and beautifully as they can be. We’ll create a lifelike but contemporary animal study here, but the techniques covered can be applied to any subject matter that requires a striking dynamic look or an elegant subtle shine, from branding to character design.

In my opinion, technical tricks should be secondary to the subject matter: there is no need to overemphasise a glow or a gradient when the natural form of your subject can stand up for itself. In this tutorial you’ll learn subtler tricks that, in the end, will result in higher-quality artwork.

Step 01

Start with a pencil drawing: you can produce this freehand or using a photo for reference. However you create your line drawing, keep the shapes as simple as possible while still achieving the look of your chosen subject matter. It’s just shape-making: there’s no need for sketchy lines or shading.

Step 02

Trace your artwork using the Pen tool. remember that every shape you create is going to be semi-transparent, so even if it’s behind another shape it’ll still be visible – every line of every shape has to be perfect and fit with the overall flow of the illustration.

Step 03

Change your shapes to block colours without outlines (losing the outlines makes for a more realistic look). Next, select all your shapes and, in the Transparency panel, change the opacity to 65%. Feel free to play with this value.

Step 04

Colours work very differently when they’re semi-transparent. If you look at the highlighted block, which is where two shapes overlap, on the black background it appears lighter than its neighbouring blocks, whereas on the white background it’s darker. Experiment with how light and dark colours change once they’re semi-transparent and layered.

Step 05

To create a glow on a shape, select the shape then choose the Gradient Mesh tool. Tap the Gradient Mesh cursor on an outline: you’ll see that it slices your shape and starts to make a 3D form. Tap on any line and it will split in half, forming more gradient lines.

Step 06

Continue creating a mesh. The more mesh lines you create, the more form your shape will have. Hold down Opt/Alt to delete a mesh line. To add a gradient, use the Direct Selection tool to pick all the points you want colour added to, then choose a colour from the palette.

Step 07

The colours will vary depending on whether they’re layered over dark or light colours. To add more dynamism, try a circular opacity mask. First, create a circle and duplicate it in the Layers panel. Next, using the Gradient panel, add a radial gradient from white in the centre out to black.

Step 08

With both circles selected, choose Make Opacity Mask from the Transparency panel menu, and select a colour. Everything that was white in the radial gradient will take that colour; everything that was black will now be 100% transparent. Experiment with placing this circle, in various colours, behind your artwork.

Step 09

Here’s one final technique that adds a simple but effective fluid fluorescence. Select various shapes, then, holding down the Shift and Opt/Alt keys, hit an arrow key. Your shape will be duplicated and offset. As we’re working with semi-transparent shapes, you’ll start to create a nice movement effect.

Step 10

Even with simple illustrated shapes you’ll find that it really is worth taking your time with transparencies. The smallest alteration can make a big difference, and subtle gradients and transparencies can really bring an unbeatable finesse to your illustration work.

Double down on mobile videos (especially live streaming).

According to comScore’s 2017 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus report, mobile now represents almost seven in 10 digital media minutes. For marketers, that means mobile campaigns will be vital to stay relevant in 2018.

Mobile video will be particularly important. Based on current trends, we can expect to see a decline in video consumption on laptops and computers for the first time in 2018. Video consumption on phones and tablets, on the other hand, is forecasted to grow 25 percentwith the average viewer watching 36 minutes of online video per day on a mobile device, and just about 19 percent (half as much) on a computer.

To tap into this trend, make sure all of your videos are created with the mobile-first mindset. An easy way to do this is to double down on your engagement on live-streaming platforms like Facebook. Studies find viewers watch live streams 3x longer than prerecorded video.

 

Shift to “purpose marketing.”

Cause marketing — that is, initiatives tied to a sense of corporate responsibility or giving back — is great. But consumers are increasingly driven to brands that go a step further, infusing purpose into their overall ethos by identifying (and then trumpeting) an aspirational mission that’s tied to day-to-day offerings and operations.

In 2018, smart marketers will place brand purpose at the cornerstone of their business and brand strategy, creating experiences, products, and campaigns that all drive back to their unifying theme.

Foster emotional engagement.

On a similar note, brands that stand apart in the new year will do so by fostering an emotional engagement with their company rather than a transactional one with their products. This will require a shift in thinking around the customer journey. It’s not about leading with the sale, but rather the experiences or touchpoints that nurture customers along toward that point.

These could be storytelling initiatives (like videos), brand experiences (like events or workshops), purpose-driven campaigns, or anything that creates a lasting emotional connection with the brand beyond the sale. To do this well, a robust omnichannel marketing strategy will be crucial.

Integrate chatbots.

Chatbots (software programs that mimic human conversation) help customers get their questions answered quickly and drive engagement by offering suggestions. In a recent study by Oracle, 80 percent of businesses reported that they already use — or plan to use — chatbots by 2020. Chat apps have actually already surpassed the use of social media for answering customer service questions and audiences will soon expect them from most businesses.

Create content for “micro-moments.”

An astounding 96 percent of people reach for their smartphones the very instant they feel the need to inquire about something. Savvy marketers will anticipate these “micro-moments” and take advantage of them with content directly targeted at popular consumer questions within their industry.

To nail this, brands need thought leaders to produce rich, engaging, helpful, and relevant content, and SEO experts who can help ensure that content surfaces high in Google search results.

 

Looking for more ideas?

Here are some Low-Budget Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Let’s jump right into our list of the best social media marketing ideas to help you increase engagement and boost sales:

1. Share user-generated content from your fans and followers.

Sharing user-generated content is a great way to give your fans and followers a fresh prospective on your brand while building stronger relationships with your customers and leads. Often, consumers trust content from the average person more than they do from brands. According to AdWeek, 76% of people surveyed said they were more likely to trust the average person, and almost 100% of consumers trust other consumer recommendations.

User-generated content is a great social media marketing idea because it is a way to show followers that you aren’t the only one that thinks your company is great. Here’s an example of an effective user-generated content campaign on Instagram:

Here, furniture store and home décor retailer, Wayfair shows followers how their products can be positioned in the home with content shared by a customer. They then provide a link in their profile to the products shown in the image so that customers can purchase it for themselves.

2. Hold a giveaway or contest.

Who doesn’t love free stuff? Contests can be a great way to engage your fans and followers while working to increase exposure and grow your audience. In fact, Tailwind reports that Instagram accounts that run contests on a regular basis grow about 70% faster than the accounts that don’t.

Here’s a fun example of an Instagram photo contest from Dominos:

The rules here are clear and simple. And not only does Dominos gain new exposure among their super fans’ follower-base, but they also get the awesome opportunity to share user-generated content on their own page.

3. Create “tag a friend” content.

Often, you’ll see that social media users will tag their friends in the comments of posts that they think their friends will enjoy. You can take advantage of this quick and easy exposure by posting relatable content and inviting users to tag a friend that they think will enjoy or relate to the content.

This Facebook post from MVMT is a great example of a “tag a friend” post that features their product and gives users a feel for the brand without being overly promotional:

social media marketing ideas4. Post behind-the-scenes photos and videos.

One of the more intimate social media marketing ideas is to post behind-the-scenes photos and videos from your brand. This helps to show your audience that behind your company is a group of people who are working hard to provide quality products and services, which helps you build stronger relationships with customers and leads.

Here’s an awesome example of how Flight Media uses behind-the-scenes content to engage their target market:

18 social media marketing ideasThis posts gives users a look at the company’s growth and progress through an image of its new office. Not only does it highlight the company’s recent milestone of moving to a new office, but it also gives users a chance to see what the company’s workspace looks like.

5. Take advantage of “reactions” on Facebook.

One of Facebook’s most fun features is the reaction button. With this feature, users can respond to Facebook posts using one of five different reaction emojis. Now, instead of just “liking” a post, users can choose from “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad,” and “angry.” Though these may typically be used to react to content from friends and family, brands can also use these buttons to engage their followers and gauge interest or feelings about a certain topic.

On this Facebook post from Axe, you can see at the bottom where users have reacted to the content:

social media ideasThe like, love, and wow reactions let the brand know that viewers generally liked the content and found it entertaining. If you find yourself getting angry reactions, it may be time to revisit your social media content strategy.

6. Use more emojis.

Using emojis in your social media posts can be a great way to engage your audience while having a little fun at the same time. According to HootSuite, using emojis in tweets can increase engagement by 25.4% and using them in Facebook posts can increase engagement by 57%. If you plan to use emojis in your social media posts or responses, it’s important that you choose relevant emojis that you understand the meaning of.

