There are more than 3 billion social media users [note] Digital in 2018: World’s internet users pass the 4 billion mark – We Are Social UK – Global Socially-Led Creative Agency. (2019, January 29). Retrieved April 2, 2019, from https://wearesocial.com/uk/blog/2018/01/global-digital-report-2018 [/note] and more than 4 million blog posts are published every day. [note] Internet Statistics & Facts (Including Mobile) for 2019 – HostingFacts.com. (2019, January 29). Retrieved April 2, 2019, from https://hostingfacts.com/internet-facts-stats/ [/note]
It’s a jungle out there!
So how can you make people notice your blog post while scrolling through their social media feed?
The first thing that people see in your post is the featured image. It is the packaging of your content. Here we are going to discuss how to create catchy packaging of your blog post.
First, let’s look at some scientific facts of what exactly attracts people’s attention in images.
#1: Learn what attracts attention
I am a cognitive scientist, so I believe in data. If you want to improve the performance of your images you need to look at some statistics about visual attention.
Facts about visual attention
Dr. J. Nielsen and K. Pernice conducted one of the largest studies showing how human attention works on web pages.[note] Nielsen, J., & Pernice, K. (2010). Eyetracking Web Usability. Berkeley: New Riders.[/note] They found several factors that make people look at an image:
- Crisp and colorful images (high-resolution, high contrast)
- Not excessively detailed (Easy to interpret)
- Highly relevant to the content
- Faces (Especially smiling)
- Appetizing food
- Clear instructions
They also analyzed what type of images were completely ignored:
- Low contrast, low-quality images
- Images that look like advertisement
- Images that are slightly or not at all relevant to the content
- Boring images
- Images including people or objects that are generic or obvious stock art
So, to make sure that people won’t ignore your blog post you need original, crisp and colorful images that aren’t excessively detailed.
However, science provides others pretty useful tips about what attracts visual attention.
I’ve mentioned that people look at faces. But there’s more. People follow the direction in which the face is looking. You want people to notice something, just put a face looking at it.
There’s a second aspect of social attention. People also look at hands. This rule is especially powerful when people perform actions with their hands.
If you want to learn more about what attracts people’s attention in images, check out my post on How to Use the Science of Attention to Boost Your Visual Content.
Unfortunately, however, research shows that people ignore more images than they look at on the web, and they look at them for just a fraction of a second.[note] Nielsen, J., & Pernice, K. (2010). Eyetracking Web Usability. Berkeley: New Riders.[/note]
Does this mean that images are not important?
Social Media Visual Content Statistics
Social media reports show us exactly the opposite. Images are crucial.
Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images.[note] How Twitter’s Expanded Images Increase Clicks, Retweets, and Favorites [New Data]. (2016, April 28). Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://buffer.com/resources/the-power-of-twitters-new-expanded-images-and-how-to-make-the-most-of-it[/note]
In an analysis of over 1 million articles, BuzzSumo found that posts with an image once every 75-100 words received double the social media shares as articles with fewer images.[note] How To Massively Boost Your Blog Traffic With These 5 Awesome Image Stats. (n.d.). Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://buzzsumo.com/blog/how-to-massively-boost-your-blog-traffic-with-these-5-awesome-image-stats/[/note] They also found that Facebook posts with images see 2.3X more engagement than those without images.
In addition, according to the Social Media Examiner’s report in 2018, 32% of marketers believe that images are the most important form of content, note that blogging is on second place (27%). [note]https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Industry-Report-2018.pdf[/note]
But there’s another important fact we should address – the type of social media matters for the performance of your images.
Images can perform differently across different social media channels
Context modulates visual attention.
In a recent study, Curalate examined over half a million images on Pinterest. Surprisingly, they found that brand images without face receive 23% more repins than images with faces. These findings contradict to the ones we discussed above. The human brain is wired to detect human faces, and yet in Pinterest other factors prevail.
The reason is that the strategies we use when we search for something change according to the context.
