By Emeka Ikechi, Director, Vanity Studios
If you want to have successful social media, you need to pay close attention to the images you use. Instagram now boasts more than 500 million daily active users (Statista), demonstrating the importance of imagery to your social media strategy. Additionally, 72% of teenagers now use Instagram (Pew Research). As this demographic ages, they will gain spending power, so it is important to be engaging with them now to develop a strong customer base in the future.
Imagery is also important when it comes to improving both engagement and recall. According to social media management company Buffer, Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than those without, while content marketing company Buzzsumo reports that Facebook posts with images get 2.3 times more engagement than those without images. Additionally, people who see relevant imagery alongside text retain 6.5 times more information than text-only (Brain Rules).
So, it is clear that imagery is important for social media marketing to work. But what images work best on social media?
The answer isn’t entirely clear-cut as it depends on your business and industry. The best way to find out is to run experiments and track results, such as views, engagements and click-throughs. That being said, there are some key things to consider when planning your social media imagery.
Keep it fresh
While it is fine to reuse and repurpose images, they can quickly feel stale, especially if you reuse them a lot. This is true whether you are talking about a product shot or a headshot. Switching up your imagery regularly keeps people interested and engaged.
When it comes to headshots, it is important to give people a clear impression of who you are. If they meet you in person for a pitch, for example, then it helps if your headshot matches reality. That means updating your headshot when you change your style as well as generally as you get older. If you’ve changed your hair, update your image. Got a new pair of glasses? Take a new snap.
When it comes to things like product shots, it helps to have them in the appropriate setting. That means not using a sunny beach shot in the middle of winter…unless you are advertising in the southern hemisphere. If you’re pushing your product as a Christmas gift – add some festive elements to the image. In fact, making your product shots seasonal can be fun and engaging while demonstrating how your product stays relevant year-round.
Maintain high quality
Creating great images in a high-quality format helps you appear professional and high-quality yourself. Great images start with great composition and setting. Having either lots of negative space or lots of clutter can seriously impact the quality of the image. Including engaging visual elements, such as people’s faces or cute animals, on the other hand, can help attract positive attention.
When considering the quality of the image format, more pixels isn’t always better. Every social media site has a strict size limit and specific resolution at which they will display images. Smaller images will be scaled up, which can look incredibly grainy and low-quality. However, larger images will be scaled down, which can also make them look very grainy. While the effect often isn’t as pronounced, the more the image is scaled up or down, the grainier it will look.
As such, it is best to aim for images that are the exact size and resolution the site will display them at to avoid scaling. This can vary between social media platforms and image placement. Facebook Ads images are a different size to Facebook Feed images, for example, so do your research first.
Showcase your business, personal brand or products
As the old adage goes: show, don’t tell. If you can demonstrate how your product or service is used to improve your customers’ lives, you will create an image and idea in customers’ minds. They will imagine enjoying themselves on your holiday, eating your delicious food or looking stylish wearing your watch, for example.
The key is to make the images relatable. This is why images with people in them work well ─ the customer will substitute themselves into the image, gaining an instant sense of what it might be like. Once that image has been imagined, it is hard to shake off.
So, rather than a swanky shot of your new jewellery against a plain background, perhaps try showing an image of someone aspirational wearing the jewellery at a trendy party. And instead of simply showing a beach hut against the azure blue sea, show people walking, swimming and laughing as well.
The same rules apply if you are simply selling your own personal brand. Whether it’s images of you or products you are reviewing or recommending, create images that are more than just a picture of you, or a flat picture of the product. Instead, show you/it in action. Show how buying the product will solve a follower’s problems, why engaging with you will make their life better.
Experiment with colour
Bright, colourful images may be eye-catching but that doesn’t mean black and white images should be disregarded. Opting for a monochrome image can be an excellent way to stand out in a sea of brightly coloured pictures, especially on sites like Instagram where people endlessly scroll through swathes of visually similar photographs.
Again, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to using colour vs black and white. You should test both types of image and see which works best for you. However, a good rule of thumb is that the more luxurious and product-focused the image, the more likely it is to work in black and white. Watches, jewellery and cars, for example, often stand out in black and white. For experiences, such as holidays or trips, colour can flesh out the imagination and make it appear more real.
The best approach is to get a copy of the same image in both colour and monochrome, testing both out and gathering results. You will then have a better sense of what works for you and your brand, whether you are sharing a product, experience or headshot.
Imagery, whether it is a photo of a product or your face, is essential to creating a strong brand. Pictures help customers imagine what it is like to work with you or use your product, making an abstract idea feel a lot more real.
Social media has become an essential channel for most businesses. Whether B2C or B2B, brands find new customers and engage in important conversations primarily via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To really stand out in an endless sea of images, you need to produce consistently high-quality, regularly updated visuals. Then test and track your results to find a style and approach that works for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emeka Ikechi is Director of Vanity Studios, a contemporary studio for photoshoots in the centre of Shoreditch in London. Since 2009 Vanity Studios has been providing clients with high quality professional photos and an excellent photoshoot experience. The team of photographers and make-up artists ensure each client receives bespoke photography that meets their requirements.