Though adding a few emojis in your post can certainly help add a little flair to your content, don’t be afraid to get a little more creative. Here’s an Independence Day post from Bud Light:

social media marketing ideas7. Create a how-to video.

Video is an excellent format to use to break things down for your audience. Video tutorials or “how-to” videos are eye-catching and engaging pieces of content that you can post across social platforms. This type of video content allows you to break things down into actionable steps, providing visual guidance along the way. Not to mention, it’s very shareable, which means you’ll have a greater opportunity to get your content in front of new audiences.

Here’s a fun example of how-to video content that is taking social media by storm:

8. Poll your audience.

Polls are a quick and easy way to engage your audience and learn more about what makes them tick. You can easily create a poll on Facebook or Twitter to start engaging your audience in a matter of moments. This can be a great way to find out more about their preferences so that you can adjust your strategy to improve their online experience.

Here’s an example of a Twitter poll from The Muse:

social media marketing ideas

The Muse is a website that offers career advice and other job-related content. This poll helps them engage their audience while also gaining new insights into what type of content their followers want to see.

9. Run a Facebook Live or live Instagram Story campaign.

Live video is one of the most compelling forms of content that you can use on social media. In fact, according to Sprout Social, people spend up to 3x longer watching Facebook Live videos than those that have been previously recorded. Use this to your advantage by “going live” on Facebook and Instagram. You can hold a Q&A session, do a live product demonstration, or even just vlog.

The real-time interaction of live video makes the experience more engaging for your followers. This can help you build a more personal connection with fans as you are able to answer their questions and respond to comments on the spot.

10. Partner with another brand.

If you have the opportunity to partner with another brand that has a similar target audience, this can be a great way to increase your exposure across social media platforms. The goal is to choose a company that is not a direct competitor but whose audience may also benefit from your products or services.

Here’s an example of a social media campaign that was the result of a partnership between dog toy retailer and 1-800-Flowers:social media marketing ideas

Both companies saw an opportunity for a partnership that would be mutually beneficial for both parties. By working together to host a social media contest, both companies can benefit from exposure in new markets.

11. Repurpose content like blogs and videos.

Creating great content doesn’t necessarily mean re-inventing the wheel every single time. There are plenty of ways that you can repurpose your content to get the most value out of it over time. This goes beyond just reposting links to your content on your social media channels. It can also include transforming content into different formats that can engage different audiences.

This short Instagram video from First We Feast does just that by showing a quick sneak peak of a longer video on the company’s YouTube channel:social media marketing ideas

This little sneak peek helps build excitement for the longer piece of content while driving more traffic to the company’s YouTube page, where users can find even more valuable content. Repurposing isn’t just for video. You can also take infographics and make them into longer blog posts or combine articles into an informative e-book. This allows you to get the most out of each piece of content over time.

12. Curate third-party content.

There’s no social media law that states you can’t share content from other sources. Now, of course, you don’t want to share content from your competitors. However, sharing relevant and interesting articles and content from third-party sources allows you to provide even more value for your fans and followers while at the same time demonstrating that your company is up-to-date on the latest news and trends in your industry.

Here is just one example of how you can curate relevant third-party content to share with your followers and fans:

In this Facebook post, Buffer shares an article from Inc. that they think will be valuable for their followers. In order to engage their audience, they share a meaningful quote from the article and follow it up with a question that gets their followers thinking.

13. Jump on trending topics.

If you’re looking for social media marketing ideas that will help you increase exposure, you may want to keep an eye on what’s trending on social media. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook make it easy to see what’s popular on these platforms by providing a list of trending topics in the side bar.twitter marketing ideas

There are a few things you should consider before jumping on the latest trend. First, make sure that you understand what the trend is and why people are using a certain hashtag. Then, make sure that it’s relevant to your brand or your product or service offering. If you have something valuable to add to the conversation, you can take advantage of the topic’s trending to gain a new audience for your content.

14. Share tips.

Great social media content isn’t just about promoting your products or services. It’s about helping potential customers better understand their greatest challenges. Sharing tips and advice that help users navigate these challenges is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and build stronger relationships.

This Facebook video from Logitech is a great example of a short and sweet video that provides valuable tips for Logitech’s target customer-base:

By engaging with users who work from home, Logitech is working to appeal to and build a relationship with a group of consumers who are likely to use and find their products valuable.

15. Participate in Throwback Thursday.

Throwback Thursday or #TBT is a fun topic that trends on social media every Thursday. Looking through posts with this hashtag, you might come across embarrassing pictures or fun memories from a person’s past. However, this is also a fun way for brands to engage with their users while showing a little of their own history.

In this example post from BMW, we see a throwback to an older car model that most BMW fans will find interesting or nostalgic:

Be sure to use hashtags to indicate that your post is a throwback memory from your brand. That way, others can find your photo on Twitter and Instagram.

16. Post video testimonials.

Who better to advocate for your brand than your current customers? Video testimonials are a great way to show potential customers how others have found success with using your products or services. Ask some of your best customers if they would mind offering a short testimonial video about why they love your brand. If you want to add a live element, you can even interview customers at tradeshows and events and make this live content available for your fans and followers.

This video testimonial from Slack is a unique take on the testimonial:

The video is a testimonial in that the company who made it, Sandwich Video, used Slack to collaborate on their project. However, it also provides a quick demonstration of Slack’s features, which helps the viewer better visualize how Slack can be used.

17. Host an AMA series.

The AMA, or Ask Me Anything, series has become popular on Reddit, and it offers companies an awesome opportunity to truly engage and educate their followers. AMAs consist of questions from the audience that the expert answers. This is a great chance to see what your followers care about while also sharing your industry knowledge and expertise.

You don’t have to host your AMA on Reddit. In fact, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are all great channels for fielding questions. Here’s an example of a promotion for a Twitter AMA:

Here you can see that Kaleigh Moore is offering users the opportunity to learn more about growing their freelance business through quality copy. This gives her the opportunity to help potential customers while also establishing herself as an industry expert.

18. Host a social media takeover.

The social media takeover is another creative option for brands that work with influencers and industry experts. The takeover involves allowing another person to take over your social media account for a certain period of time, posting their own content. Not only does this allow your brand to show a fresh perspective, but it also allows you to get your company in front of some new faces.

Here’s a great example of a recent Instagram Takeover on Wilton Cakes’ Instagram page:

For this takeover, American baker and YouTube celebrity, Rosanna Pansino takes over the Wilton Cakes Instagram page for an entire day, sharing her favorite cookie decorating tips for the holidays. Pansino is someone who Wilton’s audience will like and identify with, and Pansino’s follower-base may be more likely to check out Wilton Cakes since Pansino is posting.

When you’re having trouble coming up with social media marketing ideas, just choose one of the options above to help you add fresh content to your social media campaigns. If you need help developing a strategy or getting started with social media advertising, consider partnering with Results Promo & Marketing. Our team of talented social media marketing experts can help you grow your audience and improve conversion rates across FacebookInstagramTwitter, Pinterest, andLinkedIn.

Getting the word out about your business is one way to make sure it succeeds. Indeed, many aspects of your business may depend on it. And what better way than to come up with some free marketing ideas to attract new customers.

Overall, “marketing” can mean many different things: from advertising and public relations to promotions and sales. In other words, marketing is a process in which your business is introduced and promoted to potential customers. Sounds good, right?

But there are so many ways to go about that these days—with many varying costs and associated expenses. The cost of traditional advertising in a newspaper or TV slot could put you in the red, for example.

But not all marketing tactics break the bank. So if your marketing budget is slim or non-existent, be sure to check out the below list of free marketing ideas—or at least cheap marketing ideas—that can help you spread the good word about your business.

Free Marketing Ideas

free marketing ideas

1. Develop a customer referral program.

Word-of-mouth marketing is an often overlooked yet super-powerful way to market your business. There’s a reason why word of mouth is number one on our list free marketing ideas.  According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.

Try offering your existing customers something—a free sample product, complimentary service, discounts, or some other low-cost reward—for referring new customers. Having your customers tell their friends and family about your business can be incredibly valuable.

2. Send out a customer satisfaction survey.

A customer satisfaction survey is not only a great way to learn about your customer base—it’s also a great way for customers to remember you exist! Surveys have taken there rightful place as number two on our list of free marketing ideas!

Consider it like rogue email marketing—though this can also be done totally analog in your storefront or on the street. Customers will feel invested in the results of the survey, which will translate into better loyalty over time. You might learn a thing or two about how your business might improve along the way. Win-win.

3. Tell a story with data or milestones.

This might be one of our favorite free marketing ideas.

Crunch the numbers on your business and see if any significant story comes through the data—maybe you’ve done business with over 1,000 clients in your area, or perhaps you provide your service at a percentage higher than industry standards.

Publish the results online or put a sign out in front of your store. People respond well to numbers—they’re an easily digestible data point. For example, “The community loves us” will be outperformed by “Over 2,500 satisfied customers in our area!” every time.

Conversely, say an academic study is done revolving around your industry. Use it to relate to the utility of your business by publishing it online and highlighting the most important parts.

4. Make your own infographics.

With all this data talk, it should be noted that infographics are super-powerful marketing tools—and relatively easy to make.

Infographics are visual and easy to understand, which is why many people love to share them. You can use online services right in your browser, such as Visme. No software or design skills required!

5. Publish distributed content.

Most people are familiar with the wonders of social media content marketing, but many sites—like Facebook and Twitter—are pay to play, often with steep costs to reach the audience you want. And while you can still invest in publishing on those sites, consider alternative content distribution networks when you’re searching for free marketing ideas.

For instance, Reddit is an old-school social network that bills itself as the “front page of the internet.” To market on Reddit, you need to find a niche—known on Reddit as subreddits, or message boards—related to your industry or business. There, you can find scores of people already interested in what your business has to offer—if you do it correctly. You don’t want to overtly advertise on Reddit without making it feel authentic to the community, so study your subreddit thoroughly before opting to post.

You might also consider LinkedIn—the business-focused social network is often overlooked but can have great impact. By joining professional groups, participating in industry conversation, and sharing your own content, you can reach the right kind of audience that will bring you business.

6. Engage in one-to-one marketing.

Sometimes referred to as 1:1 marketing, this is a customer relationship strategy aimed at boosting personalized interactions with customers. Examples run from sending handwritten postcards to valued customers or personalized birthday emails. The only thing this will cost you is your time, but otherwise, it’s a free marketing idea.

Personalizing interactions with customers can foster greater loyalty and better return on marketing investment. This is a quality over quantity tactic, for sure.

7. Hold an online contest.

Prizes don’t need to be extravagant—a couple of free products or complimentary services can be enough to get potential customers to invest a few seconds of their time in applying to win.

Contests are a great way to gather potential customer data as well—for example, emails—while also getting them to spread the word about the content to even more potential customers.

8. Develop an industry partnership.

Developing partnerships is a must have on any list of free marketing ideas.

Team up with a business that complements yours (one that isn’t a direct competitor, of course) for a joint project. You can do this by hosting a joint special event or online with a giveaway. They can be for a short period of time or extended. Either way, partnering with another business will give you access to their customer base and vice versa. This kind of access would cost you big bucks otherwise.

9. Try your hand at guerilla marketing.

It may sound scary, but it just takes a little ingenuity. Guerilla marketing uses public space to make itself known—a little sidewalk chalk and a good message can go along way at a well-trafficked intersection. Stickers and graffiti (with correct permits!) can also serve as eye candy for potential customers.

10. Host an event or class.

Plan an event to host or class to teach that will attract new customers to your business while educating them about your industry. The event or class will be its own form of advertising, as well as a good reason to advertise.

Print out flyers and post them on community bulletin boards at the library, a coffee shop, or other local establishments where interested pupils might hang around. Most community bulletin boards won’t let you post business advertisements, but they’re often more than happy to post a flyer promoting an educational event or class.

We love this free marketing idea because it’s offering great value to your current or potential customers.

11. Hold business card drawings.

This might not be one of our most innovative free marketing ideas, but it’s an oldie and a goodie.

Put out a fishbowl at your place of business and ask visitors to drop their business cards in it for a chance to win something—a free product or service, for example.

By the end of the month, you’ll have collected tons of business cards—likely with email addresses you can use to reach out to customers about joining your email mailing list so you can notify them of future giveaways and special offers.

12. Send email newsletters.

Email marketing is a great way to get new visitors engaged with your business, as well as maintain relationships with your existing customers. Not to mention one of our favorite free marketing ideas.

Even the most basic email marketing plans can have a big impact.

Consider these statistics from Entrepreneur Magazine: 72% of U.S. adults prefer companies to communicate with them via email, and 91% would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with.

Advertise your email newsletter on your website or in your store so people can sign up. It’s a great way to establish customer loyalty or nurture subscribers to become paying customers over time. Start your email campaigns with a free email marketing service like MailChimp—prices scale up as your business grows.

13. Help promote or volunteer your time for a charity event.

Charity events are a great place for brand visibility—and for a good cause! Potential customers will associate your business with a feel-good attitude, and you’ll just have to donate some time or possibly some product.

14. Join a professional organization.

A chamber of commerce or other B2B organization is a great way to engender camaraderie for all parties involved. Connecting with them will give your business more visibility to your community.

15. Create a business mascot to promote your brand.

Chester Cheeto, Ronald McDonald, the Geico lizard—these mascots extend market visibility to your customer base and make customers feel like they are in a relationship with a living thing rather than a soulless business. Have your 5-year-old help with the concept if you’re struggling to be imaginative—the more unique the better.

16. Take a stand on a controversial industry topic.

Last but not least on our list of free marketing ideas—take a stand.

Politics and business are more entwined than ever, and taking a stand on an issue important to your consumer base is a great way to get their attention.

Anti-smoking? Stop selling cigarettes at your store and issue a press release.

Care about the environment? Take the steps to make your business eco-friendly, and then write a post on a publishing site like Medium.com about the experience.

Take a stance, act on it, and then tell people all about it.

17. Create a Blog

A company blog filled with useful posts for your industry and customer base is a great way of connecting with current customers as well as generating new ones. For example, Fundera’s blog has thousands of articles on starting, growing, and managing one’s small business, making it a hub for growth-minded small business owners.

To get customers, you must market your business. But if your business is running on a shoestring, you probably can’t spend on billboards, radio ads, and mass mailings. You need to find effective, low-cost marketing methods that provide ROI.

Low-Cost Marketing Ideas

Marketing on a small budget is possible; you just need to be strategic about what you spend on. Try out these seven inexpensive marketing ideas for small businesses.

Social Media

Almost everyone is on social media, so your business should be, too.

You can pay for advertising on social media. This will get your business in front of a lot of potential customers. But, this can be expensive. You can also do some free small business social media marketing.

Some social media sites let users leave reviews on business pages. Encourage your customers to leave reviews on your profiles. Then, when potential customers come across your profiles, they will see the praises from other customers.

You can also post content that encourages people to buy from your business. You might post photos of new products, coupon codes, and online contests.

Website

Every small business needs a website. When people do a web search for your business, your website should show up at the top of the results. And if people are looking for products or services in your area, your web page should be among the results. You can improve your website’s chances of showing up in search results through SEO.

So, what makes a website effective? Your business information must be clear. People should be able to easily find your location, hours, and contact information. Your website should at least have basic information about your products or services. You might also have customer testimonials and a blog.

Business Partnerships

Try teaming up with other local businesses. You can promote each other’s businesses. For example, you might give your customers a coupon to the other business, and vice versa. Or, you can promote each other to your email lists.

Look for complementary businesses. Obviously, you won’t want to partner with competitors. You might look for a business that sells a related product. For example, a sandwich shop might partner with an ice cream store.

Vehicle Branding

If you have a company vehicle that you regularly drive around, consider branding it with your company logo and information. A full paint job can be expensive, so you might opt for magnets that stick to the sides. Or, you can purchase window decals to put on the side and back windows.

Sidewalk Signs

If your business is located on a main street where a lot of pedestrians go, try putting a sign on the sidewalk outside your business. You might list a sale or announce new inventory. As people walk by, they will hopefully stop in your business to learn more.

Local Media

You might try getting your local media to cover your business. You can do this by sending out press releases and networking with local reporters.

Keep in mind; reporters won’t cover promotional things, such as sales. You’ll have to buy an advertising spot for those. But, if your business has something unique or newsworthy to share, you might get some free publicity.

Marketing To Existing Customers

Marketing to existing customers is a great way to improve your bottom line in business. You know these people will buy from you, so you just need to turn them into repeat customers.

When people buy from you, ask if you can add them to your email list. Then, send them coupons, inventory updates, and news about your business. Send regular emails to keep your business in customers’ minds and to give them ample opportunities to purchase from you.