Visual content is becoming more and more important online, so we need to know how images perform in different social media channels. Unfortunately, we still have limited information on what makes an image attention-grabbing across the different social media channels.
#2: No more blog posts in plastic bags!
Treat every blog post like a product. To grab the viewer’s attention you need great packaging for your product. The main (featured) image is the first thing people notice when they see your post on social media. As we discussed, research shows that generic and stock images are completely ignored. So, no more stock photos.
Attention-grabbing images aren’t the only factor when you are promoting your blog on social media.
#3: Brand your images properly
You want people to recognize your brand immediately when they see your post. To achieve this you should brand your images properly.
Placing your logo on images
Placing your logo on images is the easiest way to brand your visuals. But it’s the least reliable one.
While It’s a good idea to place your logo or the name of your blog at the bottom of the image, you shouldn’t
color Palettes & fonts
Another aspect that can distinguish your brand is the color palette and the fonts you use.
As Big Brand System suggests, focus on 2 colors and 2 fonts to make your brand distinctive.
Additionally, I advise you to consider several secondary colors that compliment your main colors. This way you’ll have more freedom when you are creating your visuals. But always accent on your main colors to make sure that people will recognize your brand.
Unfortunately, very often the color palette isn’t enough. If you spend some time creating images for blog posts you’ll realize that it limits your options. To make your graphics interesting you’ll need more than a few colors.
Let’s take as an example the featured image of this blog post. It’s about the jungle, so it requires earth colors like brown, green, orange.
The original Visual Content Space palette is based on blue and yellow. It’s perfect for the Maurits’ spaceship, but it definitely doesn’t fit in the jungle context.
So if you can’t rely only on colors to brand your images, what else you can do?
Along with the logo, specific colors and fonts, you can make your images recognizable with
While templates are the fastest way to create visuals, especially if you need them for Pinterest, they can become boring very easily. Also, social media like Pinterest is flooded with this type of pins. So if you want to stand out you need to show something different.
A great way to make your content impossible to miss is by using custom
Illustrations cover all the factors about visual attention that we mentioned above. They are crisp and colorful, intriguing, and easy to grasp.
And the best of all is that you can build a highly distinctive brand just with the style of the illustrations. A great example is Post Planner, just go to their blog and check out their amazing blog post illustrations.
Let’s take a look at another great example, the Buzz Sumo blog. Unlike Post Planner, they rely less on the colors to make the images recognizable. But there’s something that makes them recognizable at a glance – their brand character.
Marketing is getting personal. People want to engage with brands on a personal level. Brand characters are a great way to make a brand recognizable, memorable and personable.
#4: Images with brand characters
A brand character, also known as a mascot, brand spokesperson or avatar, serves as an ambassador of your company. The character can be used as a part of the company’s logo or separately in various digital and print marketing materials.
Mascots have been used for a long time, but the Internet world and social media gave them a new life. Now brand characters are more popular than ever before.
The character can represent a real person or it could be a fictional character.
Real person mascot
Do you have your own personal brand? If yes, then you probably want to be the face of your business. Many bloggers use photos of themselves in their blog post and social media images.
But if you want to spice up your visuals, you can use a cartoon avatar of yourself. Cartoon avatars stand out when they are used as a profile image. It’s a good strategy to make people remember your face easier.
You can also use a fictional character. They are catchy and memorable. Characters also expand your options of content you can share with your audience. For instance, you can put the mascot in different funny situations related to your niche.
If you are curious to learn how big brands use their mascots and how to adapt these ideas for your brand, check out my post on How to use a mascot to make your brand go viral.
Let’s sum up the most important surviving skills you need for the social media jungle.
First, no more blog posts in plastic bags – no more stock art! Use original, crisp and colorful images that aren’t excessively detailed. Illustrations are a great way to spice up your content. And if you add custom brand characters to your illustrations people will be able to recognize your brand immediately just by looking at the image.