I was working on an article about social media images for my local Chamber of Commerce and came across some really interesting information that I wanted to share with the widest audience possible. I admit to being quite intrigued with imagery; blame my tendencies as a shutterbug, my minor in Art History and time spent working in museums.
Imagery and People
Since images are so crucial to successful social media I decided to use my blog to share some of the information I couldn’t include. The is research that explored the correlation between images that had
- no people at all
- parts of people, e.g. a hand, ankle, etc
- whole people
and the level of engagement those posts enjoyed. For years there has been quite a bit of buzz about how pictures with peoples faces received the best results. In 2014, Bakshi, Shamma, and Gilbert looked at 1 million instagram images and showed that photos with faces were 38% more likely to receive likes and 32% more like to be commented upon. The authors concluded that this was true no matter how many faces, ages or genders were in the image.
There is a less well-known body of research that suggests otherwise. Mark Kelly and his group at Taggs reviewed nearly 3700 brand images posted on Facebook. After classifying the images according to their content relating to people. More than 1/2 of the images did not include people. Even more intriguing was the fact that people tended to like posts with images that only showed a body part but share images that had no one or parts in them. In the instance of shares, the difference on the for shares was an astounding 124% of images without vs images with people. Comments enjoyed a higher percentage as well, 104% more comments accompanied posts that had images without people. The brands used in the study were a mixture of food, clothing, department store and big box stores, all stores that would theoretically want to add a human touch. This data was support by an article from NewsCred that noted that pinterest images with faces get 23% less repins than those without Pins. The problem may have been that adding people, or even just their parts unconsciously narrows those brand’s market appeal because it presents subtle limits on gender, age and race.
So who is replacing humans on social media? Man’s best friend and other animal companions. We are naturally attracted to images of animals. If you consider the number of brands that rely on animals to pitch their products (Geico’s lizard, Aflac’s duck) and combine them with the number of pins, posts and tweets featuring animals the shift is unmistakable and not surprising. How many of her followers know that Grumpy Cat started as the spokescat for Friskies before she became a social media star in her own right.
The key takeaway is that any company should consciously try different types of images to see what works. The gold standard is A/B testing to see what your ideal audience responds to, but that can be difficult with limited resources. Since social media channels provide statistics, use them to look for trends and then use that information to tailor your marketing efforts so you communicate effectively with your audience.
If you would like to learn more about social media image success download my recent article: Picture this, Image Success with Social Media. If you would like to learn more about how a little planning can help you market your products and services to man or woman’s best friend, contact us today!