26 Ways to Use Visuals in Your Social Media Marketing

social media how toHave you noticed more photos on social networks?

Do you have a visual component as part of your social media marketing strategy?

Do you need some help in getting started or maintaining momentum in sharing more visual content and in creating a visual conversation with your audience?

In this post, you’ll find 26 tips, an A-Z guide, for getting started with a visual strategy.

#1: Add Text to Your Photos

Do you want to get more mileage out of the photos you share on your social sites? You can, when you add text to your images.

Adding text to a photo can help you get your message across faster. And these messages are more likely to be shared by others on social media.

Add text to images to heighten the message.

Do you want to find some easy tools to include text in the photos you share on social media? Check out the photo editors in #4 below.

#2: Break Through the Clutter

There’s a lot of content out there vying for our attention. As Krista Neher suggests, “Optimize your social content to break through the clutter with images. Most leading businesses are making use of images in their content on all social networks. Your Facebook, Twitter, blog and even LinkedIn strategies should include images.”

Visuals will help break through the clutter.

Consider varying the types of content you share on your social channels and be sure to include photos and other forms of visual content to keep your readers interested.

#3: Create a Collage

When you have several great images to choose from and can’t decide, why not create a collage? Here are some instructions for how to make a collage with PicMonkey and other free collage-making tools.

PicMonkey was used to make this collage of Social Media Examiner images.

Collages communicate a number of brand messages and offer a simple yet effective way to engage users. Think about your different social media outlets and see if there are places where a collage would work well for you.

#4: Desktop Photo Editors

Is the photo you have perfect for your needs? Or does it need some editing?

There are many paid and free options for desktop photo editors on Mac and PCs to help you crop, resize, enhance, add text and more.

Screenshot from the Mac App Store's selection of photo editors.

Photo editing apps have come a long way over the years. Years back, the average user may have felt that editing was out of their league completely but programs have made it possible to make quick and easy edits that strengthen a photo and create a better overall image of your business.

#5: Encourage People to Share Photos With Your Business

The photo-sharing tools available today provide companies another communication avenue with their audience.

One fun way to get users to submit photos is to make it part of a contest that you’re sponsoring.

Example from Nestle Kitchen All Things Chocolate Contest on Facebook.

Users enjoy sharing photos. And contests help businesses reach out to their users in a creative way, while at the same time making it possible to gather a large crowdsourced photo library of images related to your products.

#6: Facebook Covers

The cover photos for Facebook give you a lot of real estate (specifically 851 x 315 px) to demonstrate visually what your business is about. There are a number of great resources to help you create cool Facebook cover photos.

Cover photo from Starbucks' Facebook Page.

Create an inviting Facebook cover and don’t be afraid to change it periodically. For example, Starbucks currently has a photo album of 25 cover photos and may choose to profile one that shows a new drink or holiday theme.  The photo used above was replaced by another photo within one week.

#7: Generate Leads With Facebook Photos

Companies are finding that they can generate more followers and leads by posting a high percentage of photos on social sites.

Some of the brands with largest followings on Facebook have posted an impressive number of timeline photos; for example, Coca Cola 6,459 photos, Oreo 2,359 and Red Bull 5,299. And consider these Facebook facts, “Photos get 7 times more likes and 10 times more shares than links.”

People love Facebook updates that contain visuals. Brands of all sizes are beginning to use more and more.

Do you know what type of visuals will work for your business? Or are you struggling to keep up a good momentum? Think about visuals as part of your strategy and allocate time to brainstorm and create a library you can tap into over the next week, month or even longer.

#8: How-to Images

Sometimes photos can make things simple for your audience. What does your audience struggle with?

Photos are a powerful way to show your readers a step-by-step guide on how to carry out specific tasks.

From WikiHow, example of how to use Instagram.

Users respond well when you show how to carry out a task that may otherwise seem complex to them, even with simple screenshots.

#9: Infographics

Infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly (from Wikipedia). Users love them and they’re shared often on social sites.

There are a number of tools to help you create your own infographic.

Example from Wikipedia: Infographics.

Of course, yours may not be as intricate as the one above of the Metrorail, but taking a number of facts from a few studies and showing them visually may help to effectively communicate information and capture the attention of a user who may otherwise not have the time to read long reports.

#10: Just the Facts

Are there any other ways you can use visual content? There are times when a simple chart or visualization will help drive home the facts.

Example from Social Media Examiner's Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2012 .

Writers are often told to “show, don’t tell” and a simple visual representation of the information can do this well. For marketers, charts and illustrations can be very effective tools—for example, seeing the difference between percentages can give users a better picture of the significance of the statistics.

#11: Keep Landing Pages Simple

Many components of your marketing collateral can benefit with strong visuals, including landing pages.

Randi Lucius writes, “Have clear, relevant images—either of the product or something closely related. Don’t overdo it though—usually a large banner image is sufficient.”

Talk about what separates you from the competition.

The visual may be part of the message and it’s an important one. A distorted or out of proportion photo can even subliminally create a poor image of a business and their products and services.

#12: Lettered Quotes

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings worked with illustrator Wendy MacNaughton to create this amazing illustrated description of Susan Sontag and art.

A combination of words and illustration makes this visual highly eye-catching and memorable.

This type of image can help communicate a lot of information; for example, who you are, the benefits of your products and services, mission statements and how prospects can reach you.

#13: Make Certain Every Blog Post Has at Least One Pinnable Image

Pinterest is a fantastic way to have your posts shared with an even wider audience. When someone selects Pin It, they will see the image choices for  your article. Terry League suggests you make sure every post has at least one pinnable image.

The pin bookmarklet is an easy process for users to share articles on Pinterest.

Even while I’m in the process of writing this article, you can get the idea of what users would see if they tried to pin this post:

Example of some of the pinnable images in this post so far!

Pinterest has made sharing images incredibly easy and fun. An image pinned on Pinterest may help tap into users who may not have come across your blog post through other channels.

#14: Notetaking Visually

Wesley Fryer describes visual notetaking as a “process of representing ideas non-linguistically… visual notetaking can include concept mapping, but also more artistic ways of visually capturing and representing ideas.” Image below from Leo Babauta.

Example from The Map of Distractions and Focus by Leo Babauta.

Some people learn better visually than through the written word. When done well, visual notetaking is an effective communication tool and can also be a fun resource to take users on a journey with you.

#15: Optimize Images

JC Parmley emphasizes it is important that your images are properly optimized without sacrificing too much of the quality.

Optimize without losing image quality.

Your blog may also have specific dimensions for images, yet just resizing to fit within those dimensions may do the visual a disservice. There are times when one image works better than another—train your eye to recognize the difference.

#16: Photo Ideas

There are times when you may feel at a loss for how to create more exciting original photos. Anjelika Paranjpe provides some wonderful creative ideas represented below.

And keep in mind too that Instagram filters and a host of other mobile phone apps will provide a number of ways to make an ordinary photo look more unique.

Look for ideas to spark your photo creativity.

There are photos and there are photos. What draws you in? What makes you take a little extra time looking at an image? What feelings does the photo evoke? Users are making those types of conscious and unconscious decisions every day. How can your images stand out and stand the test of time?

#17: Quotes Are Highly Shareable

The sharing of quotes on social sites has also increased in the past year.  There are a number of tools to create quotes from something you’ve read online and even your own articles.

To make this quote, I used Quote with Quizio on my browser’s toolbar, highlighted the text I wanted to use and then was presented with choices for fonts, background color and attribution.

Step 1:

Highlighting the text you want to quote helps make a great visual from the written word.

Step 2:

You can create the look for your visual with a few easy selections.

Quotes have a way of generating a sense of authority and make readers take notice of a statement that could easily get lost.

#18: Reviews as Images

Positive reviews can go a long way. Why not take a screenshot of a review and save it as an image to include on your social sites?

