Interesting Ways To Use Images To Upgrade Your Social Media Strategy

A social media specialist shares his favorite techniques for creating professional, social media-ready images.

If there’s anything pretty much every social media expert agrees on, it’s the importance of good content.

Advertising budget or not, if you want to truly get the most from social media marketing, you have to have something interesting to share with your audience. Sounds simple; make good content, be better at social media.

Sure, simple in theory, but who has the time and resources to constantly create new, interesting, and engaging content every single day? That’s where being smart with images and media comes in.

Here are some tips I’ve found handy for all those times when I need something quick and effective to get people interacting on social.

Finding images

Before we get into how to use them, it’s important to think about a few things when picking your images. One of the single most important things to consider is whether or not you actually have permission to use the image you’ve chosen. It’s common on social media for people to share images without checking whether they’ve actually got the right to use them, but a little bit of caution and due diligence helps make sure the image creator is treated with respect and you don’t put your business at risk of legal action for using someone’s else’s work without permission.

Photos from Humankind collection on Envato Elements.

There are free options which vary wildly in quality and how much freedom you have to use them in your creative projects. Some of these will require you to give explicit attribution and some won’t, while some will limit how you use the image. Basically, the trade-off when using free images is that you have to spend a lot more time researching and making sure you understand the permissions and restrictions behind each image you use.

A better option is licensing stock photos. For my daily work I use Envato Elements (obviously), because it’s a simple subscription and I can just jump in and grab the photos I need whenever I want. This takes away a lot of extra work and frees up time I might have otherwise spent searching multiple image libraries and researching each source’s licensing terms. The other advantage to subscribing to a service like this is getting access to a lot of the tools I’ll be discussing below. Getting the right image is only half of the equation; you also need to have the tools to make your images unique.

Three styles to get you started

In my opinion, these are the three of the easiest and most effective ways you can do something extra with your images, regardless of your skill level.

1. Pull-quotes

This is probably one of the simplest pieces of content you can build, and done well is a great way to get people interacting. Whether you choose to take a more serious, inspirational tone or have a little fun and share something amusing, you’ll always be able to find something suitable said by someone else to use for your own content. Depending on the quote you use, these images also give you a range of options when posting. For example, you could post a quote from an expert in your industry, and ask your followers if they agree or disagree with the statement to get them engaging even more with your post.

At its core, making a pull-quote is just selecting an image and adding a text overlay. How complex you choose to make it is entirely up to you. Think about how the quote you’ve picked will work with the font and image you plan to use. If you’ve picked a quote about the beauty of minimalist design, you’ll probably want to avoid a busy, crowded photo paired with an intricate script. Instead, you may opt for a simple gradient background, or a slightly abstracted geometric image, with a clean and simple minimalist font over the top. If you’re not 100% sure at first, play around with a few options until you get that perfect look. And if you’re stuck for inspiration, go on the hunt for fonts. Many font creators will use quotes to show off their work.

These font previews provide a couple of handy examples to get you started:

Preview of font "Fibre"

Preview of “Fibre” by WildOnes

Preview of font "Dreamscape"

Preview of Dreamscape by aarleykaiven

2. Photoshop actions

Sometimes a photo on its own isn’t quite enough, and you want to add that extra kick to really make your images stand out. If you’re not an advanced Photoshop user, this can be a daunting task, and that’s where Photoshop actions come in handy. Photoshop actions are simply a series of steps recorded by their creator that you can load and play on your own image to get a desired effect. From actions that turn your image into a hand-drawn sketch to animated actions to add motion to your photo, they’re a versatile and simple way of making more of your standard photos.

Creating your own Photoshop actions can also be a great way to save time if you’ve got a standard effect you regularly use. From creating your own custom Instagram filter action to one that gives you a vibrant duotone effect, learning to create your own actions helps you grow your toolkit even faster, and allows you to experiment with simpler effects before jumping straight into the complex and detailed alterations you can get from professionally designed actions.

Here are two actions I’ve recently used that are nice and simple and give a great effect:

Image of a snow-covered mountain with a vintage filter applied.

Toy Camera by guerillacraft

Sunflower with paint-spattered Photoshop action applied

Posterum by profactions

3. Image polls

This one’s a little more tailored to take advantage of Facebook reactions, but can be a fun way to do something different and get people who like your page weighing in with their opinions. The concept behind this is simple; two or more images overlaid with Facebook reactions inviting people to choose the reaction matching their preferred option. This can be done for something fun (like for cats, love for dogs) or something more serious.

If you’re choosing this option, make sure you’ve had a quick look at Facebook’s brand guidelines on using reactions. The main points to remember are making sure the reaction matches what you’re asking (don’t ask people to react with ‘angry’ for something positive), and don’t make the reactions so prominent that they’re the bulk of your image.

Now go and create!

Hopefully this gives you a few simple ideas to get started. Once you’re comfortable with these basics, you’ll have everything you need to mix and match different image types and have truly professional-looking social media content.

About the Author Carl Jackson

Envato's Social Media Specialist. Tweeting, posting & sharing by day, Lego & origami by night. When I'm not being @envato, I'm @synoptitweet on Twitter.