November 2015 | Mindful Marketing | Yes, You Canva

By Thom Watson

Social media marketing can seem daunting, with no one-size-fits-all solution. Facebook’s cover photo size and ratio differ from Twitter’s and Instagram’s. The ideal size for a Facebook post is different from that for a Facebook ad. Recommended sizes don’t remain constant over time. And not everyone can afford to hire a graphic designer.

Dance Studio Life publisher Rhee Gold empathizes. “Social media marketing used to be very frustrating for me,” he says. “I had to manually create individual templates for each network.” His solution? Canva.

An online graphic design platform (; also available as an iPad app), Canva offers a drag-and-drop interface for creating social media posts and ads (and more). It provides a searchable library of typefaces, icons, illustrations, stock photos, filters, backgrounds, grids, frames, and layouts; users can also upload images.

To create a design, click a preset size for a social media platform or product type, or enter custom dimensions. Select a predefined customizable layout that includes suggested background, images, typefaces and text sizes, and positioning, or start with a blank canvas for a fully custom design. Drag and drop images to your Canva library; drag text and images from the library onto the canvas. Click and drag to apply color, transparency, styles, and filters, and to position and edit design elements. When your design is complete, download it as a web- or print-ready file (various formats).

Canva’s design tools, and many of its images and layouts, are free to use; some images have a per-use surcharge of $1 (layouts are priced based on the included images). Gold says dance studios likely will find Canva’s free resources sufficient.

You can create a very professional-looking post in a few minutes, for everything from Facebook to Instagram to Pinterest.Rhee Gold

Gold likes Canva because the service is easy to understand and use. “You can create a very professional-looking post in a few minutes, for everything from Facebook to Instagram to Pinterest.” Canva offers short tutorials and graphic design tips, but Gold says it’s easy to jump right in.

Best of all, he says, Canva keeps templates up to date as social media platforms revise their post and ad sizes, “so you’re always creating posts in the perfect sizes for getting the most visibility.”

There is a caveat. While you can design graphics for a range of social media networks using Canva’s free version, you must create each one individually, resizing the canvas and rearranging text and images. However, the recently launched Canva for Work, a paid service, eases this chore. It allows you to create a single layout of a given post, then automatically generate correctly sized versions for other networks based on the initial layout and which need only comparatively minor tweaking.

Canva for Work also includes workflow, collaboration, and brand management tools; for example, you could centrally manage logos, colors, typefaces, and templates, ensuring that all team members develop posts with a consistent brand identity. Or a teacher could create a draft and send it to administrative staff for comment, editing, or approval. Canva for Work is $12.95 per user per month, or $9.95 if paid annually.

In designing social media posts and ads, studios “shouldn’t create only ‘sell’ marketing,” says Gold. “You should also create inspirational and informative posts. Be diverse.” He suggests a 25:75 ratio—25 percent of posts might advertise classes or products, with the other 75 percent being upbeat and/or educational. “People see your inspirational posts and end up liking your page, and eventually they become a customer or recommend you,” he says. “It’s the inspirational and informative stuff that brings them in and keeps them in.”

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DSL managing editor Thom Watson, formerly an internet and social media executive and political columnist, is a San Francisco–based aficionado of ballet, contemporary, and folk dance.