You can also start a customer referral program. You would offer incentives for customers to introduce new customers to your business. For example, you might give referrers free products or services, or a discount off their next purchase.

Social Media Marketing Ideas

Push your handles – If you’re really looking to bump up those Twitter followers, you can’t be afraid to be a bit shameless. Speaking at a conference? Put your Twitter handle on the slideshow (heck, keep it in the corner the entire presentation). Ordering new business cards? Better include that adorable handle!

twitter marketing

Join in on weekly hashtag themes like #ThrowbackThursday – If you want to build your social media following, you need to be an active participant in the community. This means posting regularly, and also joining in on fun weekly social media traditions that already have a loyal audience. Show the kids how hip you can be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vines – Vines, quick 6-second video clips, are largely under-utilized. With a little work and some fun content, you could become a big fish in a small pond on Vine.

vine marketing

Pin your own images (and others) – Don’t underestimate the value of this image-sharing site. Post your strongest visual assets (templates, infographics, etc) on Pinterest and link them to your webpages for some serious traffic.

Keep social tabs on competitors – Facebook business pages allow you to follow other accounts via the Pages to Watch feature. Follow your competitors and see what they post, and which of their posts get the most shares and likes. See what works and follow their lead.

facebook pages to watch

Urban Marketing Ideas

Living in a concrete jungle allows for some pretty creative concepts.

Step out on the streets – In an online age, there’s something to be said for going au naturel and exercising a little IRL marketing. Go old school with flyers and poster in local cafes, do some sidewalk chalk writing. This strategy is most effective for locally oriented businesses, but it can work for anyone.

street art marketing

Commission a mural – Try getting permission to decorate the side of a prominent building with a large mural.

marketing mural

Use your surroundings – Get a little imaginative and think about how you can use your urban surroundings for potential marketing magic.

street marketing ideas

Unusual sponsorships – Urban living results in some unique marketing opportunities you won’t find elsewhere. They secret is, you need to think creatively to capitalize on these opportunities.

urban marketing ideas

Contest Marketing Ideas

Photo Contests – Photo contests are great for a number for reasons – they’re relatively easy to enter (anyone with Instagram and a few spare seconds can submit), and they also provide sponsors with a great form of user-generated content that can be reused and implemented elsewhere.

Check out Harpoon Brewery – they’ve mastered the art of photo contests. (And click here for more Instagram marketing ideas.)

social media marketing ideas

Video contests – Not as many people will enter video contests, but you’re more likely to get a higher caliber of content since creating a video requires more effort on the user’s part. This kind of content can be extremely valuable for businesses down the line, especially when you have talented filmers creating video content just for you!

Submit your vote contests – Voting contests get a ton of entries because they’re so easy to participate in (just click a button, in most cases). What’s cool about voting contests is that you can use the data obtained from the votes to create a mini data study. Share what you learned in a blog post!

Caption Contests – Post a photo and ask users to submit their best caption – this kind of contest can get some pretty great laughs.

caption contest

Sweepstakes – The most traditional of contests, sweepstakes/giveaways are a tried and true classic. They are quick and simple to enter – plus it’s easy to ask for email subscriptions as part of the submission form.

Marketing Ideas for Contest Promotion

Post to deal sites – People love free stuff, some more than others. The people who really love a good deal tend to frequent deal sites and forums. There’s almost always a sweepstake/contest forum section where you can add your contest into the mix.

I’ve seen contests in which 90% of traffic is driven from these types of sites – alright, they aren’t always the most qualified leads, but if you want quantity over quality, this is a sound strategy. Start of submitting to Slickdeals and go from there. This can be a great form of restaurant marketing.

Hashtag-ify your contest – Adding a relevant (and unique) hashtag to your contest helps you keep track of entries and makes them easy to scan through and organize. Besides, they’re just plain fun.

Make contests super sharable – This means adding “share this contest” buttons if you have an entry form on a website, or simply encouraging social sharing in general. The more people who know about your contest, the merrier (for you anyway)!

contest promotion ideas

Offer bonus points for sharing – If you offer users bonus points for sharing news of your contest via social media, they’ll be much more likely to concede. Tools like Rafflecopter make it easy to offer users extra entries for different actions (e.g. Joining the mailing list = +5 entries. Sharing contest on Twitter = +2 entries).

contest marketing ideas

(image from Website Spot)

Notify email subscribers of contest – Remember, you already know that your email subscribers like you and are interested in what you have to offer. If you’re running a contest for a free year of your software, you know your subscribers are going to want in!

Promote your contest on (all) social media – If you’re running a photo contest via Instagram, make sure you still promote the contest on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. You want all your followers, across all social media networks to know about your great giveaway!

social marketing ideas

Share buttons from WordPress plug-in

Content Marketing Ideas

Write for your audience – The best pieces of content are the ones directed at your key audiences. Understand your customer: know their pain points, what gets them psyched, and what keeps them up at night. Killer content address your audience’s needs and concerns!

Add a visual element to ALL your content pieces – People get bored with text really fast! To keep visitors reading, it’s essential to have images breaking up your text paragraphs. Don’t overlook the importance of a visual element, even in blog posts that are predominantly text-based.

Infographics – We know readers love visual content, and infographics are a prime example of beloved, linkable visual assets.

content marketing ideas

While the idea of creating a top-notch infographic may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t need fancy software – in fact, you can make a decent infographic just using Powerpoint. There are plenty of infographic guides templates out there to get you started. Speaking of…

Useful templates – Templates are another powerful form of visual assets that visitors find extremely helpful. Templates serve as a visual framework that can help users create custom piece without completely starting from scratch.

marketing ideas for small businesses

Graphs and Charts – The infographic’s less cool cousins, one-piece graphs and charts still have their place as formidable pieces of visual content. They may not be as impressive as infographics, but they require considerably less time and effort to create and are still shareable, so don’t be afraid to use them generously. For visual learners, a graph will be much easier to interpret than a chunk of text and numbers. Make sure you appeal to all kinds of learners!

marketing charts

That’s why you find so many dragons at the animal shelter (image from Reddit)

Videos – Video is incredible when it comes to drawing in and retaining the attention of users – retention rate for visual information can reach 65% vs. 10% for text-based info. Plus, customers who view product videos are much more likely to convert than those that don’t. Video content is a powerful tool, whether you’re trying to demonstrate how your product works IRL or educating visitors.

Statistic lists – Are you hitting a content idea wall? For an easy content marketing fix, collect interesting statistics on a subject matter related to your biz and create a blog post about what you’ve learned. Massive stat lists are easy to make and extremely sharable. Plus, some of the wilder stats may get your gears turning about other content ideas, such as…

Future predictions – Play the soothsayer by predicting future trends in your industry – just make sure you have at least some data to back up your hypothesis.

Controversy – Controversial content always earns attention, but it’s not for the faint of heart – playing with fire can get you burned! Rather than stirring up controversy yourself, the safer road may be to answer or respond to larger industry controversy with your own interpretation.

controversial marketing ideas

Rumors travel fast

Aggregate awesomeness from other sources – Another easy way to create killer content is to curate quality content from elsewhere. No, it’s not stealing … at least, not if done properly.

It’s completely kosher to borrow content from other sources if you’re doing something new with it. For example, take our guide to the best SEO Reddit AMAs. The content we quoted from was originally posted on various Reddit forum threads. We took what we deemed the “best” portions of the Q&As from different threads and put it all together to make a super SEO advice guide. This new post is much easier for users interested in SEO to read, rather than scouring through various Reddit threads. NOTE: Play it safe by always giving credit where it’s due.

Ask the experts – Another great content marketing idea is to interview industry thought leaders with set questions and share their responses in a blog post; for example, our interview with industry experts on the future of PageRank. This kind of content tends to do well, and it’s always interesting to see where industry gurus agree and where they don’t. One great thing about sharing expert opinions – chances are, the folks you write about will share your write-up with their own followers! (Pro tip – ask the opinions of groups with large Twitter followers!)

great marketing ideas

A very impressive panel of experts

Top 10s – People go nuts over top 10 lists – top 10 tools, top 10 blogs, you name it.

Lists – Piggy-backing on top 10s are lists in general. Starting your title with a number can make it stand out more in search listings (e.g. 3 Ways to Slice a Pineapple). Why do people love lists? Because they are super scannable and quick to read. This is probably why over a third of Buzzfeed’s posts have a number in the title. Great content strategies involve a mix of quick, snackable content pieces and more in-depth, long-form articles. Variety is the spice of life, yo.

