Why Images Are So Important for Social Media Engagement

Why Images Are So Important for Social Media Engagement

You know the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”? The other day, I wondered two things about it:

  1. Where did the saying came from? and,
  2. Is there real research behind it?

A little Google-ing got me the answer to the first. It turns out that its ‘introduction’ is  attributed to Frederick R. Barnard, who published an article touting the effectiveness of graphics over just copy with the title “One Look is Worth a Thousand Words“, in the Dec. 8, 1921 edition of the advertising  journal, Printer’s Ink.

Fred was clearly on to something.

I found the answer to the second question in scads of consumer market research, backed up by my own experience helping businesses get more results through social networking and blogging.

Here’s what the research says:

  • According to Kissmetrics, images on Facebook receive 53% more Likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs on links. 53%! 104%! 84%! That made you sit up, huh?
  • In addition, the most recent Facebook redesign makes images even more important for newsfeed visibility.
  • Research from Buffer shows that using images on Twitter increases retweets by 150% and click-throughs by 18%.
  • PRNewswire found that images included in a press release expand the release’s audience up to 180%.
  • Brain research shows that almost half of our brain is involved in visual processing – and we can make sense of a visual in less than 1/10 of a second! Conversely, on average, we only read 28% of words on any given web page. Ouch.

I’ll say it again. Fred was clearly on to something.

Images used in your social media (and by definition, your blog content) are far more attention-grabbing than text or plain old links, more likely to be shared, evoke emotional reactions in viewers (and emotion SELLS), and can portray a lot of information quickly and more efficiently than text.

Google’s Abigail Posner explains why engaging with an image feels so compelling to us humans:

“When we see or create an image that enlivens us, we send it to others to give them a bit of energy and effervescence. Every gift holds the spirit of the gifter. Also, every image reminds us and others that we’re alive, happy and full of energy (even if we may not always feel that way). And when we ‘like’ or comment on a picture or video sent to us, we’re sending a gift of sorts back to the sender… this ‘gift’ of sharing contributes to an energy exchange that amplifies our own pleasure.”

Convinced? Good. Now, here are a few suggestions on how to execute:

  • Include at least one image in every blog post. Don’t skip this step.
  • I recommend sizing the image(s) to 1/2 the width of your blog post.
  • Make sure your images are high quality and relevant.
  • Edit images using visual design that attracts eyeballs, e.g., the right color, contrast, texture, shape, balance, proportion – here’s a good summary guide from Curalate.
  • Consider adding text to your images and photos – quotes are highly shareable.
  • Even better, use infographics.
  • Use images with personality!
  • If it’s right for your business, collect and post user-generated images.

As to sources for your images, you can 1) create your own – I’ll have more on this in an upcoming blog post – or 2) you can source them online:

  • Creative Commons Images (images that are legal to use in your marketing) – Try Flickr’s Advanced Search. Be sure to check the box to Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content and include a photo credit with images you use.
  • Royalty-Free Stock Photos – Try stock photo sites like Stock.xchng or iStockphoto that have a fair amount of free or low-cost stock imagery to license.

Lastly, to optimize your images for the various social media platforms, try the Social Image Resizing Tool, which has preset image sizing (!) for all the primary social media sites.

And remember Fred. Even back in 1921, he was on to something.