You’ve heard it said that images and videos are the golden ticket on social media. Well, I must say I disagree. Good images are the ticket. That one little modifier—good—qualifies the whole idea. From Snapchat to Instagram to Twitter to Facebook, there are enough bad images floating around out there to make me want to scroll faster every time I get online. But take heart, finding good images and shooting good video are both within your grasp. Let’s take a look at 11 easy fixes to help you avoid the ho-hum of bad images on social media.
1. Make sure you use an image cheat sheet. Image holes vary so drastically from platform to platform that you need a guide to help you showcase your photos well. You want to avoid the cut-off heads and thumbnails with no clue of content. Some platforms have preview windows so make sure the best piece of the image shows in that window. Become an expert at cropping your images with a tool like PicMonkey (free) or Photoshop (paid). When I Googled “social media image cheat sheet 2015,” I got over two million results. Make sure you stay current—these sizes change from time to time. The few minutes it takes you to find and crop images for your various channels will be well worth it. Here’s one I have on my bookmarks bar from visual.ly.
As you can see in the example below from Twitter, preview windows often cut off any desire for users to click through as there is no clue what the image is about. Also, another fail here is a graphic that is vertical. Most social media platforms are wired for horizontal holes. Take the time to produce an image that will invite click throughs.
Clicked through image:
2. Take some time to learn how to shoot good photos. It won’t take a lot of time, but the investment in producing good images will pay off in more social sharing. You don’t have to become an expert photographer, but just get a basic understanding of framing, composition, lighting, background, and resolution.
2. Find some good tools for producing graphics. Not everybody can afford to hire a graphic artist. But tools like Canva (free) make it super easy to put together decent looking graphics. Canva also has an excellent tool called Design School that will teach you the basics of putting together a good graphic. Microsoft Publisher and Apple’s Pages are also good basic tools, but lack some functionality you may need. Give them a try and see if they work for you.
3. If you need stock photos for promotions or presentations, you will have to spend some money. Marketers know they are going to have to pay for important images. When it comes time to pick an image for a client’s work project or an important presentation, you’ll need to go to Shutterstock, istockphoto, Fotolia, or another site. There are several free image sites, but be careful. The quality and sizes might not fit your needs (see next point).
4. Avoid using pixelated images in graphics. Don’t be one of those people who takes a 200 by 300 pixel free jpeg image and blows it up to 600 by 900. What you’ll get is a mess that screams, “I don’t want to take the time to do this right.” It looks like a lazy afterthought. Oh, and I’ve been there and done that.
5. Keep promotional videos short. Many of us use video these days to promote. These can be useful how-to videos, interviews, sports highlights, product launches, whatever. When I say short, I don’t mean Vine short (six seconds), but definitely think of television as your guide. Are you selling something, putting together a trailer, an event promotion? Make it less than 60 seconds.
6. Write a script and shot list (or storyboard) for your videos. It solves the guesswork issue and forces you to create a logical, engaging story. Even if it is just highlights from a press conference, it needs a beginning, middle, and an end for users to have a good experience. If you plan to use a lot of video, I recommend taking a short course or read a book on how to do it well. All these investments in your skill will pay off. The storyboard doesn’t have to be a formal, long document complete with pictures like this excellent (short) tutorial uses, but suffice it to say you need a plan to produce a good video. Start by just jotting the sequence down to make sure it flows. It will also save you time when you’re shooting the video whether it’s on your phone or a video camera.
7. Invest in a good intro/outro for your promotional videos. There are a number of companies that make customized video intros and outros for a lot less money than you think. I’ve used both IntroChamp and Splasheo. I know that Fiverr also has the service as well.
8. Always honor copyrights and usage terms. It’s really tempting to steal images off the internet, but don’t do it. If you are Googling pictures to use, make sure you don’t use copyrighted images without permission. Attribute sources and follow Creative Commons practices if needed.
9. When taking pictures of people, please make sure you can see their face and eyes. This wouldn’t apply to crowd shots obviously, but some people use crowd shots when they should be using an image with two or three people from the waist up. If you want to convey emotion, there is nothing better than a face to do that. Also, avoid “ants on the field” in action pictures and the backs of people—unless that is your subject.
10. Take it easy with animated gifs. ‘Nuf said.
11. Always be thinking about the emotional reaction your image will solicit. Ask yourself what message will people take away from this picture–is there any emotion attached? Have you hooked their interest or given them something entertaining?
Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to stage good pictures. Some people think that feels fake, but that’s really nonsense. A good staged picture looks organic. Posing and staging are not the same thing. If you missed a great moment, try to recreate the moment. It will pay big dividends in social sharing. And isn’t that what we’re all aiming for?
Others in the series: