A Visual Edge Boosts Your Social Media’s Impact
By Marsha Friedman
People like images. We always have.
Whether you're talking about cave drawings, great works of art, comic books, or family photo albums, there is something about pictures that gets our attention.
And getting people's attention is what you want to do when you are trying to promote your association’s brand. That's why it's so important to include visuals when you post on social media because you are competing with thousands of others for the attention of the same eyeballs.
But just how crucial is the use of those images, and what's the best way to go about doing it? As usual, when I want input like that to share, I turn to my in-house experts — in this case, Jay York and Becky Lofgren — two members of the EMSI social media team.
Jay tells me there is absolutely no doubt that social media posts are richer and more engaging when they incorporate some sort of photo or graphic image. Imagine, he says, a magazine that was all words and no photos or illustrations. Such a publication certainly might provide valuable information, but it wouldn't be much fun or inviting to look at and read.
Social media is the same way. As you scroll through hundreds of posts, the ones most likely to seize your attention are those accompanied by a captivating image — whether it's a funny cartoon, a chart illustrating a Wall Street crash, or a picture of a cat.
"Images also are more likely to be shared, which is why they make up the bulk of viral content," Jay says. "And an image adds to your message. It's like the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.”
On Twitter, you only get 140 characters, so that image is especially valuable.
"You also can use an image to literally increase the amount of text you use. You do that by putting text on the image, which allows you to cheat a little and go over the character limit."
Becky, our digital design coordinator, offers a few tips for getting the most visual mileage out of social media:
- Quality counts. Use high-resolution photos because they will make your posts look more professional. A muddy or grainy image does nothing to enhance your association’s brand; in fact, just the opposite. If you don't have your own images, websites like Pixabay.com and Unsplash.com offer them for free. Just type in a search term — "camel," for example — and the appropriate photographs and drawings will appear and are yours for the taking. "You want to make sure what you use is free," Becky says. "Avoid anything that's copyrighted."
- Consistency helps. When possible, use images that connect in some way to your organization’s brand. That provides a more consistent look and helps build your brand. One trick you can use, Becky says, is to put your logo on any images you share.
- Follow those trends. Your images will have an even greater impact if you connect them to a trending hashtag or a popular meme. Then, for example, anyone who searches for that hashtag has a good chance of coming across your post, which hopefully, will stick out because of that inviting image.
- Software can enhance what you have. You can gussy up those images using graphics-editing software. A good free alternative to Photoshop is available through the website Picmonkey.com. Most PCs also come with Paint installed. Paint is a simple program that can do the job if your graphic needs aren't too complex, Becky says, but you'll be limited in what you can accomplish.
The bottom line is this. You are likely to get more "likes," "shares" and "favorites" — meaning more exposure for your organization’s brand — whenever your social media messages include something enticing to look at other than words.
Marsha Friedman is the founder of pay-for-performance public relations firm EMS Incorporated.