While it’s true that there is a limitless amount of digital space, that’s only true in the technical sense. An infinite amount of brands can create social media accounts, but rising competition means that not every brand has an equal shot at being successful on social media.
Part of this is just name recognition. If you’re a small-town burger joint, you’re not going to be competitive with major fast-food chains no matter what you do. But a significant factor in social media success is the amount of effort you put into your content.
Stock photos and pre-made design templates from Canva are popular options when it comes to providing images for social media content. They’re attractive, professionally done, and—best of all—usually free.
The only problem is that every other brand in your industry knows that too, which is why so many have the same, disjointed social media brand identity when it comes to their socials. Stock imagery might be cheap, but it’s hard to build a distinctive brand with other people’s assets.
How can your brand avoid this? I feel that most brands get into the pit of stock imagery in the first place because they consider images and design as an accessory, not an asset. In reality, graphics and photography can tell just as much of a story as words can when created with intention.
Social media users want value from the brands they follow. Slapping a stock photo on every post just isn’t going to elevate you past the competition. But here are a few free ideas that will:
- Instead of a picture and a post, why not combine them. Create a slick, branded graphic that conveys key information. Not only will it be unique to your brand, but it will force you to cut anything inessential to conveying your message since you’re working within the limitations of an image.
- Use images to expand on a post’s information, not simply restate it. If your content is about dieting, your image could include a stat about weight loss or the “five foods that don’t taste healthy…but are!”
- Reaffirm your company’s core values through imagery. If you focus heavily on diversity, pictures speak louder than words.
- Realize that sometimes, no image is needed, especially on sites like LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re on Instagram and using an abundance of stock photography, maybe that’s not the best platform for you.
To say that “pictures speak a thousand words” is a cliche, but that doesn’t necessarily make it untrue. It’s blatantly obvious when a brand is just putting their logo onto a free stock photo and calling it a day—is that the kind of image you want your brand to portray?
There are valid uses for stock photos. Websites and ads are great places to utilize them, but on social media, a little more creativity is required to project the kind of brand image that builds a credible reputation and invested online audience.