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A Marketer's Guide to Acing Social Visual Content

A Marketer's Guide to Acing Social Visual Content Andrew Fingerman
Engagement might be the ultimate marketing buzzword right now, but figuring out how to get your audience interested and attract quality visitors to your brand -- especially on social media -- can be a tricky song and dance. Of course, there's no foolproof formula for it, but we can say with certainty that captivating photography is essential to produce impactful and shareable content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram alike. Multiple studies* have been conducted, proving that  photos are the most engaging content on Facebook, garnering an 87% interaction rate from fans, and that adding a photo URL to your to tweets can boost retweets by 35%. If you’re looking for engagement - likes, tweets, clicks, comments, and shares - a photo is going to be your golden ticket to helping get your target audience interacting with your company.

So with the power of photography to help market your business, along comes a lot of grey area when it comes to using images, particularly on social. What kind of photos are compelling?  When do you pay for image rights? If you’re using photos for editorial use only, should you still get permission from the photographer? If you find a photo on Google, does that mean it’s okay to use? Let’s tackle three major considerations regarding what you should and shouldn’t do to protect your brand and share impactful photography that will engage your target market.

Think like a photo editor

If you want excellent imagery to share on social, think like a photo editor and identify photography that will appeal to your audience.

So what makes a good photo? Art is subjective of course, but here are a few tips to help you pick the kind of photos that will resonate with your social audiences:

  • Storytelling - Do the elements within the image tell a story or encourage the viewer to notice the details?

  • Strong composition - are the image details and elements balanced and arranged in a way that is pleasing to the eye?

  • Lighting - As a brand trying to attract customers, and as a general rule of thumb stay away from dark and foreboding images.

  • Colors that stand out - Find images with warm colors like reds, oranges, but also look for photos where the colors complement each other well.

  • Original photography - Keep in mind that stock photography can appear inauthentic at times. Original photos can help provide a stronger sense of your brand and personality; just make sure that original photography is also – quality photography – worthy of your brand and brand image.

Remember not to steal (even inadvertently)

While no one you work with is trying to deliberately steal images --  in the interest of time or because of a lack of awareness -- images get used without permission. Yes, using an image without the approval of the artist who created it is considered stealing. Case in point: Last year Twitter was abuzz with the story of popular Humans of New York photographer Brandon Stanton and famed fashion label DKNY who used dozens of Stanton’s images in a storefront in Bangkok without his permission. Luckily DKNY avoided a lawsuit, but they did publicly apologize and donate $25,000 to Stanton’s local YMCA to try to repair the damage to its brand.

The obvious takeaway here is that if you elect to use a photo online (or anywhere for that matter) that’s aimed to sell or promote your business directly, you must pay for it. That means everything from a print ad to an image you post on Instagram or Facebook. And keep in mind that without a centralized and organized process to find and approve work, there will always be room for miscommunication and misuse of photography that could potentially lead to legal action.  This leads us to our next point.

Create a process

There are many confusing rules and regulations around image ownership and copyright. With so much grey area, the best rule of thumb to prevent any legal hiccups is to implement a workflow in which you, your department and colleagues know to always ask permission from the photographer. Whether you are an SMB or larger enterprise, make sure you are diligently following this guideline and requesting photo use from each photographer whose image(s) are needed for features on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogposts.  In the long run, this will save you and your company a lot of legal headaches while also generating respect from the photo community.

As part of your workflow, establish go-to resources where you can find impactful photography that will resonate with your audience. You may want to start a running list of photographers (and their websites) that your team comes across over time. Develop a good working relationship with these sources to ensure you have quick and easy access. If you utilize stock agencies, platforms like Offset by Shutterstock, or Lattice can help you find and follow great photography.

Adding this system will help you create a clear process for finding and approving great images that your team can utilize.

At the end of the day, with the measurable power of great photography to help market your business significantly better on social media, it’s important to follow a set of guidelines that can set you up for success. This means training your eye to identify impactful imagery, establishing a photo approval process that will organize your team’s workflow, and taking steps to protect the integrity of your brand.

* Social Photos Generate More Engagement: New Research

As CEO, Andrew Fingerman is responsible for growing the PhotoShelter user base, ensuring members are getting the most from the service, and hosting the annual company BBQ. He served for four years as the company's VP of Marketing. He was previously...

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