By Alexandra Zamfir

January 20th, 2016

For individuals, sharing photos on social media is second nature, but as the web is now a visual place, images should be an integral part of all your digital marketing efforts. Consumers expect to see images from their friends, so why not brands too?

In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that images are crucial to boosting social engagement.

  • A study by Twitter found that tweets with images receive an average 35% more retweets than those without.

Similar results were observed on Facebook by researchers from Stanford University, who noted that the average post containing a link earned 20 likes. A post built around a picture earned nearly 500% more likes at a shade under 100. Each.

If you are looking to boost social media engagement, the use of images is a great way to start. Here are some best practice considerations to help you integrate more images into an effective social strategy.

Quality matters
Your business has hopefully put the time and effort into creating a coherent visual identity across all of your channels, online and off. You trade on a reputation as a provider of quality goods or services – and your entire brand image is designed to uphold this belief.

Key to maintaining appearance of quality is the use of high-quality graphics. If you are sharing pictures of your products, make sure they are suitably high-quality, or you risk tarnishing the brand image. After all, no one wants to re-share low-quality images, let alone buy the product depicted in it.

  • Our customer Baume et Mercier is really good at showcasing their beautiful watches. 

Hopefully you already have brand guidelines relating to artwork – just make sure you apply them to your social channels too.

Plan for platforms
Every social platform has its own conventions, from the amount of text you can enter, to the dimensions of an image. Or more specifically, the size of its thumbnail when viewed in a timeline.

Ideally, you want a user to be able to see the core elements of the image without clicking on it. If your image uses any text, ensure that the killer headline is easily readable, otherwise users may just keep scrolling.

Unfortunately, this means creating a separate image for each social platform, but the effort will pay off in terms of increased engagement. You can find a handy reference for images sizes on the major social platforms here.

Don’t forget to be personal
Social media marketing is about building relationships with real people. It’s also a chance to present the different sides of your business – depending on the social platform. Instagram tends to be more ‘lifestyle’ oriented, while LinkedIn is strictly professional.

Use your social channels to share behind-the-scenes snaps of your team. Whether at work or at play, people love to see who they are dealing with, so take the opportunity to shoot a smartphone photo every now and then to be shared with your brand’s fans. Just make sure that you consider the target platform for each picture before posting.

  • We find that the guys at MailChimp are doing this well on Instagram (and their other channels, to be honest).

And there’s no harm in inviting your customers to share their own pics using your products to inject some human interest.

Joining a phenomenon
Sometimes a particular image captures the imagination, instantly ingraining itself in the public consciousness. Something like the blue and black or white and gold dress picture that seemed to be everywhere last year.

And as you might expect, there were plenty of brands waiting to jump on board – with many (including us!) playing with the contentious colors. Many dress retailers used the buzz to sell dresses of either color combination, while other brands resorted to  random attempts at hashtag hijacking with completely unrelated colorsJumping on the hype proved to be irresistible, but, in general, most brands managed to pull it off, simply re-sharing the original photo with a witty comment.

What about memevertising?
Certain pictures have taken on a life their own, endlessly re-titled and amended to create new humorous memes. In some cases, brand adverts have themselves gone on to become memes – The Most Interesting Man in the World being a notable example.

social media engagement

For everyone else, it is tempting to try and use memes as part of their social strategy, but it’s a very fine art with a number of potential pitfalls.

First, it’s important to note that creativity is key. Your version of the meme needs to be both relevant and respect the conventions that accompany it. Otherwise your meme-based campaign comes across as desperate – as Kia so ably demonstrated a few years back, even though their social media engagement program tried to get the general public to contribute their own variants.

If your memevertising is anything but stellar, you should probably not publish it.

Curated content and copyright
Social media often involves resharing content, or repurposing images to make a specific point – as in the case of Kia’s meme campaign which merged publicly available memes, with their own copyrighted product pictures.

To avoid potential legal problems it is essential that your social media team know the source and copyright provisions of every image they use. Posting images without seeking the appropriate permissions could see your business sued for copyright infringement.

To stay legal, consider using licensed stock photos, or taking your own pictures. If you do choose stock photos, give a little extra consideration to where it will be used. For blog posts on your company site, go for slightly more expensive pictures – the quality will be better, and your customers are less likely to have encountered them elsewhere. For social media purposes you may be able to get by with free stock images from one of the many sites serving CC0 licensed imagery.

You could follow the example of Highgate Hotels by implementing an in-house ‘pool’ of fully licensed images that are tagged for easy retrieval for any marketing use.

Images are essential
Images are a fundamental part of increasing your brand’s social media engagement. As mentioned earlier, pictures make a huge difference in encouraging people to reshare, comment or like your posts, helping to make them visible to an even greater audience.

But just like everything else you post, great care must be taken to avoid potentially generating negative attention. Take the time to understand your audience and the platforms you are trying to target. And in the case of memes, make sure you have grasped the “rules” of each image with the understanding that your audience could turn the joke on you.

If in doubt, come up with another alternative that better showcases your original creativity.

You also need to make sure that you can effectively monitor and record engagement levels to assess what really does ‘work’. The results may be surprising!

Did I miss any important tips for using images on social? Share them with me in the comments.

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