“An image is worth a thousand words” is an old saying, but one that is backed up by a wealth of evidence. Buffer found that, on Twitter, tweets with images received a lot more engagement (18% more clicks, 89% more favourites, and 150% more retweets) than those without; and research by BuzzSumo found that, on Facebook, updates with images received 2.3 times more engagement.
Of course, accompanying content with an image is not a new thing - a previous Ember blog looked at how our brains respond particularly well to visual information - but making visually compelling content is about more than just finding a picture to complement and bolster the text. There are a number of considerations that should be taken into account:
There are numerous websites where high quality stock images are both free and searchable, and you can almost always find something appropriate for your needs. However, their ease of access and versatility means that these images are now fairly ubiquitous.
When it comes to trying to stand out from the crowd, a little bit of creativity and authenticity can go a long way. One academic study analysing images on Facebook found that “brightness, clarity, liveliness and ingenuity of images turned out to be positively associated with the number of likes”; so images that are both visually and creatively striking (maybe with a playful sense of humour, too) can help endear your brand to audiences.
When considering aesthetics, it’s most important to remember that consistency can do wonders for a brand. It’s almost impossible to think of Apple without thinking of their neat minimalist style of design, just as Coca Cola instantly brings to mind their iconic red and white colour scheme. In both cases, these simple and distinctive styles are carried through to much of the brands’ respective social media output, guaranteeing easy identification and memorability.
In terms of what to consider with your own visual aesthetic, there has been a lot of interesting research into what specific qualities can factor into driving user engagement with images. When looking at what drives engagement on Instagram, Curalate - as well as reiterating the benefits of brightness and clarity - also found, for example, that images with a more complex level of textural detail (like the photograph below) generated a huge 79% more likes than those without.
Of course, what works on one platform may not necessarily resonate in the same way on another. It is particularly interesting to compare Curalate’s aforementioned study on Instagram with their earlier study on Pinterest images, to see how much their results differ:
What this shows is that different platforms are used for different reasons. As a more primarily visual platform, for example, users on Instagram may look for more artistic or aesthetically striking images, whereas more generalised “social hubs” like Facebook and Twitter may be a better space for playfulness and humour.
When an image is worth a thousand words, it’s important to know what you’re saying. Considering the above points can help ensure that your visual output is as engaging, clear, and informative as your text-based content.