Anyone who uses social media understands that an image included in a post, creates more impact. A picture tells a thousand words, and it grabs attention. The more impact in the image, the more people who engage. The same is very true for content marketing. The data also proves, that brands or bloggers who use visually compelling images, get 2x to 3x improvement over those who don't.
As you may also know, video outperforms images, generally 4x. We will be dealing with that in another upcoming Best Practice guide on Video.
Image selection and execution, should be considered as a key element of your brand and if you use the opportunity effectively, they can extend your brand and make your content, and therefore your message, immediately recognisable. Equally, bland boring images are worse than no image at all, because we are all overwhelmed with content. So put some effort into being noticeable, both in terms of context and brand.
When you are busy and trying to fill a content calendar, it is tempting to just grab an image and quickly include it. We are all time poor, but getting this key part of your campaign right, is a critical best practice step, that should not be overlooked or undervalued.
A great original image works
Original content with original images is generally going to outperform content that your customers may have already seen. As a brand, you need to be collecting original content so you have something to talk about. This can be an investment in time or budget, or both. Needless to say, developing the skills yourself or in your team, is really valuable.
Yes, some brands have it really easy, in terms of creating magic content moments. The image below and resulting content, one of my team captured for a customer, Universal Studios, is a classic example of content that you know consumers are just going to want to engage with.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, at the World Premiere of Unbroken, create the perfect photo ready moment for great content, which went on to be part of 240M impressions on social in the first 24 hrs
That result and content, is no accident though. We had a small team on hand. A photographer, a designer and a copywriter. We studied the run sheet and knew the moments we wanted to capture. And we had branded content templates ready to go. So the ingredients and planning, realised the opportunities.
Yes, that was a live real-time content situation. But all that planning should be applied equally to your normal campaign planning and content planning calendar execution.
Shoot and edit your image effectively
Smart phones make it easy to capture great images, with a minimum amount of skill. However, if you are serious, invest in a good camera. The new technology makes up for a lot of human error, and all you really need to do is have some imagination. A key tip: be daring with your images, engagement is at least 50% entertainment, so entertain your audience and they will repay you in engagement.
There are some simple tips for editing your images to positive effect. I particularly recommend this simple guide from Facebook, but seek out some other learning options to extend your skills. Facebook image tips
There are some really handy tips about creating original images without blowing the budget and the rule of thirds for example, which is a no fail guide to enhancing focus and interest.
Sourcing images from image libraries
If you simply don't have time or resources to capture your own images, then there are some really fantastic sources for finding the next best option. Stock images, can be a compromise, but some creative skill and careful selection, can still do a lot to create compelling visuals.
If you have some budget, then we recommend trying Getty Images and iStock, with iStock being a slightly better budget option.
For sites that provide great free stock images, you really need to check out Pexel and Unsplash.
Setting a tone of voice for images
Just as you would set a tone of voice for your copy, you should have a tone or style for your images. Visually, consistency will help your audience recognise your content. If you have to shoot different settings or different styles, then consider adding a visual identity to your images via a filter or effect. There are many ways to build consistent visual tone, so don't overlook this.
Always tell a story
You have probably heard the expression "branded content". The generally accepted definition of branded content is when brands create content that tell a story and entertain. When it is done well, fans love it. Not every brand has the means to do this, but the principles are a good to apply to all content and image creation. Try to tell a story, entertain or deliver a valuable message that your audience will appreciate. You need to add value in some way. Generic content creation with boring images, deserves only one outcome, zero engagement. You need to challenge yourself to create content that people will appreciate, so be mindful and meaningful as often as you can.
You don't have to achieve 100% perfection to succeed
It is not critical that you achieve this peak in every piece of content you publish. In a social context, no one will see all content you publish. So don't stress about achieving 100% perfection every time. What is important, is that you achieve a high level of content quality, at least a majority of the time. The more often the better, but less than 100% is not a fail. Remember, the effort you put into creating entertaining engaging content, directly reflects the outcome you will get in terms of engagement and customer growth.