Every day, over 500 million users consume Instagram stories, 1 million users scroll and double-tap and 95 million images are uploaded to the app's feed.

According to Social Media Today, we only need 1/10 of a second to understand an image, but almost 60 seconds to read 200-250 words. To make your content stand out, you have to create visuals that are engaging, easy to scan and memorable.

Of course, everyone wants gorgeous social images for their feeds, but isn't that....expensive?

It's doesn't have to be. At my content marketing company Masthead Media, we often help clients with smaller marketing budgets tap a powerful set of SaaS tools to create highly engaging images for Instagram, Facebook, and other social channels. These are three of our favorites-;and they'll cost you next to nothing. 

Canva

Canva (which recently became a startup unicorn) makes it easy to create visuals in minutes with very little experience and offers content marketers hundreds of templates, icons, layouts and more.

Need to design an Instagram story to promote your latest podcast?   This app has hundreds of pre-sized graphics for every social media platform.

If you're running a team that's working on similar visuals for your brand, you can invest in Canva Work (for $10/month). The fee is small, but the reward is huge, giving you the opportunity to save your brand colors, create moving content and resize graphics from one platform to another with ease.

Adobe Spark/Sparkpost

With Instagram and Facebook stories on the rise and video content generating 80% more engagement than other content, Adobe Spark is a tool you need to become familiar with.

An Adobe product, Adobe Spark is its own suite of products - Adobe Spark Post, Adobe Spark Video and Adobe Spark Page - which offers marketers the best of both worlds: all of the tools that Creative Cloud has to offer, with no cost and user tutorial required.

The app is available all in one on the web, or in the three different applications on mobile. Whether you're putting together a simple Instagram post graphic, creating a custom landing page or animating a short 10-second promo video, it's effortless to make it happen at the desk or on-the-go with Adobe Spark.

When you create a free account to use the app, you'll receive weekly newsletters from the platform with inspirational content and tips from the pros on how to make visuals that stand out. You can rely on templates or get creative, but either way, this app will take your graphics to the next level.

Crello

Free visual tools are a major timesaver (leaving more hours for tackling all of your emails!) but they're only as good as the features they have to offer.

Crello, a less commonly-used platform, not only offers animation, video and image templates, but has an image asset bank of over 60 million choices that marketers can use to create beautiful graphics that fit their brand.

Even without access to a stock image library like Getty or Shutterstock, Crello allows you to create unforgettable visuals to complement your content.

Since four times as many people would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, according to Animoto, using Crello will ensure you reach four times the audience and engage customers with what your brand has to offer.

It can feel like an uphill battle trying to get your customers to engage with blog posts or long-form content, but over 50% of users watch video thoroughly, making visuals an easy way to engage an audience.

With all of these tools, you can increase your engagement-;without increasing your budget.

Published on: May 13, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.