Do's and Don’ts for Your Best Social Media Images

Corgis, Coffees, and Cheeseburgers - What Works and What Doesn't?

Jeff Enlow

Social media was once a “nice to have” part of your business marketing. Today, it is a vital strategy to promote your business and your website. Pew Research reported that 70% of Americans use some form of social media. But like succeeding with your company, building a successful social media presence requires time, consistency and most importantly: quality.

As thumbs scroll faster and faster, getting those fingers to stop and look at your post is becoming more and more difficult. Not surprisingly, studies show that posts with social media images perform better than text-only. (Videos are even better). Wishpond found that photo posts get 120% more engagement than the average text/link post.

Photos, videos, illustrations, infographics – these visuals are a critical part of your social media, particularly in popular platforms like Instagram.

Stunning, creative content attracts younger customers and increases your brand awareness and brand image. Sprout Social reported that images and videos are the most popular types of content that consumers want to engage with.


Photo posts get 120% more engagement than the average text or link post.

The level of creativity is what makes a brand stand out on social. Strong, creative content is memorable, compelling and gives your brand a distinct personality. It helps you stay relevant, keep your followers, attract new ones, and helps you stay true to your brand. But how do you do it?

First, you need high-quality images. Make sure your social media images are sized correctly for the platform. Online platforms like Canva will give you free templates already sized for various social media channels.

High-quality images mean the images are an appropriate size for the web, the image is well lit and is in focus. The subject matter and composition should match up to the message you want to send. 

How do you know what’s good?

Here are some of my DO's and DON’Ts when using images in social media posts.


DOs for Social Media Images


Be authentic, on-brand, and have a little fun.

Look at your own social media feeds, and you’ll see many images shared by big companies. Some are relevant and tied to their products and services. Some just show that the companies are trying to be what people think they should be on Instagram. That’s a ticket to failure. The most important rule is to be true to your company’s brand image. 

But remember that social media is a place people go to be entertained; so engage with your audience (it is social media after all). For example, Target’s Twitter feed does a great job of using fun images, gifs, and videos of its own people, customers, and products!

Cleverly present the quality of your product. 

Apple social media post

Apple catches your eye with beautiful photos. The caption tells you that it was taken with an iPhone. FOMO anyone?

If you don't have a product to show off, you can showcase your product’s quality with a testimonial from a satisfied customer, a user-generated video of him or her using your product, a new blog post, statistics, or a celebration of a client’s success using your product.

Promote your business with nice-looking photos of actual employees!

This could be employees at work, using your products, personal milestones (if employees approve) or fun team activities. Make sure these photos reflect the philosophy of your company. You also could add a little bit of professional info about the employee, such as “Jennifer is celebrating 15 years with our company!”

Starcrest social media post


Showcase your company’s commitment to giving back to the community
(while staying on-brand)

Allstate social media post

In this Allstate post, the picture says it all; you don’t need to read this post to “get it.” That’s the hallmark of a good photo. This is clearly authentic, well-branded to the company, and conveys a message that the company enjoys community service. 


Avoid Cliches

Boring stock photos like the one aren’t going to stop thumbs from scrolling past your post. This faceless photo is safe and unchallenging, but it says nothing about the company or what the post is about. Would you stop to read this? You may have a post that is clearly relevant to your business, well-done, and straight-laced – Viewers will likely scroll right past it. Safe can be boring. Stand out, don’t blend in.

cliche social media post of suits around a conference table


Evoke a Reaction


Humor, surprise, sympathy, empathy, drama … Don’t be afraid to take some chances with your social media images. That’s how to stand out from others and get likes, shares and comments. 

Harvard Business Review's May/June 2020 cover caught my eye. The photo puts a spin on a typical business professional photo. Notice how the headline and subhead speak to the skills of agility and balance needed in ballet but the same skills area also valuable in business.

The photographer put his or her own pirouette on what could have been a boring photo. If you saw this photo on Facebook or Instagram, would it make your thumb stop?


Go off-brand – every now and then.

