People love to see images on social media. Simply including an image with your written post will instantly double your user engagements—if not more—and help you build an audience bigger and faster. However, images aren’t some magical shortcut to getting popular on social media. In fact, if you use images irresponsibly or in a way that doesn’t sit with your target audience, your image-based posts could wind up doing more harm than good.
The truth is, you’re probably misusing images on social media in at least one important way, and correcting those mistakes is vital if you want to preserve your reputation in the long term. These are some of the most common errors we see:
1. Not having a gallery or page to tie back to
If you want your photos to generate meaningful interest, make sure they tie back to an image gallery or page on your main site. If your photos exist only in the social media space, that makes them temporary and fleeting; it also doesn’t give users any significant action to take. Leading users back to a page on your main site will increase your conversion opportunities and simultaneously give you the chance to show off more images semi-permanently. ShieldCo has a fantastic image gallery that serves as an excellent example of this strategy in action.
2. Framing the image incorrectly
You don’t need to be a professional photographer to frame your images professionally—and even one mistake here can ruin an otherwise captivating image. Learn some of the basics of photography so you can frame your shots more appropriately. For example, you can use the rule of thirds to properly position your subjects, avoid hot spots and bad backlighting, and tweak your angle with multiple reference points so you always end up with a decent shot in the mix. National Geographic’s Instagram account is a perfect example of well-framed photography, so learn by its example.
3. Not having a clear subject
How is your image supposed to be effective if the main subject of the image isn’t immediately clear? If you have too much going on in the background, your users won’t be able to focus, and if your users can’t tell why you’ve posted the image in the first place, you won’t do much to earn their loyalty or engagement.
4. Using stock photography (or reposting)
First off—stock photography isn’t inherently evil. There are some applications where a carefully selected stock image could actually work in your favor, such as in the body of a blog post or in a brochure, but for the most part, stock photos come off as tacky and unoriginal. Just take a look at Bad Stock Photos for some particularly egregious examples. Plus, you run the risk of using the same images as other people. Avoid them whenever you can.
5. Not catering to your demographics
Think carefully about your target audience and cater your images to them, specifically. Don’t cobble together photos and illustrations for the sake of having visual materials—instead, procure visuals that your audience will find especially engaging or relevant to their interests. For example, GoPro tends to target young people and energetic outdoorsy types. To cater to this audience, most of their social media posts are from people out doing extraordinary, outdoorsy things.
6. Being inconsistent
Posting every once in a while isn’t going to cut it. If you want to earn a reputation as a leading authority, and keep your existing users around for longer, you’ll need to post high-quality images consistently. This is the only way to capture returning interest and establish a foundation for your brand. Even if half your images are good ones, the other half will be more than enough to turn users away.
7. Being unoriginal
Your images have to stand out if they’re going to succeed. There should be a style or tone that remains consistent in almost all your images, so your users can recognize them almost instantly. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or detailed; even the simplistic stick figure styles of a brand like Cyanide and Happiness are enough to making something uniquely “yours.”
Onward and Upward
Visual engagement is a powerful option—but only if you know how to take advantage of it while keeping your reputation intact. Images and photos require their own specific considerations in social media, and only if you follow those considerations will you be able to create a loyal following. Take note of your mistakes and take corrective action where you can. You don’t need to be perfect immediately, but only through observation, measurement, and refinement will you be able to build a better social media presence.