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Digital Marketing

How to Use Visuals Strategically in Social Media Marketing

Recent research indicates that incorporating visual content in your social media marketing will encourage engagement and sharing by readers.

  • Social media scientist Dan Zarella found that tweets with images are 60 percent more likely to be retweeted.
  • Facebook posts with photos get 53 percent more Likes, 104 percent more comments, and 84 percent more click-throughs, according to KISSmetrics.
  • Pinterest and Instagram, which are driven by visuals, are now among the Top Five social media sites, says TechCrunch.


Sarah Brown, a social media marketing strategist who formerly provided services to the San Francisco Examiner, writes on LinkedIn (another Top Five site) that visuals are now the norm in communications and 70 percent of all web communications include a visual. Social Media Examiner notes, images and video give life to the product or service you’re selling, brings your brand to life, and can help you customize your message to a specific audience.

Get Permission to Use Visuals

You must get an artist’s permission to use his or her work. Just because an image is on Google Images, doesn’t make it free. Get to know Fair Use laws because more artists are suing when their work is wrongfully used. One way to sidestep this altogether is to check out sites where artists sell their work. Many include video as well as still and special effects graphics. Video can be tweeted, shared on Facebook, added to YouTube, and put on your website

How to Use Visuals in Social Media Marketing

A well planned strategy sits behind every successful marketing campaign. Visuals do well when they enhance content and boost its appeal a notch or two. Before you incorporate visuals into your social media efforts, think about how you want to use it. You can’t just stick a graphic on a page for the sake of adding one. Like anything else on the web, your graphic must be relevant to the rest of the content on the page.

KISSmetrics notes using the wrong graphic or improperly using a good one can turn off readers. Citing research from legendary marketing guru David Ogilvy, KISSmetrics urges web marketers and designers to follow these steps:

  • Use images that are relevant to the content. Otherwise, you will confuse or worse, annoy your readers.
  • Be sure the image is in the right place. Ogilvy’s research found that placing large images over headlines increases readership by 10 percent.
  • Add a caption to images that fall inside the text. Captions are read more often than the content around it. For this reason, the caption must be relevant and drive home the point being made in the content. Plus, captioning helps boost PageRank.
  • Don’t break up the left margin. Most languages read left to right, and we’re conditioned to this.

Make sure your images work well together—you don’t want to have several different moods and looks in one marketing or ad campaign. Your message should be coherent and easy to absorb.

Finally, use images that will download quickly, since many of them are likely to appear on a smartphone or tablet.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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