It's no secret that the key to a successful social media strategy is to show, not tell. Not only is our audience 4x more likely to remember visual content than they are text, they're quicker to click on it, too; adding an image link to your tweet can increase engagement by a whopping 200%. People have always been visual learners, but with numbers like that, marketers are starting to do something about it.
Luckily, it's never been easier to get visual on social. The popularity of image-based networks like Instagram and Pinterest has forced more traditional platforms like Twitter and Facebook to accommodate for visual content. Now, most platforms have the option to directly attach an image to your tweet, status update, or post, making it seamless for marketers to boost social activity. But while marketers are embracing visual content in their social media efforts, their approach doesn't always fit the bill. Literally.
One not-so-seamless result of this visual shift is that social networks now have custom image dimensions. The size of profile pictures, cover photos, and embedded images varies from Twitter to Facebook to Google+ to LinkedIn. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses missed the memo. Whether they're too small, like this tweet from Walmart, or so big that the display text is misleading, wrong-size images can distract from your content, instead of complementing it.
I know that for marketers, thinking in "pixels" doesn't always come naturally. But we can't ignore the fact that social media platforms come in different shapes and sizes, otherwise we might compromise our audience's experience. Instead of creating one-size-fits all content, start customizing images and visuals to boost their impact across the board:
Social media is moving faster than ever, and the size of your following can have a direct impact on just how much information you can actually consume on social media. Including relevant images in your social media posts can actually help your audience understand what they're looking at, quickly, and gauge whether or not they're interested in giving you what you're looking for: A click. The same way you'd faster open an email with an enticing subject line than one with no subject line, your audience is more likely to engage with a post that's visually appealing as opposed to one that's not. Part of creating-visually appealing posts is resizing your images correctly for each social network to get the most out of using images. Jeff Bullas' social media image size guide gives you the dimensions you need for each of your social networks.
Great marketers are great storytellers. This doesn't always translate directly into being good "writers," per se; although that's certainly a handy skill. Part of being a great storyteller is knowing what assets to pull from your marketing toolbox to get your point across. Using visuals in your social media marketing helps tell your story and helps your audience understand it faster, every single time. Brands are in constant competition for eyeballs on social networks. A study by Socialbackers.com found that posts with photos accounted for 87% of total interactions across 30,000 Facebook brand pages. It's clear that pictures allow your audience to imagine how your service or product could be used in their own life, and there's no story more powerful than that.
While the battle among marketers for the number one search result in Google rages on, marketers need to have effective SEO strategies in place to stay in the game. The best part of this is that, most of the time, it's a level playing field for all marketers who want to optimize for SEO. Using a channel like social media for an SEO boost is not only practical but also powerful when adding images into the mix. Including relevant alt and meta tags as well as a title and file name on images made for social media is a habit marketers can get into that complements the SEO they're already doing for their website and blog. Each social network allows for different tagging systems, and marketers should be considering their images on social media as part of practicing good SEO habits.
Trends in social media marketing will come and go, just like trends in other industries. However, this shift to towards a more visual internet isn't a trend. It's a fundamental shift in the way people consume content on the web. Brands using visuals in their marketing aren't considered to be ahead of the curve anymore, but that doesn't mean everyone is doing it -- mostly because it is pretty hard. Trying to keep up with each platform's image dimensions and changes can be a full time job. That's why we at HubSpot just created an image editor built into our inbound marketing software to make these best practices easier to implement. Having image editing options baked into your marketing tools gives marketers what they need without any extra apps.
At the end of the day, social media is about building your brand and your business by engaging in relevant conversations with your prospects and customers. Promoting an image on social media that's the wrong size or proportion for that network shows your customers you didn't care enough to figure it out. So, while optimizing your images for each channel may seem like one extra task on your already endless to-do list, never fear. As marketers, we know the truth: Our to-do lists are just for organization, because marketing never stops.