We regularly work with companies and brands on their digital marketing strategies and during our years as a digital agency, we frequently come across a recurring issue… bad images. While they may not be bad to the untrained eye, the images you choose can send the wrong message and you may not even know it. In this blog, we’re going to look at a few examples of poor imagery use and tell you how they can be improved upon, to ensure that you’re using the right images to get the most out of your online communications.

Let’s talk about text

Once you add a little line of text to an image, it can be more and more tempting to pack more words on there and really get that all important marketing message across. This can be useful for things like header images, providing you don’t overdo it. Generally, these will not be run as ads and are the first thing that people see when they come on to your web or social media page. Why not make the use of it as a place to get some initial info over to visitors? However, images for social media posts are not the right place for this. For one thing, if you’re advertising on Facebook, they have a rule that only allows you to cover 20% of your image with text content, otherwise your boosted post will be compromised, either with reduced reach or the ad won’t run at all (the same thing applies to video it’s worth noting). Not to mention, you have the ability to put everything you need to know in the copy text accompanying the image, why mask good imagery with loads of text content? Instead focus on high-quality imagery that suits your brand and showcases or works with the event, service or product you are promoting. If you want to use text make sure it’s small and fits within the 20% rule, as shown by this post we created for Psycle London below.

example of good use of images for social media from the company psycle london

As you can see the image used for this post is bright, eye-catching and fits within the themes of the brand (vibrant, healthy, inspiring). Whilst they have used text, they have used it in a way that promotes their classes (ride, barre, strength and yoga) and applied their current slogan - “find your beat”. If you’re a little unsure of how much text is too much text for your images, you can use Facebook’s Text Overlay Tool and it will be able to give you a definitive answer on how your image will run before you try to create an ad!

Size matters

Getting high-quality images for social media is important but they are even better when they are clear, sharp and in the right dimensions for the chosen social platform. As a rule, landscape is better, but each social media channel has its own sizing that works better for their specific newsfeed. This guide by Sprout Social is always kept up to date with any changes over time and has more social dimensions than you can shake a stick at! Alternatively, Ad Jelly is great for checking all ad dimensions across digital platforms. Use these guides to check whenever you’re unsure.

Ensuring that your images are sized correctly every time might seem slightly pedantic, however, it can actually have a massive impact on the success of a post. For example, usually, it is better to opt for large thumbnail images when using links on social media and a lot of the time, the only way to do this is to resize the imagery you want to use to suit the platform’s sizing guidelines. Having an image that takes up the full width of a newsfeed (as opposed to only a portion of it) is far more likely to grab attention and lead to a higher CTR when compared to incorrectly sized images, not only is it more pleasing to the eye, it also provides a viewer with more places to click when using images for social media links. Take a look at the two examples from our own social media down below.

comparison of after digital posts showing the good vs bad use of images for social media

As you can see from these two images, in one image sizing hasn’t been used as effectively as it could have been when compared to the other image. The link preview for the TEDxGlasgow 2017 reflection piece has cropped the image thus not including the vital imagery of the TEDxGlasgow sign - this misses a trick at visually communicating what the piece is about. Whereas, the blog surrounding augmented reality has been sized before use in order to include the phone screen and the Pokemon Go app. This makes it easy to connect the image with the written work you will click through to. Which one are you more likely to click on?

Now the above is just about social media imagery, but size is even more important for web images - check out our blog here for more.

Stock up on stock images

Sometimes you just don’t have the imagery you need at your disposal. At these times stock photos can be a quick and effective solution.

When you think of stock images, we bet you’re thinking of the heavily posed, cheesy photoshoots that we see a lot of on Shutterstock. However, there actually are a lot of great royalty free images out there for you to take advantage of (and yes, some of them actually are on Shutterstock). The key is to avoid overly choreographed imagery when you’re using content featuring people. Instead, opt for more natural photography.

comparison of stock imagery of cats showing the good vs bad use of images for social media

Comparing these two images, for example, both of these images came up when we searched for ‘holding cat’ on both Shutterstock and Unsplash, while they have the same content, they are both very different. The image from Shutterstock is a lot more posed and comes off as a lot more unnatural. It’s clear that both the cat and the woman are modelling and unfamiliar with one another. In fact, going by her body language, we’re pretty sure that woman is a bit more of a dog person...The second image, from Unsplash, is a lot more personal and it would be believable that this was an owner holding their cat for a picture. Always opt for images like the second one, staged imagery creates content that looks unauthentic, you want the posts you create to look natural, organic and personal. Make sure your images reflect this!

Here are a couple of options for free stock imagery that is both natural and genuinely nice: Pexels, Pixabay, Unsplash and Shutterstock

The devil’s in the details

We’ve all been in a situation where we create something that we think looks great, only for someone to come along, tweak it ever so slightly and transform it into something a lot better. This is likely to be something that will happen with your imagery. A lot of the time, we see clients with great foundations for their images, where all that is needed are a couple of little changes to make it right. Take a look at the example below, taken from our work with CCA, for a little insight into how little changes and image alterations can make a huge difference to the end result.

As you can see from the example, sometimes a little tweak or suggestion is all that’s needed to totally transform your content. It’s good to get a second pair of eyes and a fresh mind to look over your work and offer suggestions. You can also look to competitors and industry leaders, what social content are they producing and how can you match or potentially improve on it? There is always room for development but getting to a point where you can recognise what needs to be changed is a great step forward in creating images for social media.

We have a couple of short tips down below, that we think will be great guidelines for when you next create imagery.

  • Avoid excessive text embedded into images. For web images text cannot be read by bots, meaning you’re missing an SEO trick here but in social text overlays can determine the reach and efficacy of your promoted images and videos. Less is more!
  • Size images correctly. Make sure you check the size guidelines and optimise your images for performance. You want to stand out in the cacophony of digital noise, so do so by at least coming prepared for the channel you’re chatting in.
  • Include people and make it your team where you can (or your offices). Including imagery of your team creates a more personal edge to your content, allowing people a glance inside your company.
  • Don’t be cliched. If you catch yourself thinking; “We’ll do that because everyone else is!” Don’t do it. Creating more of the same will just create white noise for any potential customers. How can you think outside the box with your imagery? Use or create content that stands out and goes against the current. Just make sure you keep it relevant and on brand.
  • Be smart about the composition of your images. If you want to promote an event, you might be thinking using imagery of the venue is the way to go, but think to yourself, ‘is the venue in the imagery empty?’, ‘does the venue look exciting or does it look bare?’. The tiniest thing can offset the message you were aiming for. If you’re promoting an event, use imagery from the year before, showing people having a great time. Or make use of props relevant to your event. Don’t use shots of a barren venue with little to no company branding.
  • Consider your visual identity. It’s important to build familiarity with your image style, so figure out what types of imagery work well for your brand, any treatments that can make them more unique and aim to be consistent.
  • Focus on your audience. You should have an audience in mind when creating any ad or product. Make sure that the ad content you create reflects the audience and is likely to entice them in.
  • Don’t worry about going viral. A lot of companies focus on the hope of creating viral content. Viral content is very rare and unlikely to happen when it is the core goal of a piece of content. Work on creating great content that works with your voice and audience.
  • Keep it consistent. Make sure all your social content looks like it comes from you. It’s always worth sitting down and outlining a brand guide, not only will it keep content consistent, it’s also a great document to have for any new starts or if you ever need a refresher. This applies to your copy and tone of voice as well as the imagery itself.

We hope this blog will help you create more effective images for your brand’s social media. However, if you need any more help or you want to find out a little more about how we can develop your digital marketing strategy, you can get in touch with us via the form below.