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The following excerpt is from Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing by Eric Butow, Jenn Herman, Stephanie Liu, Amanda Robinson and Mike Allton, available August 25 via Entrepreneur Press. Pre-order now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books.
Images rule on social media. If you don’t have a great image to include with your content, then you don’t have a useful post that will generate attention and conversions. Thankfully, that’s easily remedied. There are basically three ways that you can generate great images for social media:
- Purchase images.
- Create graphics.
- Photograph your own.
Let’s explore all three.
1. Purchase Images
Now, when we talk about purchasing images, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be expensive. There are even places you can get images for free, but they have to be designated as available for your use. Using Google’s image search is not acceptable unless you go to Google’s advanced settings and scroll down to set parameters for usage rights to be “free to use or share, even commercially.” Even then, be careful! Being sued for copyright infringement is not fun, and you could get in trouble for using an image that someone else illegally shared. It is worth the effort to use those other sites.
Related: 5 Ways to Step into TikTok
Pixabay, for instance, is a great place to source free imagery that you can use in your marketing and social media posts. However, any time you use an image, you are typically required to give credit to the source of that image, which may or may not be convenient. Instead, we recommend purchasing images from repositories like Shutterstock, iStock or Depositphotos.
Usually you can invest in “credits” upfront and use them to buy and download images whenever you need. This is particularly convenient when a site offers a sale on bulk credits at a discount, so watch for those!
There are two major benefits to buying images. First, you’re purchasing the right to use that image on social media and in marketing materials, so you know all your activities will be legal. Second, by paying for an image, you’re adding a layer of exclusivity to your design. More people will be likely to use a free image, meaning there’s a greater chance of that photo turning up in someone else’s marketing. By paying for your image, you make that less likely. (You also know that the image you’re paying for will be high-quality.)
2. Create Graphics Yourself
The second option is to create the graphics yourself. We’ll go into some tools you can use for this in a moment, but the idea is simple. Instead of a picture someone else took, you can create a graphic that uses shapes, textures, icons and text to communicate your message. These can be as simple as a few words of text on a white background, or as complex as a tall infographic that illustrates a series of facts and figures to tell a story.
While you will obviously need a minimal level of design skill, this is an approach that is worth exploring!.You can also consider using an outside graphic design service or working with a freelance designer from Fiverr to create one or more images or even templates for you to use again and again.
3. Shoot Your Own Photos
The third approach, and perhaps the best one, is to create your own photography images. This is an inexpensive way for you to create amazing images that align perfectly with your brand.
All it requires is a camera — these days your smartphone will do just fine — and some forethought. What can you photograph? What will you be talking about on social media where specific images would be a great addition?
If you’ve never done much photography, take a day to watch some YouTube videos on composition and techniques, particularly those related to your camera of choice. Peter McKinnon is one of our favorite photographers to follow; you’ll learn a lot from his videos.
Here are 10 things you might consider photographing for your posts:
2. Your staff.
3. Your business and facilities.
5. Your city.
6. Your customers.
7. Your target audience.
8. Your hobbies and interests.
10. Your industry.
Related: 3 Kinds of Social Media Marketing You Shouldn’t Ignore
For instance, with a newer iPhone in portrait mode, you can capture some amazing close-up images, allowing the phone to automatically apply bokeh (blur) to the background, giving the item you’re photographing additional focus.
Routinely taking an hour or two for business photography can create a library of “stock photos” that will last you and your brand for years.