flowersSocial media is a crowded place. You need every competitive advantage possible to stand out.

Luckily, giving your social media posts a little something extra doesn’t have to mean to a lot of extra work for you.

In this post, we’ll go over some simple tricks and best practices of social media formatting to help you create unique, stand-out posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest, along with some tools to help you create memorable blog tidbits worth sharing.

Let’s get started!

Stand out on Twitter

Offering just 140 characters and a very short shelf life, Twitter may be the most challenging medium to stand out on.

Here are a few ways to make the most of your tweets.

Symbols and emoticons

Adding symbols like ♥✩♬♡►♪☺♫ to your tweets isn’t just fun – it can also make your tweets shorter and easier to read. The Wall Street Journal even uses Twitter symbols to add bar charts to its tweets.

To get started using the more than 109,000 symbols available, head over to our Ultimate Guide to Adding Cool Symbols to Your Tweets.

Keep it short

Tweets get more traction when there’s a little room to spare – shoot for 120-130 characters.

Add value with photos

Buffer’s research on Twitter posts with photos versus without indicates that photo posts vastly outperform non-photo posts in terms of both clicks and shares. Tweets with images received 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets.

And according to HubSpot research, photo posts bring in 55% more leads, as well.

Twitter photos leads

Stand out on Facebook

With Facebook’s recent algorithm changes meaning less exposure for brands, most of us can use all the help we can get making posts stand out here. Here are some tactics to try.

Creative emoticons

They’re not always so professional, but they sure are fun. Emoticons can spice up a status update – here’s a list from Jess3 of some popular ones and how to make them.

Facebook emoticons

Contrary to the footnote at the bottom of the graphic, these images actually do work in status updates – even for brand pages.

Shorter is better

BlitzLocal looked at close to 120 billion Facebook impressions and discovered some interesting facts about lengths of posts. The researchers concluded:

“Longer posts tend to perform poorly. The ideal interaction being driven by posts is between 100 to 119 characters. Questions tend to drive interaction up by 10 to 20 percent.”


Pin posts

For crucial info, current offers or simply a post you really want to be seen, try pinning. A pinned post is an update that you manually select to stay at the top of your Timeline even as you add other posts to your page.

Facebook pin posts

Highlight posts

A similar option is highlighting. A highlighted post expands across your page, taking up both columns. Highlight a horizontal photo to draw attention to it on your page.

Facebook highlight

Edit headline and summary text

One of the greatest things about posting to Facebook is how many of the fields are totally customizable. Use this flexibility to highlight the most shareable elements of your content.

Facebook formatting

Pro tip: You can do all of this if you’re Buffering a post to Facebook, too (and gets lots more photo thumbnail choices)!

Size photos correctly

Because Facebook will automatically resize images that don’t match its specifications, size and aspect ratio of photos are super important.

The aspect ratio is very specific: image widths need to be 1.91 times the height. This will mean the image scales perfectly in both the desktop News Feed and on mobile.

Images are now larger when shown in the News Feed, so keeping the aspect ratio right will make sure your images look great wherever the user sees them.

Recommended image sizes have also changed for Facebook’s desktop News Feed and mobile views. For the News Feed, Facebook recommends thumbnail images of 400×209 pixels. Images that are smaller than these dimensions will be resized to either 154×154 or 90×90 pixels.

On mobile, Facebook’s recommended image size is 560×292. Images smaller than this will be resized to 100×100 pixels.

This handy graphic from Jon Loomer shows the right sizes:

facebook changes - images

Stand out on Google+

Google+ offers some very specific elements different from other social networks that can help you stand out. Here’s a guide to them.

Prioritize rich visuals

A quick glance over at Google+ will show you that it’s an incredibly visual social network.

Make the most of this by posting useful, interesting or engaging images at full size (not the thumbnail that comes with a link) like so:

Google+ images

The network also takes some posts and gives them priority placement in a user’s feed.

Google+ priority photo

How can you make that your post? According to Google, “a variety of factors determine what becomes an enhanced post in your stream but we try to surface content and people that we think you wouldn’t want to miss.”

But you can up your chances by posing lots of high-resolution photos and video.

Pro tip: Install Buffer’s browser extension and right click on an image to add it full-size to your Google+ queue:


Useful, eye-catching GIFs

It’s hard NOT to have animated GIFs catch your eye, and Google+ is one of the few social networks that celebrates them.

Google even uses animated GIFs as tutorials when they introduce new features and highlights great ones, like this one from New York Fashion Week.

How can you create useful, instructive or fun GIFs for your audience? Learn how to make your own with this Mashable tutorial.

Slightly longer posts

Research by Quintly shows that the average Google+ post peaks at 156 characters, or 2-3 sentences. This is in line with the general philosophy of Google+ as a place for more in-depth, thoughtful discussions. (Google+ allows you to share up to 100,000 characters.) Take advantage of the extra space to explain a concept, pull out a stat or otherwise provide a valuable tidbit to pull the reader in.

