June 20, 2014, 4:57 PM

On Facebook, the kind of image matters a lot

Which kind of image generates more Likes, shares and comments: one prettied up with graphics and text, or one presented in its natural state? Here are the results of a case study by marketing agency Zog Digital.

Today the digital marketing landscape is more competitive than ever, with 93 percent of marketers using social media accounts to boost bottom lines for business. Facebook, in particular, has proven an effective way to drive both consumer engagement as well as sales. Marketers are finding that image content strategy is essential for businesses looking to maximize their reach and return on investment through Facebook.

Forty-four percent of Facebook users are more likely to interact with brands when images are used. The quality of the image also makes a difference, with professional-quality images getting a 120 percent boost in shares compared to amateur images.  Two of the other biggest social networks are putting even more emphasis on images going forward as well. LinkedIn and Twitter have all either recently released or announced updates that include more and larger images in both posts and profiles.

Going even further, new research and insights from ZOG Digital proves that it’s not just the use and quality of images that maximizes exposure and engagement of a Facebook post; it’s the style of image being used.

Creative Versus Lifestyle Images

The case study looked at how four major metrics—the reach of each post, Likes, shares and comments—were affected by the use of creative images versus lifestyle images. For this study, creative images are defined as having gone through a post-design process, which often includes the use of text and graphic design alterations. Lifestyle images are images that don’t go through the same process, with examples being the product being displayed singularly or the product in use.


Likes, shares and comments

Likes, shares and comments are the most common indicators that a post is being viewed favorably by Facebook users, with each additional action causing the post to spread. Maximizing the Likes, shares and comments is particularly important because of Facebook’s recent algorithm changes, which reduced the organic reach of posts. Emarketer’s research shows that the median organic reach worldwide fell from 16.0 percent in February 2012 to 6.5 percent in March 2014. For brands, this means that thousands fans aren’t seeing posts they normally would. 

For marketers, Likes, shares and comments mean that more people will see the post, which in turn creates opportunities to impact non-fans. ZOG Digital’s research found that posts with creative images far outperformed posts with lifestyle images when it comes to these important metrics. For unpaid posts, the creative images beat lifestyle images by 54 percent in Likes and 50 percent in shares. For paid posts the creative images were up 395 percent in Likes and 650 percent in shares. The difference in the volume of comments were the most dramatic, with creative images, for both organic and paid posts, beating lifestyle images by more than 1200 percent.


Total reach

The cumulative effect of Likes, shares and comments is an increased total reach, which for many marketers is the most important metric when it comes to engagement. The research indicates that organic posts with creative images performed 18 percent better in average post reach than those with lifestyle images. For paid posts, creative images performed 274 percent better in average post reach than lifestyle images. Simply, brands can’t impact and influence Facebook users that don’t see a post. Therefore, the larger the reach of a post, be it promoted or not, the more effective that Facebook post will be.


Conclusion

Brands that want to maximize the impact of each and every Facebook post must take into consideration the images being used. As the research suggests, efforts to improve the quality and design of an image can make a large different in likes, shares comments and overall reach. Of course, we also suggest that every brand work to find the strategies that work best for them, because what creates excitement for the fans of one brand won’t necessarily work for the next. Brands should continually test new strategies to find the optimal path forward instead of solely relying on what is being done by competitors or successful brands from different verticals.

Zog Digital is an independent digital marketing company based in Scottsdale, Ariz. Zog's services include search engine optimization, social media marketing, paid advertising, and design and development.

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