If a picture is worth a thousand words and an Instagram photo is apparently worth a billion to Facebook, where does that leave the stock photo? Somewhere in the middle ground to be sure, but that doesn't mean that you can't use that neutral space to work to your advantage with your social media outlets.
The stock photo, for anyone unsure of the concept, is a photograph that is purchased and licensed for specific purposes online. If you need an image to accompany a written article and you don't have one that you own or that you have permission to use, the stock photo is the way to go because for a small fee you can buy a professional picture and have the right to use it in whatever capacity you see fit (to a point though that I'll touch on in a moment.)
For a lot of us, these stock photos make great visuals for a blog post or an online article. Unfortunately not all stock photos are created with that purpose in mind. The best example is the women laughing alone with salad meme- confusing much? What are they even laughing about and how can you begin to use this picture for anything? Even more baffling beyond the photo itself is the usage. Ever go to a blog and read a semi-decent post there but see an image included that has been poorly photoshopped or just randomly chosen? How does it make you feel about the post after? Will you be returning to this blog again? If you're questioning this, chances are the picture is doing its job of being worth more than you thought it was and balancing against the thin line between making and breaking your blog for you.
You Need a Picture, Period
And if you can, include multiple pictures to break up long paragraphs with or a slideshow of images. As a society accustomed to reading and getting our information in shorter and shorter doses, visuals help to illustrate what we're about to read just as fast as a brief summary will. The better the picture, the more we're drawn to click the link and read on. This is especially true when posting your link onto Facebook or LinkedIn where a tiny thumbnail of your picture will show up next to the post link. Choosing not to include an image may hurt the amount of times people decide to click the link and find out more.
You Get What You Paid For
Quality will always trump quantity and when it comes to your blog, you want to push for quality in all aspects from design to content. Signing up for an account with paid stock image websites like iStockPhoto or Shutterstock may come with a price but the small fee is well worth it in the end because these pictures are professionally shot and come in varying resolution degrees to best fit your blog. Going with a free stock image website is also another option but it's a small pool to swim in for high quality pictures.
It's an Instant Conversation Starter
A great stock photo will draw you in to read the article. A poor one will make you dismiss it. And an absolutely ridiculous one, like the included women eating salad picture above, can be made into a meme at the snap of your fingers. Flattery and a great image can get you everywhere but the memes are worth 15 minutes of fame at best.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation, an online filing services company that specializes in incorporations and LLCs. Find her online at mycorporation.com and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.