It is not easy to produce images that make you stand out on the very crowded social media platforms of today. Creating relevant imagery that your audience can relate to is vitally important in capturing your audience's attention. Let's talk about some different options for developing attention-grabbing posts.
Firstly, set a goal for your image and post. Decide what you are trying to communicate. Are you trying to entertain or educate customers, provoke a reaction, or inspire an emotional response? Be mindful when you choose images. Not everyone will react in the same way.
There are a number of online sites which offer a seemingly infinite variety of free stock images. When you are searching for images you can use emotive terms such as “eco”, “modern”, “zen”, "vintage” or “antique”. Alternatively, use more descriptive terms such as “wide-angle”, “close-up”, “landscape” or “portrait” which can convey a style and help narrow search results. Compare images in a group to see which ones have the greatest impact and “pop”.
Remember that many images you find on the internet are copyrighted. If you are going to use someone else’s images, make sure you have the right to do so. There are a number of royalty-free stock image websites, such as Unsplash, Pinterest and Flickr. Make sure when you choose an image that you are satisfying all the requirements of the licence that goes with it. For example, even creative commons licences may require that you attribute the image to the person who made it, and some do not allow you to use images for monetization.
You can also buy images which will generally have a specific licence specifying where and for how long it can be used. Realistically, it is only fair to pay for professional images. The person who created that image has invested a lot of time and money in their training and equipment and should be compensated fairly for it. Simply because images have an intangible value doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have to pay for them.
Alternatively, you could make your own!
The New York Times Customer Insight Group discovered five reasons people share content online: to bring value and entertainment to others, to define themselves to others, to nurture relationships and stay connected, to feel more involved in the world and to support causes or issues they care about. Clearly, our humanity and desire for closeness with other people is a driving force in why and how we interact on social media. You should create both visual imagery and written content in your social media that meets one of these needs.
Your images should also reflect your brand values. Brand values are how you connect with your audience. It goes above and beyond your product line and permeates everything that your company is about. Brand values communicate who you are and what you represent, allowing you to develop a rapport between your brand and your audience without directly promoting your product.
Spread your content and imagery across multiple social media platforms. Different segments of your audience might be more inclined to use different media channels. Although what works on your blog might not work on Instagram or FaceBook, you can adapt your content so it fits for different types of social media. By sharing the same or similar content you are building a strong consistent brand personality across all platforms. But you need to make sure you use the right content on the right channels.
By using different social media channels you can more effectively target your audience and create genuine engagement, which in turn will drive traffic to your website and increase sales. By encouraging audience interaction instead of simply bombarding them with banner ads, you make your content relevant and interesting to them and they will connect to it on a more personally involved level.
You can also save a lot of time and effort making different posts for different channels. There are a number of online services you can use to schedule social media posts across multiple platforms. Most of them have a free basic option and extra services for a monthly fee. This includes sites such as Hootsuite and Later, both of which I have used in the past. Later has a very cool feature which allows you to plan your Instagram grid and simply drag and drop posts how you like so your grid looks great!
Each social media platform uses different size and aspect ratios for their images. You need to make sure that the content you produce matches these dimensions and that key elements of the image are not being cut off – your logo for example. You also need to remember that most people will be viewing your content on a mobile device, and optimise your images to fit phone screens. There is a free website called responsinator.com which will show you how your website appears on every different type of device. You can do the same with social media posts by copying the URL of the post into the search line.
You also need to get the correct image sizes for the landing page of your website. Make sure your call-to-action on the page is visible when people first load it. You don’t want them to have to scroll down the page to find it. You might have lost them before they get that far. Remember the 8-second rule! That’s how long you have to capture people’s attention before you lose them.
Think about it. Whenever you are on the train, bus, sitting in airports, walking down the streets, in cafes and restaurants, what is the most common thing that you see? Everywhere you go there are people staring at their phones rather than talking to each other. We would rather interact with other people in a digital or virtual medium than in person these days. People are on their phones watching videos and looking at social media, constantly! This means you need to make sure any images you produce are compatible with mobile consumption of that media.
