What weapons are currently most effective in the war for consumer attention? It depends where you’re fighting, of course, but it seems that on the social media battleground, compelling images used correctly, give brands and marketers a competitive edge. There is one big reason why images are so powerful and it has to do with that tired old cliché; you know the one, where an image is worth a thousand words. When you’re competing for limited attention and you’re using limited space, your messages need to pack a punch and images can be tweaked, designed and manipulated so that they knock consumers’ sock off.
We’re going to look at some findings that show just how important images are on social media, and how you can leverage them to your advantage.
The data has it
Way back in November 2012, HubSpot’s Rebecca Corliss published findings from a HubSpot study on the effectiveness of visuals in social media engagement. Even then it was clear that using images on social media platforms increased social engagement and interaction, not to mention the number of likes. For instance, HubSpot found that Facebook updates with photos received 53% more likes than updates with just text or links. Furthermore, images received over 100% more comments than updates without images.
Images can also be very effective at generating website traffic, if you include a link in the image. At the time of the study, HubSpot found that 60% of images posts did not contain a link – a rookie social media marketing mistake that verges on the unforgivable. Using their own Facebook image posts as a guide, HubSpot found that image posts with links were clicked 84% more than text or link only posts.
Recently, Amy Morin wrote an article for Forbes, which looked deeper at the technical details you need to bear in mind when it comes to using images on social media platforms. In the article, Morin cites Apu Gupta, co-founder for Curalate, which studies image use on social media to help brands and marketers use pictures more effectively. Curalate looks at quantitative data rather than qualitative data, i.e., what makes images more effective rather than why are images effective. The data is gleaned primarily from Pinterest and Instagram.
On Pinterest, consumer engagement on over 500,000 images was examined, using 30 different characteristics. Some of the most interesting findings include:
- Images with multiple dominant colours are repinned 3.25 more often than images with one dominant colour.
- Images with medium lightness are repinned 20 times more than most black images and eight times more than mostly white images.
- Red images are repinned more often than blue images (studies have shown that red is considered a winning colour, after all).
- Images with less than 30% whitespace are repinned more often than other images.
- Images with faces are repinned 23% more often than those without faces.
- Images with smooth textures are repinned 17 times often those with rough textures.
Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, Curalate found that what works on Pinterest doesn’t necessarily work on Instagram. Using 8 million photos on Instagram, Curalate found that:
- Light images get 24% more likes than dark images.
- Predominantly blue images get 24% more likes than predominantly red images (so much for winning).
- Images with one dominant colour get 17% more likes than images with multiple dominant colours.
- Images with lots of texture get 79% more likes than smooth images.
- Images with a lot of whitespace get 29% more likes than images with busy backgrounds.
The contrasting findings underline what marketers have (or should have) known forever – you need to tailor your strategy to each social media platform that you use. The findings also underline the importance of giving your audience what they really want and not what you think they want.
Visual social media platforms are exerting an increasingly strong influence on consumers, which means that images are going to play an ever greater role in social media marketing. This brings two significant points to the fore:
1) Brands and marketers need to learn about the legal ramifications of using other people’s images in their updates. No one wants to get involved in messy copyright battles.
2) It might be time to add a professional graphic designer to the team. This allows agencies and brands to create their own visual magic without worrying about usage rights.
Images can be used for a variety of purposes. For example, they can give your brand a human face (literally, by posting pictures of your team engaged in various professional and recreational activities), they can convey important information, they can be used as promotional tools, they can promote loyalty (by posting pictures of happy and satisfied customers in-store or at special events) and they can generate engagement (if the images are interesting, funny, touching or even somewhat controversial).
If you haven’t realised the importance of images on social media, it’s time to get your head out of the sand and get snap-happy (and maybe invest in a Photoshop course or two).
Image credit: mkhmarketing, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr