Want to know what can get you more social media followers and connections, shares and likes, media exposure and even improve your search engine rankings?
The answer: images.
Not just any image or visual, but something attractive, relevant, compelling and, of course, properly optimized.
We’ll show you how to do that in this post.
I became a “visual evangelist” after experiencing first-hand the power of images on the PR in Your Pajamas Facebook page. We usually get a handful of likes and shares on our status updates. But guess what happened when I posted an image with a quote: It got 121 likes, 3 comments, and 63 shares!
This wasn’t a fluke, either. According to Hubspot, Facebook photos get 53% more likes than regular, text-based posts*.
It makes sense. Pictures are more eye-grabbing and interesting than words on a screen. We can grasp the meaning from an image faster than we can read sentences, so visuals can be a shortcut to communication. Perhaps most important of all, images stimulate emotions much more effectively and quickly than words. Which probably explains why pictures compel us to take action more readily than text.
Consider these other statistics that show the increasing importance of images in social media*:
- Pinterest is now the fourth biggest referrer of website traffic (Are you using it yet? Read this to get started).
- According to eye tracking research of Google news, items with images are seen first before plain text articles.
- In a research by PwR New Media, 79% of journalists who responded say news releases accompanied by a good image are more likely to be picked up than those without photos.
And if that’s not enough, images can help with search engine optimization (SEO), too. Search engines can’t “read” images — yet — but they do crawl metadata that accompany images (more on that below).
Pinterest pins now also appear on search engine results, which means these shared images can become a source of traffic to your website. In fact, according to a blogger I know, Pinterest has now become one of the Top 10 sources of traffic to her site — even though she only uses it to keep track of posts she likes.
By now I hope you appreciate the significance of visuals in your social media marketing. Before you go and start adding images to all your posts and updates, let me give you some tips on how to do so properly and strategically.
7 Ways to Optimize Images for the Search Engines and Engagement
1. Use your target keywords
Earlier, I mentioned that images can contribute to SEO. Most entrepreneurs and marketers don’t know that you can optimize your photos for the search engines. Before you publish a post, remember to use your target keywords in the image’s:
- file name
- alt text
These items won’t be displayed on your website or social media account, but search engines will read these and factor them in when calculating your search rankings.
2. Use only high-quality, relevant images
Your visuals don’t have to be taken by professional photographers — although that helps. You can take many of your photos yourself, as long as they’re clear and well lit. Bright colors, high contrast, and unusual images will help your visuals stand out of someone’s timeline or Pinterest board.
But don’t just use an image because it’s attractive and interesting. The visuals you choose should be relevant to the rest of your content. What’s the use of a pretty picture if it has nothing to do with what’s on the page?
Avoid images that are ambiguous or that can be misconstrued to mean something else. And only use images that are aligned with your brand or personality.
3. Add text
Text helps ensure your audience will understand the image in its proper context. Don’t overwhelm the image with words, however. Strive for a balance between words and image. And don’t worry, you don’t have to be a graphic designer or hire one to do this (in a future post, I’ll share free tools you can use to easily add text to images).
4. Watermark your visuals
Speaking of text, brand your image with your website URL and/or logo. So when your image goes viral and gets shared in various social networks, everyone will know who owns the image. It’s not fool-proof, but a watermark will also discourage others from stealing your image.
5. Get permission
Before using any image online, make sure you have permission to do so. A consultant I know was fined $950 for using a copyrighted image without permission. Ouch! And it was a a picture of a cow.
The safest route, of course, is to take your own visuals, or commission a professional to do so (and even then, read the contract to make sure you have sole ownership of the resulting images).
It isn’t always possible to only use images you own. You can use sites like Flickr to find free photos with Creative Commons licenses. But there are different types of Creative Commons licenses. Some require you to give proper attribution to the photographer, others allow you to modify the image, while others don’t. Read the fine print to make sure you know what you’re allowed to do with the picture.
Another option is to buy a license to use other people’s images through services like Fotolia and iStockPhoto. For a small fee, you can have access to high-quality images to use on your website, marketing collateral, and social networks. Again, read the license agreement.
6. Give permission
For example, make your images pinnable. This means when a reader clicks on the image, it gets “pinned” on their Pinterest board. In PR in Your Pajamas, we use the plugin, Pinterest Pin This Button for WordPresss. Try it: hover over an image and see that the “Pin It” button appears. When you click on the button, a Pinterest interface pops up.
Remember that Pinterest can be integrated with other social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. So when one of your readers pins an image, it may be posted on their other social networks as well, which means more exposure for you.
7. Use the correct size
One last tip: make sure your images are the correct size. On your blog, you don’t want to use very large images, because that will make your page load slowly. So resize images before uploading them.
On Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and other social networks, different images need to have specific sizes. For example, your Facebook cover image should be 851 x 314 px, while your Google Plus cover should be 2120 x 1192 px. Follow these requirements so your images will display properly. Don’t worry about remembering it all. Use this guide as reference.
I hope this post has inspired you to use more visuals in your social media marketing, and to use them more effectively. Remember, don’t just tell; show.
In my next post, I will share the tools you can use to find, enhance, and share your visuals for higher impact.
Meantime, tell me. How are you currently using images online? What challenges do you have when it comes to using pictures? Do you have a success story you want to share?
Tell us all about it below.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
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