Are you sharing compelling images across social networks?
Do you want more engagement and traffic from your efforts?
If you're not regularly sharing images that resonate with your audience, you're missing out on a ton of engagement.
In this article you'll discover the essential elements of shareable images that increase engagement and drive traffic to your website.
Why Use Images to Drive Social Engagement?
People are drawn to visual content and take action based on its subtle cues faster than any other medium–faster than text, audio or video.
The power of pictures isn't restricted to image-centric platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. Visuals are attracting attention and driving engagement across all social networks. Even LinkedIn and Twitter are getting in on the action and showcasing images.
All of the major social networks are highlighting visual content. Brands that can leverage the power of original, optimized images are getting noticed.
If you're worried you need a graphic designer or special skills, don't be. In this article I'll introduce you to the tools you need and the five essential elements of shareable, traffic-driving images that you can include in your marketing plan today.
#1: Give Your Audience What They Need
If you want to encourage engagement and shares, your images have to appeal directly to your target audience.
Create images and infographics that either solve a problem or inspire your community to take action. Images that give short, instantly actionable advice are highly shareable. Quick tips, how-to's, quotes and fun facts are all very popular.
Social media expert Kim Garst matches audience expectations with useful tips by regularly posting images with social media advice and tagging them with #biztip.
Her community shares these problem-solving tips like wildfire, which results in an exceptionally high organic engagement rate on Facebook.
How-to images have also proven to be a powerful way to encourage sharing and engagement on blogs or social platforms, especially Pinterest. Australian stylist and blogger Nikki Parkinson from Styling You uses this type of image well.
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She often posts a clever mix of photos and text overlays to demonstrate a process. She created this highly pinnable image to show how to do makeup in 2 minutes.
What makes this image so attractive are the original photos, text overlays, numbering and step-by-step instructions. Embedding this type of image in her blog posts makes those articles immediately eye-catching and pinnable.
If you decide to create a how-to image, you can garner even more engagement (and blog traffic) if you upload it to Instagram, and share it across all social media platforms.
Don't forget quotes! On any social platform, quotes are one of the most shareable types of image. If you decide to go this route, focus on being inspiring or helpful to get the most engagement.
Your first instinct may be to share quotes on Facebook (and that's not a bad idea), but have you considered Instagram? Mastin Kipp, founder of The Daily Love, posts a mix of behind-the-scenes images and inspirational quotes on Instagram with great success.
Finally, funny photos are always a winner on social media, but what about fun facts? Combining a fun fact with a beautiful image is a great way to create shareable content and engage your audience.
Tourism Australia pairs highly engaging images with little-known facts about Australia and shares them on its Google+ profile. Fans love it and respond by sharing the information with their friends!
#2: Be Consistent and Quick
Facebook reach has gotten a lot of attention lately and sharing images continues to boost organic reach and engagement. Do you want to skyrocket shares for your images? Then be timely!
There are two ways to leverage the power of timeliness to make your images more shareable: consistency and fast action.
A consistent approach to sharing images should be a part of every brand's social media marketing tactics. To get started, simply post an image at the same time every day.
For example, each day food blogger Bianca Slade of Wholefood Simply posts amazing images on her Facebook page. She shares her wheat-free, dairy-free, sugar-free creations and asks a simple question: “Have you tried it?”
The result has sent foodie fans around the world into a frenzy, excitedly sharing Bianca's creations. They'll even bypass the news feed and go straight to her Facebook page to check out the recipe she posts at the end of the day (that includes me, guilty as charged!).
But Bianca doesn't stop there. She leverages her engagement and includes her fans in the decision-making process for the recipe of the day.
For one of the best examples of timeliness, look no further than Oreo. You've probably seen the famous tweet that Oreo sent out during the 2013 Super Bowl. The marketing team acted swiftly during a power outage, posting a well-timed tweet before the power came back on. It was perhaps one of the most quick-witted acts of marketing on social media to date.
Of course, Oreo has a team of people at the ready to jump on these kinds of opportunities. But that doesn't mean small businesses can't do it too. Keep an eye out for new updates to products or services in your niche. Those updates are important news for your customers!
In the example below, Facebook expert Amy Porterfield acted quickly to share news about a new Facebook feature by posting a simple screenshot from a blog post at Duct Tape Marketing.
By using a shareable screenshot with a link to the original article, Amy added value to her community, brought engagement to her page and drove traffic to Duct Tape Marketing's blog.
Of course, you don't have to wait for breaking news to make a splash. With a little planning, you can be ready for popular upcoming events and release images at the start of a celebration to get early traction.
Keep in mind that events recognized by others in your industry will attract more shares. For example, on International Midwives' Day, my business created a simple yet compelling image using PicMonkey to celebrate the day.
We posted it early in the morning on the Know Your Midwife Facebook page. The result? Over 1,400 shares by the end of the day! The image swept through pregnancy, birth and parenting pages across Australia, then the US and the UK.
One of the keys to creating a shareable image is subtle or no branding. There is a fine line between a timely post and shameless self-promotion. In the image above, we decided not to include any branding at all. That made the image more universal, which encouraged other pages to share it as if it were their own.
#3: Create Original Art
In a world where we're bombarded with information, anything new stands out from the crowd and catches our attention—on any platform, at any time. Take advantage of that and be part of the 20% of people who create original content for the other 80% to share.
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When you create original images, they're yours to keep. You can use them in any way you want, whenever you want.