Product comparison guide – Decisions, decisions – oh, the pitfalls of capitalism. It’s tough being a consumer with so many products to choose from. Help out users with a marketing comparison guide, especially if you have a series of product offerings for different needs. If you’re comparing your product with competitors, be objective and fair; maybe you’re a better fit for small businesses, while a competitor is better for larger corporations.

good marketing ideas

Alternatively, write up a comparison guide for a product you don’t offer, but which relates to your audience’s business. For example, a video game reseller could write a product comparison guide for different video game controllers. This is helpful content that gets relevant users familiar with your brand.

Content is an open door – Don’t just create awesome content and abandon it – feature your best stuff in other related blog posts as well. You can link to or call out other pieces of content mid-post, or list some related articles at the end of your post. Something along the lines of “Want to learn more about ________? Check out our _________ guide and our __________ infographic.”

advertising ideas

Content, love = apples, oranges. (Image from Disney’s Frozen)

Slideshare – The slideshow is back and better than ever! Repurpose PowerPoint presentations for audience-friendly slideshares. Check out these tips from Jonathan Colman on getting more views on Slideshare.

Webinars – Host your own free webinar or partner with another business for twice the expertise (and twice the promotion power). Webinar are a great source of business leads.

Google related search – Checking out the Google related searches (found at the top and bottom of the SERP when you perform a search) for a keyword query is a great tool for generating content ideas. Just Google a term and see what related searches turn up. You may be surprised!

find marketing ideas

Pop-up opt-in – There’s a lot of debate around newsletter opt-in pop-ups. They’re annoying, they’re intrusive, but quite often, they also work! A/B test one and see how it affects your newsletter subscriptions. If newsletter subscribers have proved to be valuable leads for your business, do what you must to obtain them.

Continue your lucky streak – Not sure what to write about? Go into your analytics account and take a peek at your most popular posts to see what subjects users get excited about, then write a variation or extension of one of your most popular posts.

eBooks – Another great marketing idea is to write a comprehensive ebook on a known pain point or popular industry topic, then create a quality landing pagearound the offer. Better yet, don’t start from scratch; repurpose past blog posts and articles into a mega e-book collection.

101 guides – There’s always someone just starting out in the biz; beginner’s guides and Industry Knowledge 101 content pieces will always get linked to and shared around by newbs.

Even great content needs promotion  Don’t just publish your content and expect it to promote itself; share it with your email subscribers and social media followers.

Post about industry hot topics – What’s the buzz in your field? Post about topical news and trending topics related to your industry to get in on the burst of action and show that you’re in the know.

Guest Posts  While the SEO value of guest posts has been called into question, there’s nothing wrong with guest posting if done right. Just focus on the value of getting your brand in front of a new audience, rather than the links.

marketing ideas

(Image from Flickr user matsuyuki)

White papers – Guides, e-ooks, white papers – they’re kind of all the same thing, but labeling your assets differently can help your message resonate with different audiences. Test your labels to see which works best with your prospects.

Quality content – This should go without saying, but only produce quality content that you can be proud of! Google hates thin content, and users don’t like it either.

Show some skin – I mean metaphorical skin of course – show that you are not a robot. Don’t be afraid to have some fun and show off your company’s personality. Express yourself; and if that means literally showing some skin, well then, more power to you. You’re human after all.

excellent marketing ideas

Online magazine – Producing your own virtual magazine is another epic form of content marketing. For a great example, check out Dark Rye, a stylish online magazine produced by Whole Foods. For a quick and easy fix, make your own online newspaper with Paper.li.

creative marketing ideas

Podcasts – Podcasts are great because users can download them and then listen on the go! Possible podcast concepts include discussing hot industry news or interviewing experts, in your space.

Cover events – If you attend a conference (or even an online event), consider writing a post about what info you gathered from the event, what you found valuable, etc. Chances are others will find it valuable too! Use the hashtag from the event in your promotional efforts.

Collaboration – Collaboration can extend your reach and build your reputation. Consider all the different partnerships you could build – partner with a charity? A related business? You can co-author a blog post or guide, co-host a webinar, etc.

Memes – Memes are fun and familiar for internet-goers. Get a little cheeky with some fun memes – it’s easy to make your own with sites like meme generator.

super marketing ideas

#SummertimeSadness

Social proof – Sometimes great content marketing ideas also serve as fantastic forms of social proof. Take this inventive content project by a haunted house called Nightmares Fear Factory. They take photos of victims…er, I mean guests, and post them to their Flickr feed. The photos are absolutely hysterical and prove that Nightmares Fear Factory is as scary as they claim to be!

unusual marketing ideas

Divvy up your content – Don’t go content-overboard or you’ll end up overwhelming users. We live in a competitive attention economy, and if you’re creating new stuff every single day, people may tire of you, even if everything you share is excellent. Them’s the breaks, kid. Figure out what pace works for your audience.

Conduct a content audit – Is your existing content up to snuff? What is driving conversions? What isn’t – and why? Asking these questions might make you sweat, but you’ll be better off knowing the truth. Finding the answers to these questions will ensure that your marketing strategy moves forward in the right direction.

Branded tools – Create awesome, valuable tools that your audience will find useful. You can use parts of the tool to push towards your product offering, but make sure the tool itself is high-caliber – don’t just make it a glorified sales pitch. Providing free tools will make users think fondly of you and extend your brand as more people share your awesome free tool!

Mobile! – With 79% of internet users conducting online shopping via  mobile devices, you should be embarrassed if you’re not mobile-friendly. This is not optional, although many still treat it like it is.

Gameification – Gamification is a great marketing idea to get users excited about engaging with you. As on Whose Line is it Anyway, the points are meaningless, but you’d be surprised how much people really enjoy getting points. We all love instant affirmation – it’s like virtual crack!

Apps like Belly and Foursquare combine gamification with customer loyalty programs. Starbucks also has its own tame version of gamified loyalty programs in which you earn stars for Starbucks purchases. Consider if gamification could work for your biz.

loyalty programs

Get by with some content help from your friends – There are a ton of great tools out there to help you find quality content (Storify & Buffer to name a few). Remember, you don’t want to just share your own content – sharing great pieces by others in your industry shows that you’re a team player and valuable source of unbiased knowledge.

Comics – While newspaper funnies are a dying breed, online comics are alive and thriving! Consider making your own internet comics that relate to the absurd and surreal aspects of your industry. Try free tools like Pixton or Strip Generator to get started.

unique marketing ideas

Copy the masters – Watch to see who is creating great content, and follow their lead. Take a close look at clickbait sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed that get a ton of shares; while their audience and content subjects will be different from yours, they serve as an excellent study in how to improve your marketing strategy. What are they doing right? Can you implement something similar?

Take your time with titles – While we’re on the subject, Upworthy is famous for their killer, clickable headlines. Even a superb blog post won’t get the attention it deserves without a good title. Should it be clever? Eye-catching? SEO-friendly? Think about what will appeal to your audience. It’s recommended you write as many as 5-10 titles for every article, then choose the best!

4-1-1 – The 4-1-1 concept comes from Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping. Davis’ social media sharing strategy dictates that for every six pieces of content shared on social media:

  • 4 should be content from other industry influencers that is relevant to your audience
  • 1 should be your own original, educational content
  • 1 should have a sales aspect (coupon, product news, press release), aka, a piece of content most people will simply ignore.

The philosophy behind the 4-1-1 concept is that when you share industry thought leadership, you’re building relationships within the industry and demonstrating a certain level of selflessness which earns serious reputation points that come in handy in the long haul.