Large image files can really slow down the load speed of your website and if images take too long to load it may even look as if there is nothing there at all. Viewers can be frustrated if your blog is taking forever to load and you can lose them very easily. Google acknowledges that sites that load more quickly are likely to rank higher on search engines and consequently receive more traffic. A compounding factor is that a large portion of your viewers is likely to be browsing your site from a mobile device with lower network speeds.
You need to make sure your images are the correct size and smallest possible file size without compromising image quality in order to maintain lightning load speeds. Images will not upload to WordPress sites if they are bigger than 3000x2000 pixels. You can use image optimising plugins such as ShortPixel (there are loads to choose from). A website called tinypng.com will compress your images to a fraction of their original file size without losing quality. You can upload files smaller than 5MB for free, or if you need to compress bigger files you can upgrade to their paid service.
You also need to make sure you select the correct file type. For images with text or graphics, PNG files are best, whereas you should use JPEGs for photographs. You can use Google’s insight tool to check the load speed of your website. (developers.google.com). There are also a number of other free and paid tools available that can analyse your site.
For every image, you upload to your website or blog, include alternative text (which shows when a browser cannot download the image) that is well planned for optimisation. This can bring in additional site traffic from image search results by telling search engines about the content on your page. Alt text is also used by screen readers for the blind or visually impaired. From an SEO point of view as it helps search engines to rank your site from image search results. Keep it brief and descriptive of the image. If your keywords are relevant you can include them, but don’t make that the objective.
Colours influence our emotional response to your images, brand and also when you are trying to get people to take action. Getting your call to action text right is only half the battle. You also want to make sure the button colour is correct.
Different colours have different, often subconscious, meanings for us. All your marketing imagery should take this into account, depending on the goals you aim to achieve. Red can mean danger, or also action. You can also use free colour palette software or sites such as coolors.co to help you find your brand colours. They match colours that are consistent and work well together with a very clever algorithm. Research what different colours mean to people. Green is the colour of envy, yellow is happiness, red is energy or danger, blue is tranquillity, etc. Find the colours that best represent your brand.
Don’t choose colours simply because you think it looks good, think about how your audience might perceive it and the context in which you are using it. Make your colour selection strategic
It’s not a new thing to say as marketers we need to develop brand consistency. But social media has changed the way we do this. The images you choose need to be consistent in colour, theme and style. For example, your Instagram grid should reflect this. One thing you can do to work out what this should look like is develop a mood board for your brand.
On a blank piece of paper write your brand right in the middle. Then around it write any word that comes to mind when you think about your brand. These words could be colours, people you aspire to, emotions, objects, anything you like. Then find images that represent these things. You can use free stock image sites to find images that inspire you.
This is not something you are necessarily going to publish, but it will help you and your marketing team to develop images that are consistent with your brand across all your social media.
Now develop your images so that they reflect this. Every image you publish should be relevant to your brand and style. Whether you are posting soft focus portraits, product images, landscapes, sunsets, drone shots, 360 tiny planets, cat pictures, whatever it is that is relevant to your brand, the number one rule is consistency. You should also post regularly and frequently. This does not mean bombarding your audience, you don’t want to appear spammy. But if you post regularly at the same time, your followers will know when to expect your posts and even start to look for them. Only post your best images – 8/10 or above. If you rate an image as only a 7/10 – don’t post it!
You need to select images that your target market will relate to, demographically and culturally. For example, If your target market is middle-aged, middle-class business people, a 20-something shirtless surfer is probably not the most relevant person to represent them in your visual content. Select people that are similar to and aspirational for your audience.
Lastly, test out different images and how they affect things such as conversion rates or traffic going to social media, your blog, website etc. Also, test similar content across different platforms to see which are most relevant and create the most engagement with your audience. By figuring out what works, you can adapt future marketing strategies for media channel and image choices.
Developing an image strategy for social media marketing may seem daunting, but if you follow these simple guidelines you should be well on your way to creating dynamic and engaging imagery that your customers can relate to. Now it's time to go out there and put these tips into practice.