We’ve all heard that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but on social media, it could literally be worth thousands of dollars.
How you use imagery on your social media platforms can be the difference between a thriving web presence and one that’s, at best, lackluster. Well-designed images not only cause people to engage with your content, they also help your audience relate to your brand on a visceral level—a level words can’t reach.
Here are a few ways you can ensure your images not only promote your brand and its story, but also reach the minds and hearts of your viewers.
1. Make Your Images Resonate with Your Audience: Keep It Real
These days, viewers are looking for authentic and believable imagery—images that reflect how things really are. They’re tired of fake or overly polished images, whether they come from a mainstream news site or a small mom-and-pop startup.
To really reach your audience, celebrate the real people, products, and work behind your brand. Take photos of everyday operations, offer up quirky intros of your staff members, photograph your products as they’re being made. This level of reality will build trust with your audience and help them see you as part of the real world, not some made up gimmick.
A Deadpan shot was taken of an eatery. No editing applied
2. Add Some Deadpan Shots to Your Feed
One of the upcoming image trends behind the push for realism is called “deadpanning.” A deadpan shot is one that is uploaded pretty much as it was taken, with no obvious “polish” applied. You can do this as a full-on deadpan shot (absolutely no editing), or apply only basic editing for things like lens distortion, cropping, or removing lens dust. But leave it at that—no filters, no special effects, no “gloss.” Stick to exactly what you saw.
When you do this, you need to make sure your subject matter is interesting and your composition is spot on. As you aren’t using any filters or special effects, your image stands or falls on interest and composition.
Do some research on using the rule of thirds to try and create a great composition. Your camera or phone camera often has a handy grid overlay that can show you where to place the most important elements of the image.
Try to fill the frame with the subject(s), unless you are going for the negative space look. This technique utilizes blank space around the subject to make them stand out more, but the blank space background should complement the subject, not overwhelm them with color or clutter.
If you are shooting for Instagram, you need to think about how the image will look in a square format, and frame your subject accordingly.
3. Create Original Content
Obviously “keeping it real” means creating original content, but you don’t always have to use your own photos to make a creative impact. If you must use stock photos, make sure to change them around a bit—apply a creative touch. Maybe add some text, a badge or your logo. Or, even better, change the look around with an editing program.
Programs like Lightroom, Luminar and Nik Collection (plugin) offer a number of high-class effects that can really help you personalize your images. On the freeware side of things, Paint.NET and other online photo editors can also help you customize your images. You can even use Instagram’s filters, though beware, that trend has been a bit overused of late.
Whatever editing or creative touches you choose to apply to your images, try to keep a consistent ‘feel’ to them. Doing some in a soft matte finish then others in a high-contrast, high clarity style will create visual discord on your page. Find a look you like, and stick with it.
4. Photography Tips for Success
It’s really worth learning a bit about photography and creating your own images, whether with a smartphone, compact or DSLR camera. It means that you have total control over what kind of images you take and use on your social media, and you can edit and change the images as much as you like without worrying about breaching the photographer’s copyright.
Here are a couple of guidelines for getting the best out of your social media photography:
A lot of people make the big mistake of thinking that image resolution and size doesn’t matter with social media. 42 percent of people still prefer looking at images on a desktop, and if your image is too small for that, it’ll look pixelated and terrible.
You want to create powerful social media content, so you need high-quality images. Always upload files with at least 1,000 pixels on the long side. To be safe with Facebook, it’s often better to do a minimum of 2,000 pixels in case someone wants to view it fullscreen on a desktop.
ii. Try to Tell a Story
The best social media images tell us a story without needing many words. Lots of people post content that is all about them - selfies, food, bragging etc. This isn’t a good way to grow an audience!
Pair your images with a line or two of good writing, and you’ll get and keep your audience’s attention.
iii. Memes, Memes, Memes
Memes are an awesome way to catch your viewers’ attention, and when witty enough, can have a huge payout in terms of liking, sharing, and overall user engagement. They’re also super easy to make. For example, sites like imgflip allow you to upload any background image you want or look through their database of photos for the perfect fit. From there, simply add the text. Super easy!
5. Tie Your Visuals into Your Core Values and Mission
All businesses should have a clear mission and set of core values, and your images should consistently represent these. For example, in the image above, one could infer industriousness, cleanliness, and/or professionalism. If your brand is more about creativity, innovation, and/or collaboration, show photos of your team working together or creating the next big design.
6. Keep It Fresh
Keeping your viewers’ attention means keeping things fresh and new. This might seem challenging, especially if you’re trying to maintain consistent messaging, but by mixing up the types of visuals you use, you can get the best of both worlds.
There are many types of images and photo styles to choose from. For example, you can begin with a flat lay photo (like the one above), then follow it with a behind-the-scenes photo, a deadpan photo, and then a meme, etc.
A bit of variety will help you avoid a feed that feels like the “same old, same old.” It will also help you give thought to what journey you want to take your viewers on. The more compelling the story behind the photos, the more your viewers will engage.
In the end, your marketing goal should be to add value to your viewers’ lives, both as a brand and as a social media presence, and photos are a key part of conveying this. If successful, you’ll ensure that your brand becomes part of their lifestyle, and from there you’ll have a customer for life.