If you're using social media to push articles, press releases, or any other form of marketing, you need to pair those posts with images. Now more than ever, visual content can make or break your social marketing campaigns. Learning how to pair your campaign posts with the images that pop is vital, and there is certainly a right way, and a wrong way, to choose the right photo.
Stay relevant to your campaign.
Those who are new to social media often mistakenly assume that all pictures are equal in the eyes of the user. Not true - when you post a plug for an article you've written, or a sale that your company is having, the image has to relate to the content, or the two main parts of your social campaign will clash. Yes, photos of cats and dogs are cute, but unless your social marketing campaign is for an animal shelter or pet store, they are irrelevant. I mainly write business advice pieces, and as much as I would love to include that picture of a cat wearing a tie with my social plugs, it is a cheap tactic and readers who would otherwise be interested in my post could pass it over or worse, won't take me seriously. Your social marketing campaign needs to be planned out and focused, so your images need to tie to your ultimate marketing goal - whether it's finding new customers, bringing in readers to your blog, or spreading brand awareness.
Don't rely solely on memes.
I understand why social marketers use memes - I've used them before myself. Much like a well-known and loved brand, a meme carries recognizability and, typically, some sort of positive emotional connection. Take for example the extremely popular "perma-kitten" Lil Bub whose face has launched a thousand memes, a book deal, and a place in the upcoming 2014 Puppy Bowl halftime show. Who doesn't love this kitten? Facebook, as it turns out. Though to be fair, it isn't Lil Bub specifically that's being targeted - Facebook's recent edge-rank update is affecting the use of all memes. These changes gutted organic reach, and made it much harder for businesses marketing on Facebook to get onto their followers' news feeds.
Brand pages that have used memes before were hit particularly hard as Facebook felt meme-based posts were 'low-effort.' Facebook is still the most active social site around, so the changes it makes define the course of social marketing. As such, memes are considered to no longer be useful marketing tools and increasingly, they can also come with some serious copyright problems.
Make sure you have permission to use the images you choose.
Though a culture of 'free' permeates the internet, most images you'll find online are copyrighted. And while fair-use doctrine protects certain uses of these images, the fact that you are using them to market means you need permission to do so. Memes, cartoons, stock images -no one cannot appropriate these images and use them without permission, and if you do, you are at risk of being faced with a lawsuit. Social marketers also can't slightly edit a picture and then claim it as their own - the only legal options to work with here are either use photos in the public domain, or pay for the rights to market with them.
Dimensions and measurements are important
Different posts have different optimal sizes, and while I could spend an entire article on the optimum sizes for images, I'll save some space and hit on the big three - Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Facebook crops posts from your business feed when displaying them on someone else's news feed. Any image you post will be cropped into a 403x403 px image, with the center of the original image remaining the focus - you thus need to choose and design images that take advantage of that size. Twitter crops images attached to shared links to 60x60 px, and shared images are confined to 375x375 px. Finally, Google+ allots a 150x150 px box for images attached to shared links, and 497 x 373 px for shared images. You don't text to be cut off, nor do you want these sites to crop out the main part of your image, so you'll fire up some photo editing software and test how your chosen pictures look with the above constraints.
A picture is still worth a thousand words, but today it's also worth a thousand pins on Pinterest or hearts on Instagram. Any social marketer worth their salt will spend some serious time choosing the perfect images for their campaign and consulting everyone on the choices beforehand on the options. Size, color, and legibility all matter, but so does the image's relevance to, and impact on, your overall campaign. Make sure you have permission to use the photos you like, and then spend some time pairing them with the marketing posts you'd like to plug. The right image will boost your total reach, help ensure your campaign's success, and if it's particularly aesthetically pleasing, may even go viral.