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If your goal is to increase your social media or advocacy marketing program’s Earned Media Value and get the most bang for your buck, start by looking at – and improving – the images you’re using on social media. While many of the tips we outline below remain true to form in 2022. We’ve updated this post with a few more tips to help your brand grow and prosper in the new year. Here are our 5 8 top tips to improving your social media photos.

What is Earned Media Value? 

There are usually two ways to measure the return-on-investment (ROI) of an advocacy marketing program: either through straight conversions (sales earned, tickets sold, coupons downloaded, etc.) or via earned media value.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term (or just want a handy reminder) earned media value is the equivalent of what you would need to pay (ad spend) to earn the equivalent amount of impressions, clicks, reactions, or any other key campaign metrics.

For example, let’s say that your typical CPM for a paid campaign is $10 per 1,000 impressions. That is, if you were to sponsor a post, you would expect to pay $10 to have it shown 1,000 times. Next, let’s say that you instead share that same post through your SocialToaster advocacy marketing campaign. If that post hits 1,000 impressions through organic shares, you could then extrapolate that your earned media value for the post was $10 (because it would have cost you $10 to hit those 1,000 in a paid campaign).

The better your posts perform, the more impressions/clicks/reactions you earn, the greater your earned media value and the better your program’s ROI.

How Strong Imagery Can Increase Your Program’s Earned Media Value 

If you want to increase your advocacy marketing program’s earned media value, start by increasing the engagement rate of your posts. Strong imagery is a critical component of a strong engagement strategy.

Need some proof? Consider the following stats: 

However, if you want to maximize your earned media value, you need more than just basic photos. You need strong imagery that will engage your audience and draw them into your post. 

8 Best Practices for Creating Social Media Images

1) Ensure the Image is In-Focus

Might seem like common sense, but if you want to engage with your audience through a social media platform, be sure your image is in-focus.

Bad crop jobs, weird angles, and fuzzy pictures are sure signs that your brand isn’t investing in its social media presence. Which your audience will interpret as not being invested in them. 

2) Use Strong Photography

What is strong photography? It sounds cliche, but strong photography is something you know when you see it. It’s imagery that evokes a reaction from the viewer. Imagery that rises above the clutter of your audience’s current social media platforms.

This could mean: 

  • Epic landscape shots
  • Fantastical aspirational images (luxury goods)
  • Humor
  • Compositionally interesting photographs

This also means avoiding common stock photo troupes. I.e. no more stock imagery photographs of people in uniforms smiling at the camera.

Think about your average advocate. They log into their Facebook account only to be greeted with a flood of images. As most of the images are being posted by their friends (who most likely aren’t all award-winning photographers) the photos are going to be similar. They’ll tend to be either photos of their friends (engaged in some activity) or pictures of an experience the friend is having.

Every post you send through your advocacy marketing program is an opportunity for you to elevate your audience’s experience on social media. An opportunity to evoke a reaction from your post. The stronger that reaction, the more likely they are to engage with that piece of content, which in turn leads to a higher earned media value. 

3) Incorporate Video

Imagery doesn’t always mean photography. Look for ways to incorporate video as the image component. Why? Because video can produce 12x more shares than text and image-based posts combined.

If you think this means we’re asking you to hire actors or to invest in significant video editing software, reframe your expectations. Even something as light as canned B-roll footage or an in-motion graphic can be enough to draw a user in and drive post engagement. 

4) Use Imagery to Communicate the Underlying Essence of Your Post 

When selecting your imagery, most brands opt for photographs that relate directly to the content being shared. If they’re writing a post about a pie (as an example), they’re going to share a picture of a pie. Post about their new hotel, it’s going to be a shot of that hotel.

This strategy can be effective, especially if you’re trying to draw attention to a specific feature of a product/service offering within your content. But, can get a little stale over time.

Instead of choosing imagery that could come across as being “on the nose”, consider selecting photos and videos that communicate the underlying emotional essence of the content being shared.

Use your imagery to communicate how you want some to feel after reading your content. Not what that content is specifically about. 

5) Always. Be. Testing. 

The last best practice, a true classic, always be testing. In the world of advocacy and social media marketing, there are two universal constants:

  1. Everyone’s audience is different. 
  2. Everyone’s audience will change over time. 

What works for your competitor, isn’t guaranteed to work for you. Likewise, what worked 3 years ago isn’t guaranteed to keep working. 

It’s up to your brand to test which imagery commands the strongest engagement from your audience. Try different styles, incorporate video/motion into your mix, test different compositions and determine what your audience wants to see from your brand. 

6) Get the Mechanics Right

With so much more content in the ether, your audience has become a bit of an expert on what makes a “good” social media image. Images that don’t meet their ever-increasing standards don’t receive the same level of engagement and visibility as those that get the mechanics right. 

So, what are these high-brow expectations? 

  1. Good Lighting – Don’t rely on overhead lighting and muted sunlight to light your image. Use ring lights and other auxiliary lighting tools when able. 
  2. Get Everything in Focus – Clean your camera lens and ensure your image is in focus before posting.
  3. Don’t Zoom – When able, move closer to your subject rather than zooming into your target. 
  4. Learn the Rule of Thirds – Use the rule of thirds to create interesting shots. What is the rule of thirds, you ask? In a nutshell, you’ll create a compositional grid that splits the image into nine pieces and four gridlines. Frame the most critical aspects of the image along those gridlines to create attention-grabbing works of art. 

7) Size Your Image To The Platform

Vertical. Horizontal. 1080×1080. 1200×628. 1080×1920. Sizing matters.

Your audience actively chooses their social media experience. Whether it’s stories, posts, reels, shorts, or good-ol’-fashion tweets, the best engagement is earned by the social media imagery sized appropriately to the channel they are being served on. 

While this does create additional work for social media creatives (resizing every image to 4 or 5 different specs), the resulting images are more powerful and are more likely to generate an ROI on your labor investment. 

8) Mix Up Your Image Topics

One trick ponies get a little stale over time, same with one-shot social media profiles. If your social presence only consists of one specific type of photo topic (say, product shots, for example), it’s going to be tricky for you to build a brand. You need to work to keep your audience engaged over time, and variety can be a powerful tool in maintaining interest. . 

Incorporate a mix of  image topics into your social media publishing cadence.

These can include:

  • Product Images
  • Team Shots
  • Behind-the-Scenes Peaks
  • Brand Announcements
  • Comparison Images
  • Testimonial/Review Blocks
  • User-Generated Content (learn more about the magic of user-generated content)

Up Your Earned Media Value Ante

Strong ROI comes from strong engagement. The more shares, comments, likes, and impressions your content receives the greater your earned media value. If you want to increase your advocacy marketing program’s earned media value, start by taking a look at the imagery you’re utilizing and look for opportunities to test and improve.

Want some pointers? Schedule a call with one of our advocacy marketing specialists today by sending us an email or by giving us a call at 855.62.TOAST!