By Tyler Walch

Imagery has become more important than ever for standing out on social media, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to blow your marketing budget on professional photos.

The quality of stock photography has been raised to the point where there are loads of globally-recognized brands posting these images on their social media channels. There’s no reason why you can’t do the same.

Below, we explore the dos and don’ts of using stock photography on social media, so that you can leverage this useful time-saving resource, while maintaining your brand’s professional online presence.

The Importance of Imagery on Social Media

Most online marketers are aware how high-quality imagery helps boost engagement on social media. Brands typically have a split-second to grab a user’s attention as they scroll through their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feeds, and an eye-catching image is a powerful tool to do this. Indeed, recent research suggests that Facebook posts with images receive 2.3x more engagement than those without, while tweets with images attract 2.5x more retweets.

Unfortunately, most small businesses owners don’t have the skills nor the budget to create professional-looking images for every single social media post they publish. It’s probably difficult enough finding the words to fill the recommended 15 daily tweets and 1-3 daily posts on Facebook.

In the past, this conundrum could only be solved by limiting your social media imagery, or using cheap and tacky stock photography. These cliché images are still used by the majority of online publishers, meaning they tend to blend into the noise when posted on social media, as well as diminishing a small business’ brand. Neither option could help businesses compete with the high-budget publishers.

The New Wave of Stock Photography Websites

Thankfully, a new wave of high-quality stock image websites have emerged to help content creators stand out without breaking the bank for original professional photos.

These websites are stacked with images taken by professional photographers in everyday situations, meaning they don’t have the traditional ‘stocky’ or staged vibe. Photos from these websites have been deemed authentic enough to appear on the social media of international brands — even on image-centric platforms like Pinterest and Instagram — without ruining their brand image.

How to Make the Most of High-Quality Stock Photography

The majority of these brands are publishing their own unique photography, while using these stock images as filler to help them updated their social media feeds regularly.

Many brands will use image editing software to ensure stock photos fit in with their brand’s color palette. Others will add their own typography within the image to help them promote an offer or other brand messaging.

Recycle bin company, Rebin, is a great example of a business mixing original images with authentic stock photography on its Instagram page. Pet food company, Blue Buffalo, is another. Check out the cute cuddly pet stock images, it’s added on its Instagram page. For a masterclass in using stock images while maintaining their brand’s color palette, have a browse of the Behr Paint Instagram page.

Promotional vs Lifestyle Social Media Posts

The time-intensive nature of maximizing your social media presence might tempt you to only post promotional content on your feeds. Please, resist the temptation to do this. It’s an ineffective strategy that’ll only serve to put social media users off from following you at all.

It’ll prove far more profitable to fill your social media primarily with content that your audience will appreciate, and only occasionally promoting your goods and services. For more details on how this strategy works, refer to Gary Vaynerchuck’s superb book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

In the book, Vaynerchuck describes value-giving content as ‘jabs’ that soften up your audience by building a strong brand, displaying your expertise, and showing you can be trusted. Once they’ve been substantially softened up, you can line up the ‘right hook’ that is asking for the sale. Make sure you do throw these hooks as well, though. You won’t drive many social media leads if you’re only posting fluffy lifestyle content.

Lifestyle-based stock images allow you to throw jabs on social media almost effortlessly. There are tons of images on this new wave of stock photography websites which help create an aspirational feel for your brand. Use these to your advantage.

More brands are posting more content than ever before, and the bar for what is good enough to stand out has been significantly raised. Now, with the emergence of new and improved stock image services, small businesses can boost their brand image without paying a penny.

Photo credit: Social media news feed from REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock