In college, I took my fair share of creative writing courses, and every instructor’s favorite prescription for effective writing was, “Show; don’t tell.” Now, as I examine the evolution of social media, those words ring even truer than they did when I was scribbling my way through sonnet stanzas.

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The Dawn of Visual Social Media

According to Socially Sorted, Pinterest is now the second highest driver of all Internet traffic from social media sites, and YouTube nabs four billion video views per day. Beyond those two visual-centric powerhouses, Instagram—the almighty of social image sharing—has ten times greater engagement than all other social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, according to Business Insider. And users on Facebook—a platform folks typically associate with words—are proving they want visual content:

  • According to HubSpot, “photos on Facebook generate 53% more likes than the average post.”
  • According to Wishpond, photo posts attract 104% more comments than the average post, and photo posts receive 84% more link clicks than text and link posts.

Why You Should Care

Clearly, the age of visual social media is upon us, but why should businesses care? Check out these stats:

  • “A 2012 report by ROI Research found 44% of respondents were more likely to engage with brands who posted pictures on their social media channels rather than any other type of content,” reports Curve by Getty Images.
  • According to a 2013 Pew Research study, almost half of all Internet users have reposted a photo or video found online, and 54% of all Internet users have posted an original photo or video that they created.
  • “Content with relevant images gets 94 percent more views than content without,” and “Tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets,” reports Buffer.
  • About 90% of the information our brains receive is visual, so we’ve trained ourselves to consume that content fast. How fast? According to the Next Web, our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

6 Tips for Being Visual on Social

Alright, you get it. Visuals are essential on social media, and because your rehab therapy practice has social media, you’re ready to jump in and start attaching images to everything you share. But to return to that favorite saying of my teachers, there’s an art to showing instead of telling, and it’s certainly not something you insert all willy-nilly, simply for the sake of having an image. Here are six tips for being visual on social:

1. Make your visuals relevant.

Images should support your brand, meaning they should make a point, add clarity, or enhance your message. As marketing consultant Kathryn Aragon explains, “Content is communication. So every element in your content should help tell your story. If (hopefully) you use images, they should integrate with and support your message.” In addition to sharing “relevant graphics,” the Next Web also provides this essential tip: “When your audience respond or share your content, engage with them and do it quickly.” (And they mean quickly. According to an infographic on Hubshout, 42% of social media users expect brands to respond within one hour; 32% say 30 minutes.)

2. Avoid corny, cliched, or overused stock photos.

This one is a no-brainer. The images you share on social media are directly connected to your brand; make sure you’re presenting yourself in the right light. Personally, I prefer that brands create their own images; however, there’s not always time for that, so when you do need to use stock photos, make sure you thoroughly vet the image. Here are few tips for finding “stock photos that don’t suck” from Mightybytes:

  • Be specific in your keywords.
  • Use search filtering.
  • Dig through several pages of results.
  • Change the order of your search terms.
  • Check out a lot of different sites.

Mightybytes also offers a list of stock photo sites that “don’t suck,” as do product designer Dustin Senos and Design Rope.

3. Skip the click- or share-bait.

Ah, the clicks and shares; we all want them. As businesses on social media, we’re all craving engagement. That doesn’t mean we should settle for just any engagement. It must be the right engagement—meaningful clicks and shares from a relevant audience. As Kathryn Aragon explains, images “aren’t just eye candy, but neither do they need to be there just to encourage sharing or gain some Google love.” To harken back to the first tip, images “should add to the message.”

4. Add words when needed.

Visuals can be quite effective in conveying messages. But let’s face it: sometimes it’s tricky to convey a message in a single image. That’s where words can play a relevant role. According to Socially Sorted, “words can really pack a punch when combined with a great image…or even alone as a text-based image.” Using text-incorporating photo-editing apps (like any of these), you can add text to images; examples include:

  • Adding captions or descriptions to the image
  • Overlaying a call to action
  • Adding a hashtag or your URL

5. Mix it up.

Visuals aren’t limited to images. There are also slideshows, videos, and infographics. Furthermore, if you’re always using Instagram-style images or photos with text overlays or stock photos, then it’s time to break out of your rut and change it up. Never grow stagnant or form a habit of sharing the same type or style of content.

6. Be original.

Under tip number two, I expressed my personal preference for original images. I’m reiterating it here. Eighty percent of Pinterest pins are re-pins; that means only 20% is original content. To quote Socially Sorted, “Be the 20% that gets repinned by 80% of users, by creating your own original content!” Not a designer? Me neither, but I can be artistic every now and again. I’m sure you can be, too. (Or you can certainly inquire with your staff to see if anyone is an amatuer designer or photographer.) Here are my recommendations for help with creating original visuals:

My personal favorites include Canva and PlaceIt. Also, a few not mentioned in the above lists are PowerPoint, Google Drive, and Slideshare. Buffer also shares these tips for effective image creation:

  • Find a good photo filter and use it consistently.
  • Set a color palette.
  • Determine your company’s fonts.

Social Media Image Dimensions

Sharing visual content typically requires formatting, and every social media platform has different image specifications. To make sure your visuals adhere to the appropriate specs, I recommend using one of these dimension guides:

My creative writing instructors equipped me with all the wherewithal to pen fiction and poetry while dodging the trite and cliched. That doesn’t mean all my writing was great or publish-worthy. The same can be said for visuals on social media. When you start using visuals on your practice’s pages, not every visual you share will be a hit; you might not see an immediate jump in likes, shares, comments, and other forms of engagement across all posts and social sites. That being said, consistency and commitment should pay off in the long haul, and with this handy guide, you’re well-equipped to see results over time.

Are you already using visuals on social media? What are your techniques? Share your experiences and advice in the comments below.

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