They give you a few free square inches, here’s how to make the most of them!

Leveraging a consistent 1-percent edge to outpace the competition means taking advantage of every opportunity you have to further your small business.

And in your social media accounts, this requires you to use every tool at hand and one of those tools is your cover photo or cover art.

I’ve grabbed some Twitter cover art that illustrate how this space can be used to your advantage as well as a couple of things to avoid. Let’s take a tour together.

As I explored Twitter accounts, I was mildly surprised to see that IBM’s Watson Analytics is among the accounts to make the best use of cover art. (By the way, although all the examples I’m going to use come from Twitter, the same principles apply across your social media accounts.)

The IBM Watson Analytics cover art communicates an offer, web address, and IBM branding.

Wow: A three-fer!

Netflix uses its cover art to promote a recent release in its lineup of original television programming. And, if you were to watch this account over time, you would see that it changes its art very often and that brings us to one of the biggest lost opportunities that we suffer on social media: failing to keep our cover art fresh! Schedule in some mandatory updates throughout the year and stick to your schedule.

We see a similar timeliness with Wendy’s cover art. When I took the screenshot, we were just going into March Madness season and Wendy’s was using the basketball tournament to promote itself.

After having a lot of nice things to say about these brands so far, let’s look at Snapchat’s Twitter cover art. I understand that there is a certain degree of competition between Snapchat and Twitter, but nonetheless, Snapchat has a lot of Twitter followers. In any case, I think it could be just a bit more creative with its cover image. If it thinks its minimalist approach is good, it’s not working with me.

Personal branding expert Leonard Kim makes a common error with his cover art. The profile picture covers up an important element of the cover art, in this case, a person’s face. It’s not Kim’s, but it still doesn’t feel right. Sometimes important type will get covered up by the profile picture. Avoid these mistakes.

Cynthia Johnson, on the other hand, has every element in her cover art strategically placed so her profile picture does not overlap any important element. Also, note how Johnson is looking into the page. That helps lead the end into the content.

I like what Canva does with its cover art. This is a site where you design your own graphics, so “creativity” is part of its brand. It’s cover art looks great and often has messages that inspire users. And, note that you don’t have to fill up every bit of the space with either imagery or type.

For a legacy brand, Coca-Cola does an excellent job with its Twitter cover photo. It promotes the drink and the joy/fun that the company wants you to associate with its products. Contrast this to IBM’s Watson Analytics, where the point was to give people concrete information about the product. If you’re smart and creative, you can communicate important intangibles via your social media cover images.

Now it’s time to consider the image you’re projecting through the graphics you have selected to represent you or your business on your social media pages:

  • Are your graphics fresh?
  • Do they communicate the message you want visitors to come away with?
  • Have you made any design mistakes?

Even thought these are not much more than a handful of square inches, they are free and they speak to your visitors in either positive or negative tones.