Creative Marketing Ideas [Summary]

Ready to grow your business? Try out these 64 creative marketing ideas:

  1. Promote your social media handles, even in person
  2. Join in on popular hashtags
  3. Create short, engaging Vine videos
  4. Pin your site images and graphics on Pinterest
  5. Keep tabs on competitors’ social profiles
  6. Try urban marketing like flyers, posters, and sidewalk chalk
  7. Commission a mural
  8. Use your surroundings to your advantage
  9. Consider unusual sponsorships
  10. Host a photo contest
  11. Host a video contest
  12. Host a voting contest
  13. Host a caption contest
  14. Host a good old-fashioned sweepstakes
  15. Post to deal sites like Groupon
  16. Add a hashtag to your contests
  17. Make contests super sharable on social media
  18. Offer bonus points for sharing contests
  19. Notify email subscribers of contests
  20. Promote your contest on (all) social media
  21. Write content catered to your audience
  22. Add a visual element to ALL your content pieces
  23. Create data-packed infographics
  24. Use templates to make content creation easier
  25. Include graphs and charts in your content
  26. Use videos for interactivity
  27. Leverage the power of lists
  28. Make bold future predictions
  29. Inject controversy into your copy
  30. Aggregate awesome content from other sources
  31. Create an “ask the experts” roundup
  32. Write relevant top 10 lists
  33. And other lists, too!
  34. Write a product comparison guide
  35. Link to your existing content with CTAs
  36. Post presentations on Slideshare
  37. Host free webinars
  38. Get ideas from Google related search
  39. Use pop-up opt-ins on landing pages
  40. Use analytics to take advantage of popular content
  41. Write eBooks
  42. Create 101 guides to teach the basics
  43. Promote your content
  44. Post about industry hot topics
  45. Write (and allow) guest posts
  46. Create white papers
  47. Only generate quality content
  48. Give your company some personality and don’t be afraid to use it
  49. Contribute to online magazines
  50. Host a podcast
  51. Cover local and news related events
  52. Collaborate with peers
  53. Create viral memes
  54. Use social proof in your content
  55. Divvy up your content
  56. Conduct a content audit
  57. Create branded tools
  58. Make and promote mobile-specific content
  59. Use gamification to promote interaction
  60. Find and share content by others
  61. Create hilarious web comics
  62. Copy the masters
  63. Take your time with content titles
  64. Stick to Andrew Davis’ 4-1-1 content strategy

Here are 20+ marketing ideas for small businesses working on a small budget.

1. Publish Great Content. I don’t think I even need to say this, but it’d be neglectful not to mention the importance of kick-ass content. If you can create it yourself, all the better (isn’t free always better?). Even if writing isn’t your strong point, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting someone on your team to crank out some articles for your blog. Try top 10 lists, tip collections, best practices for your industry, etc.

2. Create Instructional Videos. Video content is really valuable, and while it can cost big bucks to get professional YouTube videos produced, there’s nothing wrong with giving it a shot yourself or hiring a film student off Craigslist. Wistia offers a great video tutorial showing you how to shoot expert-looking footage on your regular old iPhone!

If video sounds like too much of a challenge, try making slide decks and sharing them on SlideShare.

3. Get Ad Promo Credits. While massive ad campaigns may be out of your budget, there are often discounts and coupons floating around for paid Facebook ads or Google ads. Some web hosting services offer advertising discount codes as part of their membership offerings. Check and see if yours does.

4. Reddit. Reddit, a bare-bones social network self-titled as the “front page of the internet,” can be a powerful tool when used strategically. Reddit is composed of a very tech-savvy audience that bristles at any obvious marketing tactics.

marketing with a tight budget

To win at Reddit, share only truly awesome content, and post only to extreme niches. In Reddit, there are subcategories (known as subreddits) that deal with some of the narrowest, most specific interests in existence. There’s a subreddit for lockpicking (/r/lockpicking ), a subreddit for unicycles (/r/unicycling), and there’s even a subreddit for admiring beautiful handwriting (r/PenmanshipPorn). (And of course there’s one for SEO.) Find your niche and dominate.

5. Be a Savvy Social Networker. Create business accounts and participate in the big social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest. Add Instagram in there too if your business is image-oriented. If you need help with your Social Media Management, you can submit a request here.

6. Stumble Upon Advertising. If you want to try some paid advertising but you’re not looking to break the bank, Stumle Upon’s Paid Search Discovery could be for you. Paid Discovery delivers users straight to your site, ready to engage. What works best on Stumble Upon? Photography, visual assets, and humorous content.

stumble upon advertising

Stumble Upon is pretty cheap compared to other paid ad structures. You start with a base price of 10 cents per click, then add +2 cents for age targeting, gender targeting and device targeting. You can see the whole price list for detailed info.  Whichever way you spin it, Stumble Upon’s paid offering is leagues cheaper than most other social media ads; Facebook ads, for example, can cost as much as 80 cents per click.

To really benefit from Stumble Upon, use targeting options to make sure you’re hitting the right audiences and niches.

7. DIY Infographics. Infographics are insanely powerful marketing tools. They’re visual eye candy, they’re easy to digest, and people love to share them, so they’re a great way to drive up referral traffic and links. Hiring a designer to make you an A+ infographic can hit your wallet hard, but you can make your own on the cheap if you don’t mind a bit of a challenge, or for a small fee, we can help you with your Infographics needs.

infographics marketing tactic

If you have some understanding of Adobe Illustrator, try out these free vector kitsthat provide all the elements needed to make a stunning infographic. Not sure where to start? Check out Visual.ly for inspiration. They have beginner and advanced examples for you to browse through.

8. Give New Life to Old Data. If your marketing budget it tight, you might not be able to always afford content writers to whip up content for your blog. If you’re in a dry spell, instead of making something new, breathe new life into something that already exists on the web. There are a ton of data studies and stats available on the internet. While some of these studies may get initial traction, many often go unnoticed.

Find a study that relates to your industry and polish it up. Highlight the most important or interesting parts of the study, add images, crank out some charts, and make your own thoughts and predictions based on the data.

You don’t need to be a master writer for this strategy – the data will do most of the heavy lifting for you. One man’s throwaway data is another man’s content success story! Just be sure to cite your sources and give credit where it’s due.

For government data, check out data.gov or The Census Bureau. Global statistics can be found through UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Ultimately, you’ll have to find source data that relates to your industry and audience interests.

9. Lounge About on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a major social media site that is often under-utilized. Don’t just add network connections and sign out – join groups, enter into dialogue with connections, and share your blog posts. There’s a ton happening on LinkedIn, and it can be a great place to promote your content, share ideas, and build your brand.

marketing tactics for small budgets

10. Recycle Your Content. Just as you can repurpose existing data studies, you can rehash your old content into new creations as well! Turn a webinar into a video tutorial. Transform a collection of blog posts into an ebook. Never be afraid to mash-up your old content – chances are there will be a ton of people who never even saw your old stuff, so it’ll be a fresh, 100% new content piece for a large segment of your audience.

11. Develop a Customer Referral Program. Offer existing customers a free product, free month of service, or some other reward for referring new customers. Remember, word-of-mouth is powerful stuff, so friends telling friends about your business is incredibly valuable.

12. Online Contests. You’ll need to cough up some dough for a prize, but the number of participants and new potential leads you get will be well worth the price. Really tight on budget? You don’t technically need a super expensive prize to get participants. Even a couple high-end water bottles or fancy backpacks might be enough of a draw for some users.

Not sure how to host a contest? Go with Rafflecopter – they make it super easy to set up a contest and embed the contest entry form on your website.

marketing for limited budgets

13. Industry Partnerships. Team up with a business related to your industry (but not a direct competitor) for a joint project. This can be done locally offline through some kind of special event, or online with a webinar or promotional giveaway.

Partnering with another business means twice as much notice. If you’re partnering with an industry-relevant business, you’re getting introduced to a whole new audience related to your niche. People pay big money for that kind of access!

14. Apply Online for Business Awards. Most industries have business awards you can win, providing you with an online badge you can place on your website. Badges like these can boost credibility, and as a result, increase sales.

marketing on a budget

If there aren’t any awards for your industry, host your own! You’ll get a ton of attention from other industry businesses who want to apply for your award, which means even more connections and more possible future collaborations!

Local Marketing Ideas for Limited Budgets

Local marketing can often be less expensive than massive online campaigns. Your reach is smaller, but if your business is regional, there’s no better (or cheaper) way to build your business.

15. Awesome Business Cards. Get yourself some snazzy business cards, then give them to every person you lay eyes on.  Every handshake should come with a business card. The more people who find out about your business, the better – even if it’s just a quick glance at a business card.

budget marketing ideas

(from flickr user jnyemb)

16. Guerilla Marketing. Guerilla marketing emphasizes creativity over budget, and strategies are often cheap and easy to implement, especially when localized. Broadcast your Twitter handle with sidewalk chalk, use an abandoned storefront as a canvas for street art, or plaster custom stickers on urban décor that makes those who stroll by look twice. There’s a ton of room for invention here, and you don’t need a big budget to be successful.

17. Host an Event or Class. Plan an event or class to host, then print out flyers and post them on community bulletin boards (libraries, coffee shops, local colleges and adult ed centers). While most community bulletin boards won’t let you post business advertisements, they’re often more than happy to post a flyer promoting an educational event or class.