Format for better readability

Google+ also offers more formatting options than the other social networks, including the ability to bold, italicize and strikethrough. Use these options to create headlines and more for your posts so they’re easier for readers (and Google!) to discover. Here’s a quick guide from Social Media Examiner: Google+ formatting

Lower Thirds in Hangouts

If you participate in Google+ Hangouts, make sure you get as much out of them as possible by using the branding possibilities of Lower Thirds. This allows you to add your name, title and other information so it can be seen by everyone on the Hangout. Here’s a guide to putting it to use from Alisa Meredith, pictured above.

Stand out on LinkedIn

LinkedIn provides multiple posting opportunities, including from a personal page and from a company page (P.S. You can do BOTH from Buffer!). We’ll touch on both with a few stand-out tips.

Post often

This first step might seem a bit obvious, but many people still think of LinkedIn as a place to keep up your professional resume when in fact frequent sharing can make a big difference. According to LinkedIn research, users who share articles or content with their LinkedIn network at least once a week are nearly 10 times more likely to be contacted by a recruiter for new opportunities than people who don’t share with their network.

Share links and photos

Here’s what types of content stand out most when it comes to LinkedIn posts. LinkedIn standout tips As with Facebook, aspect ratio is important when posting a photo to LinkedIn. Photos within a post will be resized to 180 x 110, so start with that width to height aspect in order to make sure your image looks its best. And much like Facebook, most fields of a post are customizable, so make them network-specific and catchy! LinkedIn mods Pro tip: You can change any of the fields in Buffer for LinkedIn, too! Company posts also have an additional option to upload a custom photo different that one of the options LinkedIn automatically pulls in. LinkedIn add photo LinkedIn works well with most photos, but be careful when posting long visuals like infographics. Often it can be better for readability to take a screenshot of a portion for your update instead of posting the whole thing. LinkedIn no LinkedIn yes

Max out company page visual real estate

For a LinkedIn company page, there are a lot of opportunities for great visuals. Here are the dimensions to know: LinkedIn dimensions Don’t forget to make the most of your visual real estate. HubSpot offers up some tips on maximizing it in this quick slideshow.


Stand out on Pinterest

For Pinterest, we’ll focus on image size and type to help your pins stand out.

Employ rich pins

If you haven’t already, be sure to explore rich pins, a way of adding additional, useful info to pins. Types include:

      • Article pins, which include the headline, author, story description and link



    • Product pins, which include real-time pricing, availability and where to buy



    • Recipe pins, which include ingredients, cooking times and serving info



    • Movie pins, which include ratings, cast members and reviews



    • Place pins, which include an address, phone number and map



Use taller images for more repins

Social media scientist Dan Zarrella researched what works best on Pinterest and found that the taller an image is, the more likely it is to be repinned: getting started with pinterest marketing

Try animated GIFs

It hasn’t been too long ago that Pinterest added animated GIFs as a new option, so there’s still time to stand out with these – as this attention-grabbing image shows.

Make your blog post stand out

Add more shareable elements into any blog post with these tools and tricks.

Make facts and stats quickly tweetable

If you work in marketing, chances are you’ve seen HubSpot’s blog posts shared a lot. One cool way they accomplish that is by making it easy to share stats as seen below. click to tweet example You can employ this tactic, too. Use a tool like Click to Tweet to create pre-populated tweets with the message you want to be shared. Here’s how it works: Click to Tweet

Embed social media posts

Bring the power of social media sharing right onto your blog by embedding Twitter, Facebook or Google+ posts into your blog post. Viewers can engage with embedded posts by following users, liking or commenting on posts and watching video posts. Even better: Those who don’t already like or follow you will have the option to do so without leaving the page, meaning embedded posts can potentially help boost your fan count across social networks. Here is a recent Buffer Facebook post embedded for you:


Consider replacing screenshots with embedded posts so that users can engage with your examples.

Pinterest boards are a little trickier to embed, but it can be done. Here’s a full guide from Ginny Soskey and a look at her adorable example board.

Follow Pinterest Pin pets on Pinterest

Make unique, shareable images

Visuals like quote photos and infographics are irresistibly shareable, and there are plenty of tools out there to help you make them quickly and easily – like Recite, pictured here.

Start making your own (and find lots more useful visual tools) with our roundup of 14 Great Tools to Create Engaging Infographics and Images for your Social Media Posts.

P.S. If you liked this post, you might also like The 10 Most Popular Social Media Marketing Guides of the Buffer blog to Kick-start 2014 and 6 Random Social Media Tips to Help You Improve Your Marketing Today.

Top Photo Credit: Sigma.DP2.Kiss.X3 via Compfight cc

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Written by Courtney Seiter

Courtney writes about social media, diversity and workplace culture at Buffer. She runs Girls to the Moon on the side and pets every dog she sees.

  • ronellsmith

    Excellent, Courtney. It is so frustrating, when managing multiple social media accounts, to get every little thing right. And when we’re dealing with a society that has the attention span of a gnat, little things become big things real fast.

    I love that you highlight, based on data, what typically makes for a successful post on each platform, then dove into how we can get there.

    Another one of those that I needed in one place–not 87 bookmarks. Thanks for delivering 🙂


    • Courtney Seiter

      I’m so glad it’s useful! I feel like I can go on forever about stuff like this; there’s so much interesting research!

