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Branded Social Images, a New Plugin for Generating Per-Post Open Graph Images

Generated social images seem to be all the rage now. Automattic scooped up Daniel Post’s Social Image Generator last month for eventual inclusion in Jetpack. There is a proposal to dynamically generate them for plugins and themes hosted on WordPress.org. And, there is a new player in town: Branded Social Images.

Admittedly, I have had a mild obsession lately with the concept, and I would like to see the Tavern use dynamically-generated social images at some point. Because we already use Jetpack, I will wait to see where its development team takes the feature.

Branded Social Images is a solid addition to the WordPress plugin directory for those who want a solution now. It is not as featured-filled as Social Image Generator, which is no longer available for purchase. However, it is an introduction to the concept for those trying it out for the first time. And, it may just prove well-rounded enough for many users.

The plugin was released by Internetbureau Clearsite, a web development and design agency. Branded Social Images is the team’s first extension on WordPress.org.

My favorite feature from this plugin is that it allows users to upload any TTF or OTF font file for the social image’s text. I tested it with the Oleo Script Swash Caps and Rampart One font families to see how it worked.

Well, I tested with several more than that, but I had to stop myself before going too far. I have a font addiction and am easily sucked into hours of tinkering with them. The goal was to test this plugin feature, and it worked as it was supposed to.

The plugin already packages a reasonable set of 10 font families to choose from out of the box. If nothing suits your fancy, just snag one from Google Fonts or another site of your choosing and upload the .ttf or .otf file.

Branded Social Images is straightforward to use. Its settings screen has a preview image at the top and two boxes with settings. One for the social image text. The other is for the background image and logo.

Where it fails to live up to the competition is that it does not have any pre-built templates. This is not necessarily a make-or-break feature, but it also does not have the design options to recreate many of the layouts of something like Social Image Generator.

Essentially, the layout options boil down to positioning a logo and text atop a background image via a three-by-three grid.

However, its scaled-back interface with minimal options could be seen as a feature in and of itself. Not everyone needs or desires a swath of settings when a few baseline customizations will do.

I did have some trouble understanding whether the placeholder logo could be removed. After some testing, I realized it was limited to the settings screen unless I explicitly uploaded a custom one. I would also like to see an option to use the site title instead — not every site has a logo but might still want to show their brand name.

Users can also modify the social image on a per-post basis. The plugin adds a meta box with four options on the post-editing screen for:

  • Disabling the social image.
  • Editing the text.
  • Disabling the text.
  • Adding a custom image.
Meta box from the Branded Social Images plugin, showing a preview and controls for generating a per-post social image.
Per-post social image options.

By default, the text will be the post’s document title. It should work with most SEO plugins, such as Yoast SEO. The featured image will also be swapped in for the background if a custom one is not added.

After three years of using the current WordPress post editor, it still catches me off-guard when a plugin puts a meta box at the bottom of the screen instead of the sidebar. It always looks out of place. In this case, it takes up a ton of real estate for four options, and there is no need for it. If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the plugin, this would be it.

The plugin also breaks the cardinal rule of not adding a top-level admin menu item for a single screen. WordPress literally allows for sub-menu items under Settings. So, maybe I need that magic wand for two things.

Outside of a few issues, I love what the plugin team has created thus far. It is a little rough around the edges, but that is OK for a version 1.x. Software is meant to be iterated and improved upon, and Branded Social Images has the foundation for becoming even better.