For many small businesses sharing photos of the products and services they sell and/or develop plays an important part in building and solidifying their base of fans, potential and existing customers, on Facebook. Photos alone won't build your fan base but they will help, especially if they accompany posts that are interesting to your fans/potential fans.
Some businesses are particularly well suited to take advantage of this opportunity. For instance, realtors, hair stylists, estheticians, travel agencies, pet stores and veterinarians, grocery stores, photographers, bakeries, sporting goods stores, environmental organizations, art studios, coffee shops and restaurants, home renovators, electricians, retail outlets, museums - the list goes on and on.
Any business that is able to visually capture images (photographs, drawings, etc.) that relate to what they do can use these images to their advantage on Facebook. Essentially, to tell your story with a picture rather than with a thousand words.
Images are more likely to grab our attention and create an emotional response. Words can do the same, once people have delved into reading what has been written, and assuming it is interesting to them. The challenge is to get people's attention so that we stand out from the crowd, so that they give us a second look as a product or service provider. A visual image can help do this.
In late August Facebook made it possible for users to add bigger photos (720 pixels to 960 pixels) that load twice as fast to their posts. The photos are displayed in a higher resolution too. (You can use images that are not photos by saving them in a compatible format for Facebook.)
Facebook's press release said the changes provide a "more streamlined photo viewer that features a cleaner interface that makes it even easier to enjoy your photos. The light box is now set against a simple white background that puts more of the focus on the photo, and less on the surrounding frame."
Consider realtors, bakeries, fine art studios or pet stores for example. Can you imagine how one or a group of three photographs can make a difference in their Facebook posts? Fresh bakery items on display with a one liner about a special on scones and cinnamon buns? A new real estate listing featuring a few photos of the home plus a line or two detailing it's features? Cute puppy photos with information about a special on grooming or pet food supplies?
An interesting tidbit of written information may or may not grab someone's attention but add photos to the mix and the odds of it consciously 'being seen' go up exponentially. A picture is worth a thousand words. (A recent blog by Joe Pelizzi on new research by Skyword found that business-oriented web pages with images performed 91% better than those pages without images.)
When publishing three (or more) photos to Facebook, one photo appears larger and more prominent and two more photos appear smaller and to the right of the large photo. The smaller photos are roughly one quarter of the size of the larger photo. The impact of this type of visual spread with good images can be quite significant.
The purpose of the images is to not only grab someone's attention for a second but to grab it in a way that they consciously look at what you've posted - including any interesting information that goes along with the photo. Essentially, when you do this, you increase the possibility of fan's engaging with your brand.
Depending on the business, like a fine arts store or bakery, the images alone may be enough to create an awareness and emotional response with your fans. Ideally, initially, to engage them in such a way that they like, comment or share the post so that it is then viewed by their friends. Long tern, so that the initial engagement over time results in them becoming your brand advocates and raving fans.
Personally, when I find a business or person whose posts are more often than not interesting, I will start to 'look' for their thumbnail, unconsciously, when scanning my news feed.
This latter point highlights the need to ensure your Facebook 'thumbnail' image is distinct enough so that when it is viewed in the news feed of fans and friends it is recognizable and distinct.