You can't go very far today without being exposed to some kind of marketing imagery. It's all around us. Did you notice any billboards as you drove into the office today? Or did you catch a funny meme on social media this morning as you sipped your morning coffee?
If they made an impact on you, I'm willing to bet that they weren't simply black and white walls of text.
What do billboards and memes have in common?
Images are everywhere, and they grab our attention like almost nothing else. So in this post we are going to take a look at:
- Why images are so important to your content marketing
- How you can find and use images easily
- How to dominate social media with images
Let's dive deep into the world of online images, and improve your marketing today!
Images can have a profound impact on your marketing efforts.
You don't have to take my word for it, because some very smart people have actually done in-depth studies to prove images can make a difference.
But rather than dig into research papers and have you falling asleep at the keyboard, I want to show you some hard-to-ignore information about image use.
Images on Social Media
Social Media is all about images. And with the short attention span of people on such platforms, images have become a "must have" to grab attention.
A very detailed post on this was done earlier this year on Social Media Examiner, where they stated that:
photos are also the most engaging type of content on Facebook, with a whopping 87 percent interaction rate from fans
Of course that is probably not news to many of you. Facebook is known as a very visual place, with video and images being the dominant kind of posts. But what about Twitter? Surely that is all about text.
A similar post on Twitter's own blog showed that tweets with photos get a lot more engagement:
Photos average a 35 percent boost in Retweets
And then there are the up-and-coming social media platforms like Pinterest, Vine and Instagram, with their amazing growth and engagement rates. They only do visuals, but are growing exponentially.
Are you starting to get the ... picture? (excuse the pun)
Images on Blog Posts
In order to include images within your content people on social media, it certainly pays to have some stunning visuals on your blog posts.
My personal preference is for a Pinterest-optimized image on the top right, and a Twitter-optimized image further down the page. Why? Because these are the two social media platforms I favor, due to my followings. However, you need to decide what sizes you should use depending on where your followers are.
And this guide from Sprout Social is the most up to date I have seen on social media image sizes. So take some time to see what are the optimal sizes you need for social sharing on your favorite sites.
Images are not only great for social media, they also keep our readers engaged while reading our blog posts and other content. But you need to be careful what kinds of images use, and where you place them. Today's internet-savvy user will not tolerate boring stock photography or poor quality images.
So although images are great, just cobbling one together just for the sake of expediency does not always work. If you want to know what really works — and what does not — Derek Halpern from Social Triggers gives some serious food for thought when it comes to what image to use on your website. I suggest you give it a read, not only to inform yourself, but also because some of the information is genuinely surprising.
Finding And Using Images
A lot of businesses use stock photography and pay an arm and a leg for the right to do so. Personally, I am a little tired of those cheesy stock images of accountants smiling in front of their computers! And if you check out my blog posts, you will certainly see I have "interesting" taste in images. I like mine to stand out from the crowd. And so should you.
The trouble is, finding such images, especially without paying, can be tough.
Use Free and Interesting Images
There are a lot of options when it comes to finding photos online, and in many cases these images are free-to-use!
Ana Hoffman at Traffic Generation Cafe has an extensive article on the topic of using (and even misusing) images, which I recommend you read.
But if you want the short version, then you can read my recent article on how to use Creative Commons licensed images, that are free and easy to use. The post shows you where to easily find free images, and how to make sure you are not violating copyright. Something of which you need to be very careful.
Another great sources of images is this collection of amazing resources from Buffer. Bookmark that one.
So now you have no excuse when it comes to finding free and amazing images for your content.
Tools to Work with Images
Once you have that amazing image for your next blog or social media post, you will probably want to change it a little (did you also check if you are allowed to use it?).
I typically change quite a lot of the images I use on my posts, by doing things like:
- Applying an image filter to spice it up (think Instagram)
- Cropping it to fit my preferred image size (based on social media sizes)
- Adding text to explain what my post is about (makes it more click-worthy on social media)
Before there were specific tools around to do this, I used to use a combination of online and offline tools to achieve what I needed. It was very time-consuming.
I still use some of these tools for very simple tasks like resizing. My favorites include:
The problem I have with these tools is that they were not created with design in mind. I know it might seem like it at first, but when you compare it to a tool like Canva, you will soon see the difference. It's amazing!
The Canva team have created a tool that is not only very easy-to-use, but also puts the ability to create amazing designs in the hands of anyone!
What once took me 30 minutes to do in other tools, now takes five-to-10 minutes in Canva. And the result looks a lot better, too. (Note: the images for this post were created with Canva.) Canva also offers set sizes and templates to help you create amazing designs based on proven font and color combinations. It's almost impossible to do it wrong.
Over time I recommend you develop your own consistent style guide (fonts, filters, sizes and so on) to suit your brand. After all. it will help you stand out from the crowd and make your communications consistent and immediately recognizable to users.
But having the right image on your blog post is only the beginning.
Social Share Buttons For Images
The first thing I would suggest is make it as easy as possible to share your images from within your content. This means include the right kinds of social media buttons in your site design.
The best option I have found for adding social sharing buttons to your images is the Sumo Me Image Sharer from the AppSumo team. It gives a nice and simple "on hover" set of icons for sharing on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.
You don't have to replace your existing social share buttons and it will also increase the chances of people sharing your images on social media. This means more engagement in the long run.
Social Media Tools
Having your own images shared on social media is extremely important, but you should also get into the habit of always sharing the images of others. And because images are becoming so dominant, I always use images when I share directly from any blog post I find. So if you don't have images, you miss out on people sharing yours too.
By using the Buffer App plugin for Chrome, I can choose to share any image when I share from someone's post (even if they don't have the SumoMe plugin). The only downside is that their Twitter handle is not picked up with it. But I add that manually.
I know there are many Hootsuite users out there, and they also have a nice browser extension called the Hootlet. But to the best of my knowledge (and feel free to correct me in the comments if I'm mistaken) you cannot select and share an image directly that way.
Other platforms like Facebook and Linkedin will automatically grab an image when you share. So what about Pinterest? Again, you can add a Pinterest extension to your browser to help with that, because not all website owners have added the right plugins as we know.
Social Media and Images are Booming
We've established that all of the social media tools online are becoming very focused on images, with more and more options being added over time.
One tool I discovered recently that is very focused on images is MavSocial. In many ways they offer the same kinds of functionality as Buffer, Hootsuite or SproutSocial. However, they differ in that they have a built-in image repository for your images and give you access to large stock photo libraries, as well. They even have built-in image tools, too!
So What Should You Do Next?
Images are dominating content marketing right now, but getting started can seem intimidating. Especially if you believe you are not creative. I recommend you start by simply adding images to your posts and social media as soon as possible, even if they are not works of art (yet).
Find some image sources you like from the lists mentioned earlier, and make sure you are allowed to use the ones you choose. Then check out some tools like Canva and learn to improve your images over time. You can also improve the image sharing capabilities on your website by adding SumoMe to your website.
Soon enough you will see the benefits of increased visitor retention and social sharing. Things we all dream of in marketing.