18. Business Card Drawing. Put a fishbowl at your place of business with a sign asking visitors to drop their business cards in for a chance to win something from you (for example, a restaurant might offer a free pizza party).

marketing tactics for small businesses

At the end of the month you’ve collected a ton of business cards, and while you can only have one winner, there’s no reason those other business cards have to go to waste. Use the email addresses provided to let users know that while they haven’t won this time, they are more than welcome to join your mailing list, which will notify them of future giveaways and special offers.

19. Email Marketing. Email marketing is a great way to get new visitors engaged with your business, as well as maintain relationships with your existing customers.

budget marketing tactics

Get new website visitors to sign up for your newsletter by offering a bonus content piece for subscribing (e.g. get your free ebook detailing how to make a homemade pizza when you sign up for our First Slice newsletter). Slowly nurture your subscribers via email until they are ready to become paying customers. Start your email campaigns with a free email marketing service like MailChimp.

20. Car Magnets for the Company Car. Slap a magnetic sign on your company car to build brand awareness as you drive around town (just be sure to obey traffic laws). Bumper stickers and window decals work as well!

21. Give Away Balloons at Local Events. Get a few hundred custom balloons printed with your business name, rent a helium tank, and watch the smiles roll in.

marketing strategies for small businesses

(balloons = happiness)

Kids love balloons. Adults love them too, but are embarrassed to admit it. Stop the shame – balloons and bubbles will always be awesome, it’s OK to say so. You’ll have a bunch of happy people marching around with your brand floating above their heads, all for less than $200.

22. Join in on Local Contests. Consider donating a product or service of yours as a prize in a local contest or event.

Low-Budget Small Business Marketing Ideas [Summary]

Here are all 22 ideas to market your small business:

  1. Publish great content
  2. Create helpful instructional videos
  3. Get ad promo credits
  4. Use Reddit for marketing
  5. Be a savvy social networker
  6. Try StumbleUpon advertising
  7. Make DIY infographics
  8. Refresh old data
  9. Lounge about on LinkedIn
  10. Recycle your content
  11. Develop a customer referral program
  12. Hold online contests
  13. Develop industry partnerships
  14. Apply online for business awards
  15. Create eye-catching business cards
  16. Leverage guerilla marketing
  17. Host an event or class
  18. Host a business card drawing
  19. Engage in email marketing
  20. Use car magnets for company vehicles
  21. Give away balloons at local events
  22. Join in on local contests

 

1. The Layer Tool

What It Does: A layer can be used for an image, text, brush strokes, background colors, patterns, and filters.

I like to think of layers as sheets of glass stacked on top of one another that you’ll use to create a final product. Each sheet can be modified individually without affecting the project as a whole, which can save you tons of time when making edits to individual elements of your graphic.

photoshop-layers.png

Image Credit: StackExchange

Layers are by far the most important element of Photoshop — and, in my opinion, they’re one of the reasons many people throw their arms up in frustration. But once you understand how they work, I promise they’ll make your life much easier.

Where It’s Located: It has its own module on the bottom right-hand corner of your Photoshop screen, by default. You can also access it by clicking “Layer” in the top menu bar.

photoshop-layers-1.png

Pro Tip: Always name your layers. Keeping them organized will help keep you sane, especially if you find yourself working on a project with a large number of layers.

To add or delete a layer:

From the top menu bar, choose Layer > New > Layer…

To select a layer:

The selected layer is highlighted in blue. To edit a specific part of your image, you’ll need to select that specific layer.

You’ll also notice there’s an “eye” symbol next to each layer: Click that symbol to turn the eye on and off, thereby toggling the visibility of that layer as you work.

To duplicate a layer:

First, select a layer or group in the Layers panel. Next, either drag the layer or group to the Create a New Layer button, or right-click the layer to choose “Duplicate Layer” or “Duplicate Group.” Enter a name for the layer or group, and click OK.

Pro Tip: You can do all sorts of cool things with layers — and believe it or not, making animated GIFs is one of them. 

 

2. The Color & Swatches Tool

What It Does: The Color and Swatches tool lets you use, modify, copy, and save custom colors for your content. While this may seem like a pretty self-explanatory element, it actually has powerful features that will keep your visual content vibrant and unify your color schemes.

Where It’s Located: It has its own module on the top right-hand corner of your Photoshop screen, by default.

photoshop-color-tool.png

Another place to find the Color tool is at the bottom of the toolbar on the left, indicated by two overlapping boxes:

photoshop-color-boxes.png

To create your own custom color:

Open the Color Picker by double-clicking on the top box either in the Color module, or in that menu on the left.

From there, you’ll see a vertical spectrum of color with a slider on it, which you can adjust to create your own custom color. Alternatively, if you already have a specific color of which you know the hex value (i.e. #1fb1ee), then enter it in the appropriate box to find that color automatically. You can also select your color swatch based on RGB or CMYK values.

photoshop-color-picker.png

Any colors you create can be added to your “Swatches” if you click “Add To Swatches.”

Pro Tip: Take your company colors and save them as “Swatches” so that you can reference and reuse them whenever you’re designing your visual content.

 

3. Custom Fonts & The Text Tool

What It Does: The Text tool lets you add custom fonts to your database, and it gives you access to advanced font settings that give your text some serious style.

Where It’s Located: The toolbar on your left, near the bottom.

photoshop-text-tool.png

Once you click the Text tool icon, all of the settings and font options will pop up at the top of your screen. These settings let you change the font, font size, and spacing between characters, height, width, color, and style. Be sure to select the layer of your desired text to edit it.

photoshop-text-tool-options.png

To add text to your graphic:

The text tool works like any other text tool you’ve used. Click the “T” icon on the left side bar, drag the text box over any particular area you want text to appear, and you’re set to go.

Whenever you create a text box, Photoshop will generate a layer for it.You can choose the color, size, stroke, font style, and a variety of other options to switch things up.

photoshop-editing-text.png

Pro Tip: While Photoshop offers a wide variety of fonts, you can also install your own fonts.

 

4. Custom Brushes & The Brush Tool

What It Does: Just as with fonts, you can add your own, royalty-free, custom brush tips. With the brush settings, you can change the size, shape, and transparency of your brush strokes to achieve a number of different visual effects.

Brushes are a great way to add some visual accents to your content. Photoshop starts you off with a nice selection of brush tips that you can use to clean up your graphics and create some basic visual effects.

Where It’s Located: The toolbar on the left.

photoshop-brush-tool.png

Once you click the Brush tool icon, all of the settings and brush options will pop up at the top of your screen. These settings let you change the brush size, opacity, flow, and so on. You’ll find a variety of pre-installed brush tips, as well as any custom brush tips you install to Photoshop. (You can find royalty-free brushes at www.brusheezy.com if you want to get really creative.)

photoshop-brush-settings.png

To use the brush tool:

The brush tool is perfect for adding design accents to your content content. When using the brush tool, I always suggest adding a new layer to work with so you don’t paint over any of your other elements. You can choose colors from your library of swatches, or use a custom color.

Changing the brush settings can give your brush a drastically different look and style. Don’t be afraid to play around a bit with all of your custom brushes.

 

5. The Select Tool

What It Is: When used correctly, this tool will let you select individual elements, entire graphics, and determines what is copied, cut, and pasted into your graphics.

Where It’s Located: The toolbar on the left.

select-tool.png

The Select tool is known as one of the most basic, yet frustrating tools to use in Photoshop. The first thing you should know is that it’ll only work if a layer is highlighted. So, if I want to cut or copy a piece of Layer 4, Layer 4 must be highlighted in my Layer’s tool bar. Highlighted areas are indicated by a flashing dotted line.

photoshop-select-dotted-line.png

Once you remember to pay attention to which layer you are working with, the Select tool becomes much easier to use.

First, highlight your area of choice. Then, simply right-click and decide what you’d like to do from the pull-out menu. For example, you can cut out objects from a current layer and create a layer of your own.

photoshop-select-menu.png

How to select an image to insert into your graphic:

Open the image you’d like to use in Photoshop, and use the Select Tool to determine how much of the image you want to copy. Once you’ve selected the area of the image, simply copy the area.

Next, open the tab for your current project and paste it in as a new layer. Highlight the layer of the object(s) you’d like to select. You can move multiple objects at once by highlighting multiple layers.

Then, right-click your selection, and then you have a few options, including:

A) Choosing “Layer via Copy” to copy the object(s) from this layer and create a layer of its own.

