Get with the picture! A guide to using imagery on social media

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As marketers, we’re all looking for interesting and dynamic ways to communicate through social media. Clever word-smithery has its place – in fact, your written content plays a vital role in powering online searches – but the rise of image-driven social networks has seen a significant shift towards ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’.

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Of course, it’s not enough to simply slap up any old picture like some desperate virtual equivalent of fly-postering. Our eyes love a little candy, so taking time to embrace the intricacies of successful Instagram marketing will help you serve up a rolling feast of visual treats, ensuring you stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons.

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While the universal language of emojis can tell stories in the wink of an eye, rich, meaty visuals offer islands of solace amid the ocean of textual plankton, as social media feeds become psychedelic blurs in the hands of swipe-happy smartphone users.

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In fact, our innate desire to communicate the world around us has given rise to entire platforms centred on image-led interaction.

In a recent study, 67% of marketing managers indicated that driving engagement was the primary reason for producing visual content, while evoking emotions and capturing reduced attention spans also feature prominently.


Source: eMarketer

Put simply, images have the power to give your marketing strategies a life of their own, transcending the limitations of your own immediate network as they can be shaped and shared by wider audiences.

A good impression for good impressions

The images you share on social media are a window into your world. They reflect your business personality, ethos and outlook. They inform your customers how you view them, and they encourage a response in kind.

Just as you don’t shuffle into a business meeting looking like a sack of compost if you want to get the gig, when engaging with potential customers via social media, you need to show them you mean business.

Quite literally, you want to create the right image, and that means professional-looking pictures and interesting, shareable content. You don’t necessarily need pro skills (or even a camera) to use pro content, as there’s plenty of royalty-free material out there.


Source: Gratisography

To avoid fretting over copyright issues, don’t run the gauntlet of nabbing pictures from your favourite search engine. If nothing else, it’s just not nice pinching the endeavours of other creatives. You can search for ‘creative commons’ licensed images on a host of platforms, but make sure the picture you use is licensed for commercial use, and bear in mind you may have to attribute it.

Gratisography and Pixabay are amazing resources chock-full of arresting, professionally-shot photos without the need for attribution (although you do have the option of donating the cost of a cup of coffee). Meanwhile, Pablo gives access to a massive library of royalty-free photos with the option to add copy and text boxes, and the original meme generator allows you to create quirky and often comedic (albeit a little simplistic) content with a few keystrokes.

‘Borrowing’ will get you so far, but don’t fall back on overused or cliched stock images and be aware that great social media accounts display a consistency of tone and visual clarity which can only be achieved by taking (or commissioning) your own photos.



Perhaps the greatest power of visual content is its ability to put you – your personality (or that of your business) firmly in the frame, even when you’re behind the lens pressing the button. Handily, all the kit you need to produce sparkling photos is probably right there in your pocket – in the shape of your smartphone. Brush up on your picture-taking skills, and you’re halfway there.

And if infographics are your thing (they should be – they’re reportedly liked and shared three times more than other any other content type) Canva is an easy-to-use, intuitive design tool with a host of templates.

When you’re tweaking your images, give some thought to how they’re going to be used – not all social media platforms are created equal, which means each one has its own specifications for ‘ideal’ picture sizes, and within each platform those ideals will vary further depending on how the image is being used.

The multitude of dimensions are a little mind-boggling, but as there is nothing more off-putting than an out-of-focus, poorly-lit or pixelated header shot, it’s worth looking up an ultimate guide to social media image sizes, and sticking a big, fat bookmark in it.


Finally, while you’re putting it all out there, don’t forget to bring it home, too.

Done properly, your social networks should act as expressways to your blog or homepage – and the last thing visitors want on arrival is the cold and unfriendly welcome of a barren, text-heavy website. Ultimately, your own little piece of the Internet will be where leads are converted into sales, so your site needs to look the part.

For further insight, you can download my free 25 Website Essentials ebook to uncover the secrets of making your web strategy as enticing as your social networks.


Jon Payne

Author: Jon Payne

Jon Payne is the Technical Director of digital marketing specialists, Noisy Little Monkey. Follow @noisymonkey on Twitter and connect with the team on LinkedIn.