People buy people: Increase your social media engagement with this picture-perfect tip

People buy people: Increase your social media engagement with this picture-perfect tip

Written by on 10/02/20

The images you use on your social media posts really do matter. As tempting as it can be to pick the first image of ‘grandma on a beach’ to promote your recent retirement guide, studies suggest it is, in fact, worth spending a bit more time thinking things through.

Research by Nielsen has recently suggested that “Creative impact explains up to 50% of ad results’ variance, and yet leaders rarely give it even 5% of their attention.” In other words, we should be putting much closer to 50% of our efforts into finding the right image for our campaigns.

To get you started, there is one image-related secret that research has proven time and time again to increase social media engagement. Here’s how you can implement it today:

Face the facts

People buy people. We like to see and interact with other humans, whether that’s in real life or online. We’re vain like that.

A study by the Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs found that pictures with human faces in are 38% more likely to receive likes than photos with no faces. They’re also 32% more likely to attract comments.

So, at the most basic level, we like to see pictures of faces. But we can do better than that.

Stressed vs smiling

We’ve all seen the flustered businessman with his head in his hands and the elderly woman fretting over her online pension statement; their impending doom supposedly relevant to our situation too.

Unsurprisingly, images of happy people tend to perform much better.

So much of social media is aspirational. Whether it’s our friends on holiday or a celebrity wearing those trainers we’re lusting after, we engage with the aspirational and inspiring more than anything else. We can use that psychology in our own campaigns.

Some research suggests that images of happy women are the best to use in advertising. It makes sense; after all, women engage more than men on social media, so are more likely to engage with images they relate to. Happiness? Go on, we’ll take some of that!

A helping hand

There’s even some interesting research to suggest that images that include just parts of the human body – a hand or an ankle – perform even better than images that include the entire person.

The below is an excellent example. The intended reaction to the image is probably something along the lines of: “How can I feel as free as this individual throwing coffee in the air in the middle of a forest? Do they have no cares in the world? Oh, I have to read this article to find out? Okay, I can manage that.”

If you’re thinking, “what a waste of coffee”, then take heed: this advert/social post is probably not for you. Keep scrolling on your merry way.

Nevertheless, you’ll hopefully agree that the perspective is personable, immersive and creates that promise of adventure and freedom that much of the content we create for our clients is designed to instil.

A final note

Observe the images you engage with on social media. How do they make you feel? What do they contain? Are you seeing people or objects?

Then think about what your target market might engage with: what do they want to see and feel? Bin your assumptions; it’s probably not images of graphs and pie charts.

Whether the content you’re promoting is going to help people feel more calm, free or excited about the future, your image choice should help them get there before they even read the first word.

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Meet the author

Naomi Upton

Naomi has a blend of copywriting and digital marketing experience.

Find out more about Naomi