You never have to wonder about breaching copyright, reading the fine print on a stock photo or making the big mistake of using an image from Google Images. (A quick reminder: Don't use images you find on Google; it's not a stock library.)
You don't need to hire a graphic designer to create original images. You can do it yourself with the advice and tools listed below.
Tips for Creating Original, Shareable Images
I'm not creative enough!
I don't have time!
I have no idea where to start!
Yes you are, yes you do and no problem. There are a number of easy-to-use tools that give you instant creativity and design skills, as well as allow you to share images quickly.
If you're at your desk, you can use image-editing tools like Canva or PicMonkey. Both offer gorgeous (and handy) templates. Use them to create 5-10 images with a similar theme.
Not at your desk? Use your phone! Apps like Instagram, InstaQuote, Overgram (free) or Over (paid) make your on-the-fly pictures into works of art you can share immediately.
There are hundreds of apps and tools available for you to use, and the list above is by no means exhaustive. But remember, you don't have to try everything all at once. Avoid being overwhelmed by starting with just a few tools.
As you become skilled with one tool, add another tool or app to your design kit. When you find something you love, stick with it for a while until something else strikes your fancy.
Two More Tips for Creating Original Images
- Create a branded background template you can reuse for tip or quote images. You can simply upload it to Canva or PicMonkey when you want to create a new image with a text overlay. Reusable templates save lots of time!
- If you have a graphic designer, ask him or her to give you PNG files to work with. They're easy to overlay on backgrounds or templates, which means you can create images quickly when you need them.
#4: Optimize Size, Branding and Source
When creating images, optimization is key. Think in terms of size, branding and source information so your image not only suits the platform(s) you post it to, but has the best chance of being noticed and shared—and sending traffic back to your website.
The best size for your image will depend on how you want to use it and where you're posting it.
When you want to use an image on Facebook and Twitter, 1200 x 627 pixels works best. Keep that in mind when setting the featured image for a blog post.
If you're posting primarily to Instagram, square-ratio images work best and can work well on Facebook too.
When you're aiming for Pinterest, use an image with a portrait orientation as those are shared most often. They also look good in Facebook's news feed and in Google+.
To see how important image size can be, take a look at my test below. I uploaded a 1200 x 627 pixel image and used it as my blog post's featured image.
When I shared the link on Facebook, it pulled the featured image into the news feed as a linked post without using any additional Open Graph coding or plugins.
When I used Buffer to share the blog post link to Twitter, the image still looked fabulous and stood out in the Twitter feed.
Experiment with image sizes so you can optimize your content for each platform. In many cases, one image size may suit more than one platform. Find out what works for you, your preferred platforms and where your audience is hanging out.
Here's an important tip: As you're creating your original shareable images, don't forget to brand them with a simple watermark. Once created, you can save the watermark and add it to future images as well. Your URL or logo make ideal watermarks.
Make the watermark bold enough to remind people that you created and own the image (and where to find more information), but subtle enough that you don't appear too self-promotional.
In the example below, you can see how Y Travel Blog did a great job of creating a beautiful, pinnable image with subtle branding. Their logo in the bottom right corner isn't intrusive.
#5: Use an Obvious Call to Action
In any news feed on any social platform, you're always competing against friends, family, funny photos, small businesses and big brands for the attention of your ideal audience.
Your engaging image may catch their attention, but then what? If you don't know what you want fans to do when they see your image, they won't either.
Your goal is to garner likes, comments or better yet, clicks and sharing (the golden tickets of social marketing). To get those, you need an obvious call to action.
Ask yourself two things: Can the image stand alone? Is there a clear call to action?
As humans, we're drawn to images and we naturally migrate to those in social news feeds. If we can't immediately discern the meaning of the image, we may look to the description or post to find context, or we may move to the next interesting thing.
To give your fans and followers immediate context and encourage them to take action, add some text to your images. In the example below, which image are you more likely to click on?
The bottom picture gives viewers clear context and can stand alone. Your fans know what they'll find when they click through.
When you're sharing images, there are two places to put a call to action: on the image itself or in the description (this is usually a clickable link). This is universal, whether you're using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Pinterest.
Mari Smith added a call to action to her Facebook cover photo asking fans to click to sign up for an upcoming webinar. An effective way to convert fans to attendees!
When fans click on the image, they can find out more about Mari's webinar by clicking the hyperlink included in the image description.
If you want to try the same thing on Instagram, take a cue from Tabsite co-founder Mike Gingerich. He posts a snapshot of his latest blog post to Instagram. It's a simple photo of his computer screen coupled with a call to action in the description that leads followers back to his blog.
Instagram is a bit different from the other social networks. You can include a URL in your description, but it's not clickable. However, you're allowed one clickable link on your Instagram profile, so be sure to make this a link to your website.
On Pinterest, the Beauty Department excels at providing images that have a clear call to action to visit its blog for more information.
Some Parting Thoughts
Shareable images are the key to creating engaging social media content. There isn't a single network that doesn't rely on compelling images to garner interaction.
An easy way to integrate more visual content into your social marketing plan is to use images that speak to your audience. Try posting an image at the same time every day, and be sure to include a strong call to action.
Take advantage of the many tools available and create a template that reinforces your brand and makes it quick and easy to make new images in batches.
With a little work and planning, you'll be seeing higher engagement and more website traffic in no time.
What do you think? What kinds of images do you share with your fans? Which social networks have been most responsive? Share your experience or examples in the comments below.
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