This post from Oracle has our team divided. Is this super cute or totally off-brand? Well, both. Oracle is taking full advantage of today’s corgi craze. This image also conveys emotion, evokes a reaction and does pair with the written post. You can see that this post got a lot of likes.

On the downside, it has nothing to do with the company’s reason for being (computers). A little bit of fun and cute is good but can make your company look unprofessional. Too much of this and social media browsers will browse on by.

oracle social media image

Use Short Videos

Videos are a must-have on just about every social media platform. Videos get about 59% more engagement than any other type of post. Make sure you have an image of voiceover to grab viewer's attention within the first 3 seconds.

Think you can’t do video? If you have a smartphone, then it’s as simple as clicking “record” and then “upload”. If you want to get a little fancy, there are lots of free or low-cost online video editors like Adobe Spark where you can add your logo, a little music, and transitions. Again, authenticity doesn't mean that users need a hyper-produced video to feel good about your company. A simple, heartfelt message from your CEO, a story from your customer, or a quick product overview can quickly increase engagement.


Vonage cheeseburger ad

If you've got access to a videographer, get more creative, like this silly but memorable 15-second video where Vonage Communications imagines "if all communications technology was made of cheeseburgers"

DON’Ts for Social Media Images

Don't Post Random Stock Photos With No Caption.

We have a love/hate relationship with stock photos. Authenticity is key, especially on social media. Still, stock photos are a necessary evil when you don’t have a professional photographer close by.  

The good news is there are lots of free and low-cost options for stock photography, including some that offer quirky takes on photos like Unsplash has trendy stock photos, including an entire section on Covid-19-related photos. Carefully choose photos that make sense for your business and your message.

And if you’re using a free stock photo site, read the terms of use and make sure the photo website is really free for commercial use. A little attribution and/or permission requests never hurt.

stock photo social media post

Don't Post About “National Whatever Days” That Have Nothing to Do With Your Business.

clip art social media post

National Days with trending hashtags can be an easy way to get exposure— but don’t jump on every bandwagon. Strategize these for when they apply to your brand. For this post about National Christmas Card Day, you risk alienating customers who don’t celebrate Christmas.

The card pictured in the post could be a good fit for a coffeehouse but not for this company that specializes in heating and cooling. Take a few minutes to be creative. 

For example, if your CEO has a table full of Christmas cards – snap a funny pic of her buried under them. If you’re a tech company, post your company’s wow-inspiring e-card or video.

This post did try to spur engagement by asking viewers to post some favorite cards. That seems like a lot of work for me, the social media user. What’s the payoff? If you’re going to ask people to make an effort, make it worth their while by making it part of a coupon, giveaway, or contest.


Don’t Use Clip Art

Clip art is a clear sign of an amateur using social media. It's definitely not something professional companies should use. While illustrations are trendy, there’s a difference between well-done, intentional icons and free, cheesy clipart. People can tell -- and they’ll judge you for it. 

For example, a bank posted this graduation illustration to talk about an upcoming employees' “Jeans Days” at work to benefit scholarships.

A better post would have been after the day, with real photos of happy employees wearing jeans for a good cause, noting the amount of money raised for the scholarships. That would illustrate a message of community service and a fun, positive work environment useful for recruitment efforts. 

clip art social media post


Remember the Ultimate Goal

What's social meda for? It's to build a community of people to partner with your company as customers, clients, and supporters. Social media is a place where people want to belong to a group and community. Make your brand one that they are proud to join.

The ultimate goal of social media photos is engagement. Post something that is so incredibly funny, happy, sad, interesting, extraordinary, that your users will want to respond to it: like, comment, or the best thing: Share it. 

Of course, not every post can do that. Chalk up most to window dressing. But have a goal in mind to create at least one extraordinary post a week or a month. Be sure to link to a product page, signup sheet, a form or some other engaging content on your website -- your most important online marketing channel.

If you want help crafting social media images, posts or strategy, contact LRS Web Solutions.;;;;

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