How to use images to boost your engagement

How to use images to boost your engagement

Accompanying your social media posts with on-brand images will have a powerful effect on the level of interaction and engagement you receive.

In our article “How to write content for social media“, we told you that online readers are constantly flooded with information and have shorter attention spans, so you need to give them a reason to stop scrolling and take notice of your post.

You can use creative hooks, facts or questions to grab attention, and as many emojis as you like, but all of the research suggests that posts with images gain far more traction and receive far greater engagement across all platforms than simple text posts.

Visuals are no longer a ‘nice-to-have’; they are an essential, core component of a successful social media post.

Keep it on-brand

Your first thought might be to use generic stock images, because something is better than nothing, right?

Google searches for ‘social media images’ have been increasing year-on-year and return countless results for stock image websites.

Stock images, though, won’t help to set you apart in newsfeeds, and in the worst case scenario will result in you using the same generic images that your competitors have used.

Far better would be to use your own photos and images, which are unique to your brand or organisation.

Including your company logo, brand colours and typography will help to build your brand visibility, and make it simpler for scrollers to identify your posts.

Creating a unifying theme across all of the different platforms that you post on, using the same style and colours, helps to communicate the personality of your brand and convey the impression of your business you’d like to portray.

It’s also important to remember that the type of images you share reflects your brand. You might personally find that meme hilarious, but consider whether that’s the type of content that’s most appropriate for your company page before clicking that post button.

Every time you post on social media, it is an opportunity to communicate the personality, culture and beliefs of your business, and while humour can be extremely effective when used correctly, you should maintain the standards of professionalism that you expect to be upheld in all of the other areas of your business.

Visual processing

The human brain can identify an image that’s been seen for as little as 13 milliseconds, according to MIT research.

The brain is constantly analysing the information it receives from the eyes and trying to make sense of it. The speed that the brain can process information makes it possible to extract meaning from an image really quickly, and your eyes are guided to their next targets multiple times a second.

Now, we’re not suggesting that people are scrolling through social media so quickly that your posts go past in a completely illegible blur, but including an eye-catching image can certainly help to draw attention to your post.

What this means for you is that posts that include images are more likely to be read than posts that are text only.

People attract people

There are a variety of studies that show that social media posts that feature images of people receive more engagement than any other kind of image.

The brain responds differently to seeing faces – a whole section of the brain is devoted to interpreting facial expressions and recognising people.

Likewise, we are evolved to process and analyse emotion, and being able to portray positive emotions with happy or empowering images, for example, means that you’re able to influence the way that the viewer feels and make them more inclined to engage and share.

Pictures help us to remember

When we try to recall information, we are far more likely to recall it if we can associate it with an image.

Research suggests that 3 days after reading some new text-based information, we can only recall 10% of the information that we’ve read. However, if the same information is presented with an accompanying image, we can recall 65% of the information.

This is known as the Picture Superiority Effect.

Let’s share that information with you in an image format – you’ll remember it better.

Memory retention - The Picture Superiority Effect

In the context of creating engaging social media posts, think about using an image to summarise the key content of your post in a clear and concise manner. Viewers will be much more likely to retain the information you share if you share it in a visual format, and they’re much more likely to share it and engage with it.

Use the correct format

Each of the different social media platforms has their own unique user interface and their own rules for the dimensions of the images that they will permit.

Some platforms favour images that are square, others prefer portrait-style images, and on some landscape images are more effective.

The majority of visitors to all social media platforms (including LinkedIn) use mobile devices rather than desktop computers, so in many cases, portrait images are most effective as they take up most of the user’s screen.

Be mindful, though, of how the particular platform you’re using will display the images you upload, especially if you’re posting multiple images simultaneously. Some platforms may display a single portrait image in full, for example, but display multiple images as a gallery in a different format.

If you do intend to upload multiple images simultaneously, you may prefer to use one of the other upload methods available – such as LinkedIn’s ‘Document’ format – to display each image more clearly. (See our article “How to create a LinkedIn Carousel post“).

Find what works for you

As you get more familiar with the tools you can use to create images for your social media posts, you’ll develop a style and personality that suits you.

You may find that illustrations or diagrams are more successful than photos and allow you to convey your own unique illustrative style. Or you may have a particular aptitude for photography and find that your portraits elicit the most engagement.

Monitor the analytics of your posts and try to understand what works well for you and what doesn’t.

The key thing to remember, though, is that posts that are accompanied by some kind of image are provably more effective than simple text posts.

Use images to boost your engagement and spread awareness of your business, its people, and your brand.

Looking for more social media tips? Check out some of our other articles, linked below.

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