How To Use Images Successfully On Social Media Sites

Images for Social Media News

Images are one of the most popular forms of social media news content for a variety of reasons. This form of media is easily consumed, transfers information quickly, usually requires less reading and can project a great deal of information (many times more so than text). People are busy and not willing to give away their time unless they know something is worth it. Images require a very low time investment, making them a medium that will never die.

Almost any business can make this social media medium work in its favor, and the results from a successful social media campaign that utilizes images can be fairly impressive.

General Tips

Use image sets

For targeted content, try using groups of images rather than a solo image. A group of images should help to provide visitors with more comprehensive content, which many times can garner more social votes (example).

Tastefully mark original images

If your content is original, feel free to place your URL in the bottom right of the image. Images are the easiest form of content to steal, so marking these images can help to get your brand some visibility for your content. Warning: Excessive watermarking and labeling will be detrimental to your campaign’s success! Use in moderation.

Use large images

The largest images possible should be used for social media news. Small and low-res images can get a great deal of negative comments and cost you votes. Don’t know what size image to use? Always default to the largest possible (800px wide max).

Use same size images

If you have multiple images, or an image set, use the same size for each image. This gives your article a more professional feel and gives the submissions a much more uniform look. Never use a jumble of different image sizes; your story will look much more amateur.

Use image categories

Always submit images to the proper category/type. Images on Digg should be submitted as an image. Reddit should be placed into the PICS category.

Use a host for images

Amazon’s S3 and Flickr Pro are some options that will help keep your server from kicking the bucket.  Large images or image sets can really be a burden for a server that is getting hit with the Digg-effect.

Funny Images

Funny images are easily the most popular images found on social media news sites and traditionally are the best topics for garnering votes. Social media users don’t appreciate funny content being mixed with news/informational content, so these images should always be submitted into the humor/funny category, regardless of the content of the picture. (Example: a funny picture of a world leader should be placed into ‘Humor’ rather than ‘World News.’)

If you’re creating the image from scratch, a few things should be taken into consideration.  “Internet speak” should be used for captions, and if drawing or Photoshopping an image, the quality of drawings should either be tremendously high (example), or extremely low (example) – anything in between will seem awkward.

Nine examples of ‘Funny Images’ to use in social media:

  1. Perfectly timed photo -  Photos that look like something is happening that really isn’t – (example)
  2. Cartoon – Humorous cartoons, web cartoons often lack detailed drawings – (example)
  3. Sequencing – Taking a series of pictures and inserting a twist somewhere – (example)
  4. Captioned Photos – Adding ‘internet dialog’ to a cute/funny photo – (example)
  5. Screenshots – Something you see on your computer that makes you laugh will probably do the same for others – (example)
  6. Fake Screenshots – Made up web pages/programs – (example)
  7. Photoshop – Creating something absurd or funny – (example)
  8. Real Life Happenings – Anything that makes you LOL will probably do the same on the web – (example)
  9. Mashups – A take-off on a current internet meme – (example)

Photography Images

Social Media users love good photography. The key is that the photography has to be excellent; low-quality photography doesn’t usually fare well. By creating image sets photography can generally do much better.

Three types  of ‘Photography Images’ for use in social media:

  1. Nature – Capturing nature’s beauty on film – (example)
  2. HDR – High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography; can make breathtaking pictures – (example)
  3. Space – Images that are out of this world, literally – (example)

Design Images

Design has been a staple in social media news sites, and there are sites dedicated solely to this subject.  Design related images should be extremely high resolution, and the content should be truly extraordinary. Image sets also work well in the design space.

Four examples of ‘Design Images’ typically used in social media:

  1. Digital Art – Something that has been digitized or original digital creations – (example)
  2. Graffiti – Tasteful, extremely creative or funny tagging – (example)
  3. Web Design – Extremely good (or bad) websites – (example)
  4. Fonts – Using fonts to illustrate a current event or happening – (example)

Informative Images

These images should get social votes because they provide value. The key for these images is to be easy to consume and to be comprehensive. The images should not only be helpful, but should also be designed well. Great design can make an ordinary informative image turn into an essential resource.

A guide to ActionScript should be able to be printed without cropping, and a keyboard guide to Photoshop should fit on your keyboard.

Six formats of ‘Informative Images’ that work in social media:

  1. Charts/Graphs – Anything that visually shows interesting statistics – (example)
  2. Flow Charts – Helpful (or funny) charts that explain the process of something visually – (example)
  3. How-To’s – A sequence of events showing how something works – (example)
  4. Maps – A geographic look at a something specific – (example)
  5. Screen Shots – A visual screen-by-screen guide on how to accomplish something – (example)
  6. Guides – A helpful list that incorporates all aspects of a specific task – (example)

Unbelievable  Images

This is the hardest category to create/find images for. The goal of any image in this genre is to astound, and to do this, these images need to be (or look) 100% true. A photoshopped image in this category should have a goal of being passed off as something that looks perfectly believable. Aggregating these forms of images is exponentially easier than creating new original content.

Three types of ‘Unbelievable Images’ that score in social media:

  1. Action Shots – Photography that captures the essence of an event – (example)
  2. Photoshopped Images – Unbelievable images altered so well that they could pass as being real – (example)
  3. Caught on Film – Crazy acts found on the web showing actions caught in real life – (example)

News Images

These types of images are either news, or backup/confirm news. These images are not easy to create, but can bring a great deal of buzz and links if done well. A good format for using these images to drive traffic would be to create collections of content (i.e., images from Plane in Hudson).

Four uses for ‘News Images’ in social media:

  1. Exclusives – Images that are exclusive to your site – (example)
  2. Breaking News – Images that confirm and reveal a current event – (example)
  3. Follow-Up to a Major News Story – Pictures that support or confirm current news – (example)
  4. Historical – Photos from an earlier time period that are unique and interesting – (example)

Overall, images are one of the most powerful types of content for social media news sites. Their ability to be quickly consumed and to tell a story better than words makes them ideal for social consumption.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social


About The Author: is the Chief Marketing Officer for Cypress North, a company that specializes in social media and search marketing services and web-based application development. He has been in the Internet marketing industry for 6+ years and specializes in Social Media Marketing. You can also find Greg on Twitter (@gregfinn) or LinkedIn.

Connect with the author via: Email


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  • chiropractic

    Great post and excellent examples. Got me thinking about living at the beach. Too much missed photo opportunity.


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