Share customer reviews on social sites.

Reviews can be spread out and shared on different pages. Some users may not be inclined to see a review on Yelp, for instance, but posting it on your Facebook Page can ensure that more followers will see it.

#19: Stock Photos

Kevin Mullett‘s list of stock photography sites demonstrates that there’s no shortage of companies to choose from. Some stock photography sites offer a free image on a regular basis. And if it works for your business, how perfect!

Here’s a recent offering from iStockPhoto that had been promoted on their Facebook Page.

Example of a free stock photograph. What can be bad?

Some businesses may find that opening an account with one stock photo company that has images that speak to their audience works well. And others may choose to vary the sources. Allocating time to find applicable images will be an important step in your visual social media marketing strategy.

#20: Try to Make Your Visual’s Filename a Good Description of the Subject Matter

As Google writes, “my-new-black-kitten.jpg is a lot more informative than IMG00023.JPG. Descriptive filenames can also be useful to users. If we’re unable to find suitable text on the page where we found the image, we’ll use the filename as the image’s snippet in our search results.”

The name of this video on the New York Times website included Willy Burnett's name and that it was from an article.

Naming an image may take a little extra time in preparing it to publish, but it will be well worth the extra effort!

#21: User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) covers a range of media content. National Geographic is a great example of a site that asks for photos from their audience in the column, “Your Shot.”

Readers submit their photos to "Your Shot" on National Geographic's website.

How can you solicit creative ways for users to submit photos of them using your products or services?

#22: Visual Content Types

While it would have worked well to have covered video for the letter “V,” I wanted to be sure to include at least mention of a couple of other types of visual content that Maria Pergolino and Jason Lankow point out in their presentation—namely, comics and memes (an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture [from Wikipedia]).

There are many visual content types to choose from. Mix them up!

The Old Spice Guy is an example of a highly successful meme.

For video, there are a number of good articles on Social Media Examiner including this one by Cindy King with 29 Tips from Social Media Examiner writers.

Use a variety of visual content to strengthen your visual social media marketing strategy.

#23: Word Photos

I have to admit, I’ve always been very drawn to these word photos. Why not take a great image and see how it looks generated in words?

The app WordFoto was used to create this word photo.

Carefully selected photos and words are a win-win—communicating visually and with words all at the same time.

#24: e(X)treme Close-Ups

There are close-ups and then there are extreme close-ups: “tightly framed and shown at a relatively large scale.” Extreme close-ups are dramatic and can capture and hold a user’s attention.

In this extreme close-up from from a photo contest on BetterPhoto.com you can almost feel the bristles on the brush.

Extreme close-ups can be quite beautiful and help your audience see the details they may have missed in a regular close-up.

#25: Your Big Moments

You’re proud of your accomplishments and you should be. So why not show your big moments? The award, the handshake. It’s very compelling.

Example from Smart CEO 100.

This kind of image helps spread the word about your accomplishments and is a good example of visual brand storytelling.

#26: Zoom In to Engage Users

Good short videos can say a lot about your business. And zooming in is a great way to bring attention to a particular product, service or point you want to draw your audience to.

Zooming in takes control and literally puts a subject in the viewer's face.

What do you want to emphasize to prospective and existing customers?  Zooming in helps represent visually what’s important, while also distinguishing important features and aspects of a business.

Using more visual content

In the past year, there’s been an increase in the use of visuals across social sites, and for good reasons. As Ekaterina Walter writes, “Brands can use visual content on their social media to increase engagement and inspire sharing and viral marketing.”

Here are some recommended resources:

How have you been using visuals in your social media marketing strategy? While 26 tips may seem like a lot, it’s probably the tip of the iceberg. What would you add to the list? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Debbie Hemley

Debbie Hemley is a freelance writer and social media coach. She helps businesses develop and maintain social media content strategies. Follow her on Twitter @dhemley & Facebook. Other posts by »




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