10 Lessons As We Use Images More and More for Engagement

by Lisa Kalner Williams on May 31, 2012
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images-are-powerfulWith the $1 billion acquisition of Instagram and the meteoric rise of Pinterest, it’s become clear that marketers are paying more attention to images and how they are shared online.

But how might a brand use images to encourage follower feedback, promote social sharing, and drive Web traffic?

These ten tips are a solid place to begin or to review current photo posting strategies.

1. Keep It Current

Think of what people are talking about RIGHT NOW. Have your photo join the conversation.  If you need a clue on hot trends of the moment, go to the Pinterest Popular board or What The Trend site.

2. Tug At The Heartstrings (Or The Stomach)

If you’d like to schedule image-based posts in advance, consider perennial favorites like food, drink, pets or children.

3. Use Your Words

Try contextualizing or adding a touch of humor to your image by superimposing text. Tools like Picfont and ZipMeme Generator can marry image and text for you within a minute.

Elsevier’s Chemistry  (client) Facebook page had stupendous results with this science-inspired joke coupled with the face of the character Howard Wolowitz from the CBS comedy “The Big Bang Theory.”

How well do you think this post would’ve fared if the admin just featured Wolowitz’s face or posted the joke without his mug?

Chemistry Meme Image

4. Be Clear

Once you’ve thought of an idea for a photo and possible accompanying text, ask yourself: Is the quality of this photo and clarity of the text good enough for me to print it up and post it in my cube? If you answer yes, you’re on your way to maximizing the sharing potential of your image. If not, either work on something more suitable — or hold off on engaging via images for now.

5. Give Link Love

If you have an amazing image on your blog or Website page, let your Facebook fans know. Link to it and give the image some extra real estate as the green gossip blog Ecorazzi did with their article on how to grow square watermelons.

How To Grow Watermelons on Ecorazzi.com

6. Keywords ARE Key

Sure, descriptions are not the main draw of an image. But by adding strategic keywords to your image description, you increase the potential for new people to find you via search. On Pinterest and Instagram, use hashtags to optimize your reach.

7. Call For Engagement

After composing a search-friendly description, add a sentence or question to encourage viewers to like, comment, or share the post. Might Pinterest’s commenting rates be so low because so few pinners encourage or come right out and ask for comments? Be one of the brave ones and prompt discussion.

If you plan to post image to drive Website traffic, provide an URL and suggest that followers click through for more information or to purchase.

8. Size Does Matter

Currently Pinterest allows for unlimited length, which many marketers have used for great results. As an end user, I am often not motivated to scroll through long infographic and how tos. But I took a test drive and pinned a long image on 25 animals doing yoga poses. This also made good use of points #2 and #3 above — but its lanky size seems to be the most likely catalyst for an incredible 333 repins and 88 likes. (I typically average 1 repin and 1 like per pin.)

On Facebook, photos can go up to 403 pixels high. Regular and pinned posts do not get resized you post an image taller than 403 pixels — so unless decaptiation is intriguing to your fans, keep to the height guidelines.

9. Crowdsource

Not feeling so “artsy?” Get by with a little help from your Facebook fans. Earlier this month, BlogWorld Expo held a “community meme party” with its fans. They posted a photo of speaker Jason Falls (after getting his permission) and asked their fans to create a meme or joke with it.

Jason Fells Meme on BlogWorld Expo Facebook Fan Page

This example from Christopher Penn gives you a sense of the collective fan creativity and hilarity that ensued.

Jason Falls Meme By Christopher Penn

10. Don’t Dismiss Twitter

Although Twitter is based primarily on text messages, followers appreciate a change of scenery.  What text-based tweet could tap your taste buds like this photo of fresh cupcakes from Portland, Oregon’s Sweetpea Baking Company?

Gluten Free Vegan Cupcakes from Sweetpea Baking Company

How has your business fared in using imagery to promote social sharing and engagement?


Post Author

Lisa Kalner Williams is the founder of Sierra Tierra Marketing, a social media marketing company that provides social analysis, strategy, and instruction to writers, publishers, and educators. She provides social media news and tips to her fans on the

  • Hilarious Jason Falls meme. Great article!

  • Good list. I hate to be a killjoy, but there’s one thing you forgot: copyright. It doesn’t matter if you’re intention is not to infringe or not. If you represent a commercial entity, then you have to pay for the use of the image.

    As an alternative, there’s always the Creative Commons you can turn to (http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons), but your example using Elsevier is a misleading one. Did you get CBS’s permission to post Howard’s photo and remix it using the text that you did? I’m as big of a fan of BBG as the next person, and love the example. But if you don’t pay, you can’t play.

  • Deb Ng

    Thanks for mentioning our Jason Falls meme, probably  my favorite community project to date. I think too many people feel engagement is the brand posing a question while certain members of the community respond.  Doing a meme like this brings the community together and actually extends our reach.We enjoyed it immensely and plan on doing it again.

    Deb Ng
    Director of Community 

  • Copyright is certainly something to keep in mind too, Michael. Although it doesn’t necessarily raise engagement, it is a best practice for sharing photos that are not licensed to you.

    Now you just have to spread the word to weknowmemes, etc.!

  • Thanks, Nick. When you have a chance, you should go to the BlogWorld Facebook page to see the other submissions. Great stuff there.

  • I can’t wait for the next meme, Deb!

  • Amandah

    I agree with Michael about being mindful about copyright infringement. Creative Commons is a good place to find pictures. Or, if your company has an in-house graphic designer, all they have to do is purchase images. I use images from Stock Exchange because they’re free. But I’ll send an email to the photographer or artist letting them know I used one of their photos. I do the same when I use an image in a blog post. I give credit to the artist/photographer.

  • Hi Lisa,

    For example my website Freshome.com is mostly image based and that’s why we’re really popular on Facebook for example ( https://www.facebook.com/freshome ) take a look. People just love to like and share cool images ..it’s a 1 second move.

  • Producing the content with in your targeted keywords and having consistent with your message and that should be very clear and concisely written so that the readers can easily understands that, and call to action with in your article will be very crucial to having convert that in to your real customer.

    Thanks for giving great information. :-)

  • Lisa, I’m not sure I follow. Are you saying that it’s a best practice to share photos that aren’t licensed to you?

  • Erin Larson, Socialot.com

    Thanks for the ideas, Lisa! In your opinion, what works better: totally random image or something (sort of) related to the company/product/message?
    Thanks — Erin Larson, Socialot.com

  • Erin — the closer it gets to the bond you have with your fans, the better!

  • Excellent resources, Thank you so much!