Typically funding and budgets for social media departments go towards helping to pay for Facebook advertising, tickets to various social media conferences, and additional marketing initiatives whenever needed. Not often is it taken into consideration that part of that budget should be set aside for a paid stock image account, but it should be considered a high priority for company social media departments. These accounts serve as major investments for both businesses and their blogs, and are worth every credit spent for the following three reasons.
1) By creating said account, you have the right to publish these images.
Once you create an account with a paid royalty free stock image site like iStockPhoto or ShutterStock, the images you download belong to you and can be used anywhere you like, whether that means within a published blog post, editorial piece (which these sites also include available options exclusively for), or within the company newsletter. The same can't be said for lifting a photo via Google Images or through Tumblr, saving it, and then uploading the picture into your system for publication. If you can't cite your source, don't put the picture on your website or blog as doing so may land you in some hot water if the original poster finds that you're infringing on their pictures without permission.
Don't assume that including a link back to the original source (if you find it) is also an acceptable move either, especially if you plan on publishing this picture. As mentioned in an article on AGBeat about the right ways to use photos online, this tends to be only acceptable for educational purposes such as during a webinar or presentation.
2) The options are endless (and the price is right!).
From photos to illustrations to videos and music (yes, there are stock options available for the latter two!), you won't find yourself running into a situation where you can't find a picture to go with your post with the thousands of stock options readily available in a variety of sizes and pricing ranges. For blog posts, I tend to get the photo sizes that are extra small - despite the name; they're often much bigger when uploaded in a blogging platform like Wordpress which allows you to resize the photo. They're also priced at the most affordable range amounting at no more than 5 credits per image.
I also recommend reusing the pictures you've purchased on a rotating basis instead of buying a new one every single time. If you have the budget to do that with your business' blog, great! But if not, make careful purchases with photos you know you can use in additional posts and keep them all in a shared folder file for the rest of your team to dip into and use.
3) Free stock images vs. paid pictures
"But why should I buy pictures when there are also free stock image sites I can use instead?" I haven't come here to bury the free photo sites because for beginner businesses just starting out, because they're quite helpful in a pinch. But I will say that as far as options go in content, quality, and variety, you're drastically limited on a free stock photo website. For a business that strives to be viewed as at the top of their professional game, or has a lot of competition and needs to set their company apart from the rest, it's well worth the investment to look into paying for your stock photos, illustrations, videos, and music!
(image: blogging with stock photos / shutterstock)