Pro Tip: To select your entire graphic and include all layers, highlight all layers and then use the Select tool. Once you’ve determined the area to copy, use the menu bar at the top and click “Edit” > “Copy Merged.” This will copy the entire graphic so you can paste it as its own layer.

B) Choosing “Free Transform” to scale, rotate, move, and flip your selections. (Refer to the Move tool in the next section of this post if you need more help on this.)

Pro Tip: One really nifty trick you can do with “Free Transform” is to overlay screenshots of a PDF to make a 3D-looking imag.

customize-photoshop-image.png

 

6. The Move Tool

What It Does: This is a fairly basic tool that allows you to move individual elements of your graphic.

The Move tool works on individual layers, and on the graphic as a whole — if (remember how to do this?) you highlight all of your layers. It comes in handy when you’re trying to reposition images, text, and other design elements.

Where It’s Located: The toolbar on the left, at the top.

photoshop-move-tool.png

To use the Move tool:

Click the Move Icon from the left hand menu bar and simply drag the object(s) you would like to move. To move all objects in one layer, simply highlight the layer and use the Move tool. You can also right click the object for additional options.

To scale, rotate, move, and flip things:

The Free Transform tool lets you scale, rotate, move, and flip any element in your select layer or layers. Use the shortcut CTRL + T or Command + T(for Macs) to initiate Free Transform, and check out the options that pop up at the top of your screen. Hold the SHIFT key while transforming to maintain the proportions of your elements.

photoshop-free-transform.png

 

7. The Zoom Tool

What It Does: The Zoom tool lets you zoom in close to certain areas of an image, and zoom out to get more of a bird’s eye view of what’s happening.

Where It’s Located: In the top menu bar, choose View > Zoom In or ViewZoom Out.

photoshop-zoom-tool.png

To use the Zoom tool:

Either select the zoom options from the “View” menu (as shown above). To use the keyboard shortcut, hold ALT (PC) or Command (Mac) and press + to zoom in, and ALT (PC) or Command (Mac) and press – to zoom out.

 

8. The Eraser

What It Does: The Basic Eraser functions a lot like the brush tool. You can change the size and hardness of the eraser tip to achieve a variety of effects, like blending and fades. The Background Eraser uses differences in color to help you erase unwanted background areas from your images.

The eraser is one of the most useful tools in Photoshop. Yes, I understand it’s technically just an eraser, but you’ve never used an eraser like this.

Where It’s Located: The toolbar on the left.

photoshop-eraser.png

To use the Basic Eraser:

Once you click the Eraser icon, all of the settings will pop up at the top of your screen. These settings let you change the eraser size, hardness, and other aspects of the tool.

Like most tools in Photoshop, the eraser works only on a specifically selected layer. Make sure you’ve got the layer you want selected before you start erasing.

photoshop-eraser-options.png

To use the Background Eraser:

This tool is a time-saving wonder. You can see how easily it eliminates background colors from images. This is especially helpful if you need an object with a transparent background.

To use the Background Eraser, click and hold the eraser icon until the slide out menu appears. Choose “Background Eraser.”

photoshop-background-eraser.png

Now you’re ready to do some serious erasing. Adjust the size of the Background Eraser, and simply click the color you would like deleted from the selected layer. Remember to select the layer you want to erase on.

photoshop-background-eraser-example.png

Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to use an oversized eraser tip for the Background Eraser. Since it works by removing particular colors from the image, it won’t erase colors that aren’t selected.

 

9. The Crop Tool

What It Does: The Crop tool lets you crop an image. It works like any crop tool you’ve ever encountered: Simply choose your area and crop it out.

I know this is a basic tool, but you’ll find yourself using this just as often as any other tool in Photoshop, especially when you’ve completed your graphic and need to clean up some of the free space around the edges.

Where It’s Located: The toolbar on the left.

photoshop-crop-tool.png

To use the Crop tool:

Select the icon indicated in the screenshot from the side menu bar, and drag the box over the area you would like to crop. To adjust the crop box, simply click and drag the small anchor boxes on the sides and corners of the crop box.

photoshop-crop-tool-example.png

Pro Tip: You can make your canvas size larger than it needs to be so that you can give yourself more room to move your design elements, and crop it down to the proper size afterwards.

 

10. The Fill Tool

What It Does: The Fill tool, formerly the Paint Bucket tool, fills any solid area with the color of your choice. It’s great for solid backgrounds or coloring large areas. It can also be used to apply patterns to your images. The Gradient tool within the Fill tool lets you create a nice, faded background effect of the color of your choice.

Where It’s Located: On the top menu bar, choose Layer > New Fill Layer.From there, you have the option to choose “Solid Color,” “Gradient,” or “Pattern.”

photoshop-fill-tool.png

To fill a solid area with a color:

First, select the layer you’d like to fill with a solid color. Then, from the top menu bar, choose Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color… From there, a “New Layer” window will pop up and prompt you to name the new color fill layer. Don’t worry about choosing the color you want right then and there — simply name the layer and press “OK.”

 

photoshop-solid-color-fill.png

Next, the Color Picker window will pop up. Here, you can choose which solid color you’d like to fill. Since I’d selected my background layer to fill in (i.e. the color of the sky in my graphic), the color I select in the Color Picker dictates the color of the sky:

photoshop-color-picker-fill.png

To apply patterns to your images:

These patterns can be manually created if you have the time and patience, or you can find a variety of royalty-free patterns available for download through a basic Google search.

To apply a pattern, first select the layer you’d like to fill with a pattern. Then, from the top menu bar, choose Layer > New Fill Layer > Pattern... From there, a “New Layer” window will pop up and prompt you to name the new color fill layer. Don’t worry about choosing the color you want right then and there — simply name the layer and press “OK.”

Next, you’ll see the “Pattern Fill” window pop up. From there, you can choose the pattern and its scale. Since I’d selected my background layer to fill in (i.e. the color of the sky in my graphic), the pattern I select in the Pattern Fill changes the sky:

photoshop-patterns.png

To use the Gradient tool:

To apply a gradient, first select the layer you’d like to fill with a pattern. Then, from the top menu bar, choose Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient... From there, a “New Layer” window will pop up and prompt you to name the new color fill layer. Don’t worry about choosing the color you want right then and there — simply name the layer and press “OK.”

Next, a “Gradient Fill” window will pop up. Play around with these options, including the style, angle, and scale. To choose a different gradient than the one offered by default, click the arrow on the right-hand side of the default gradient to open the Gradient Editor, shown below:

photoshop-gradients.png

11. The Eyedropper

What It Does: This handy little tool lets you extract and use any color from any image in Photoshop.

Where It’s Located: The toolbar on the left.

photoshop-eyedropper.png

To use the Eyedropper tool:

Select the icon from the sidebar. Next, locate that color you would like to extract, and simply click that area to clone the color.

Once you’ve extracted the color, you’ll see it indicated both in the Color module at the top right of your screen, as well as the bottom of the left sidebar. You can double-click that color box to bring up the advanced color picker, where you can then adjust and save the color to a swatch for future use.

photoshop-color-picker-eyedrop.png

12. Blending Options

What It Does: Blending options include quite a number of features to enhance the look or your graphic. For example, you can use the “Outer Glow” effect to make letters appear like they’re glowing. Or you can use the “Drop Shadow” effect to add a shadow to your letters. Take some time to play around with all the layer effects and find out which ones tickle your fancy.

Where It’s Located: From the top menu bar, choose Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options… You can also double-click any layer to bring up the options for that particular layer.

photoshop-blending-options.png

To use Blending Options:

First, select the layer you want to apply your blending options and effects to. Then, open up your blending options and choose the one you’d like to apply. With the variety of options available, you can achieve a number of great effects to finalize your graphics. Have fun with these and experiment on different layers, images, and texts. Here’s a look at what’s offered:

blending-options-menu.png

For example, in the image below, I selected my text layer and chose “Bevel & Emboss.” Looks pretty cool, eh?

photoshop-bevel-example.png

Before we send you on your way, it’s worth noting that if you’re working with a limited budget and a tight schedule, you can save yourself tons of time and money by using free, royalty-free stock photos.

Also, Photoshop offers a number of really helpful keyboard shortcuts for things like zooming in and out, changing canvas size, creating a new layer, and so on.

Now, it wouldn’t be realistic to guarantee that you’d be a Photoshop wiz at this point — but that isn’t what this guide designed to do. We hope we’ve provided you with the understanding you’ll need to use the powerful tools in Photoshop in a timely, efficient, non-hair-pulling manner, so that you can elevate your visual content game, like, today.