    • ‘Attention span of a gnat’ Brilliant!

  • Fantastic post again Courtney, where did the Buffer team find (steal) you from?!

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks so much! I’m originally from the world of journalism (newspaper), so research like this is super fun for me 🙂

  • Fantastic snippets of information. Thanks for this great guide!

    • Courtney Seiter

      You’re welcome; so glad it’s helpful!

  • Deepti

    Such a great article Courtney- thanks so much for writing this. Simple, easy to understand, and including the image sizes for each individual platform is extremely helpful. Sending this to my whole team today- thanks again! [email protected]

    • Courtney Seiter

      So glad to hear that! 🙂

  • This is a phenomenal post. @courtneyseiter:disqus you did an excellent job highlighting the various social media networks and sharing what works. Lovely research as well!

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks! Really glad you liked it!

  • AllieKosela

    Great post, Courtney. Consider this one bookmarked 🙂

    • Courtney Seiter

      So glad it was helpful for you!

  • Emily Farrell

    Thank you. This is so well done.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thank YOU for reading 🙂

  • Just bookmarked. Excellent post @courtneyseiter:disqus

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks, glad it was useful!

  • Albert Freeman

    Fantastic post, as ever. The graph about Facebook post length is interesting, because it suggests that non-question posts are actually more successful if they are longer.

    It would have been even more interesting had this graph shown results for yet longer posts. I see a lot of Facebook posts that are a couple of paragraphs in length, so it would be useful to know how well, or poorly, really long posts fare.

  • Albert Freeman

    If we want a Facebook image to look good on both mobile and desktop (surely the ideal scenario) which size should it be? 400×209 pixels or 560×292?

    • Courtney Seiter

      That’s a great question. I’m not sure if this is a case of Facebook being a little tricky and confusing or me offering up confusing information! Let me do a little experiment and then clarify this with what I find.

      • Albert Freeman

        Thanks Courtney. I suspect it is Facebook being confusing, rather than you. I look forward to seeing what you learn.

  • Jeremy Porter

    Thanks for this. Great depth and breadth!

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks for saying so; glad it was helpful! 🙂

  • AlisaMeredith

    Courtney, I’m pinning this where I’ll never lose it – and not just because you shared my article and picture (thanks). When you say “complete” you mean it! Love the point about slightly longer G+ posts.

    PS – Setting up lower thirds for business pages is a little tricky – I wrote a follow-up “how-to” as I was figuring it out myself:

    • Courtney Seiter

      Ooh, thanks for adding another great resource, Alisa!

      • AlisaMeredith

        You’re most welcome – happy to! Sharing this far and wide 🙂

  • Great article!

  • That was extremely useful and consolidated what I have been doing already. Some great tips and links thank you. Do you run face to face courses?

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks, glad it was useful for you! No, no courses–just blog posts 🙂

  • Zen Ameer

    There is so much that I’ve taken away from this post. Well done, Courtney! *smiles*

  • Shared on Twitter and LinkedIn! Thanks Courtney, loved the information and you were very clear and concise. An informative, efficient article, thank you!!

    • Courtney Seiter

      Appreciate you reading! Thank you!

  • Thanks for providing very useful information! I’ll be sharing this with my followers via Buffer.

    • Courtney Seiter

      You’re very welcome!

  • Kay Newton

    I have been a fan of Buffer for a while now. At last I feel I can really get to use it thanks Courtney!!

    • Courtney Seiter

      That’s so great to hear, Kay! Let us know if you have any questions at all! 🙂

  • Excellent guide….enjoyed every bit of it and shared it with my social media management team as a resource.

    • Courtney Seiter

      So glad to hear that!

  • I used to feel guilty almost for tooting my horn about my stuff. It was stepping out of my quiet.

  • One of my favorite blog posts ever from you guys. I had to come back today and absorb the awesomeness. Thank you @courtneyseiter:disqus.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks; that’s so awesome to hear!

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  • Wilson Guaman

    Thanks @courtneyseiter:disqus, this is an excellent guide..!! Regards from Ecuador.. 😀

  • Fantastic post, thank you! Remembering image specifications is a challenge, great to have them all in one place!

  • Pocha huntas

    Nicest information!!! I’ll be enchanted to greatly help due to what I’ve learnt from here.,.
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  • barbara.brischar

    This is brilliant! Not same old how to hints, but rich, unique tips. Well done!

  • Lauri Flaquer

    Thanks so much Courtney. This is very helpful.

  • john

    In the article you state: “Pro tip: You can do all of this if you’re Buffering a post to Facebook, too (and gets lots more photo thumbnail choices)!”. I can’t figure out how to do this with Buffer though. Help?

  • Lesley

    Hi Courtney! I’ve recently started doing social media for a company. After trawling through articles for the past few months trying to work out what I need to do on the various media, I found this article – and it is wonderful – thank you!! The encouraging thing for me is that I was able to confirm my gut feeling for a lot of things (ie the recommended length of posts for each medium and the use of photos and graphics), however I have a very basic question: Can you please tell me, step-by-step, how to use formatting on FB?? I can do it on Google+, but not FB! Am I able to access the required tools for this via Buffer?