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Did the header image for this article catch your attention and make you decide to read the rest of the post? That just goes to show that images are key to any social strategy. In fact, a recent study suggests that tweets featuring images get 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets — and we think you’ll find the same is true on other social networks too.

The image above came from Jos Krynen with tour company Eagle Eye Adventures, who has used the images he captures to grow the company’s social footprint. “We grew our Facebook page from zero to over ten thousand in a year and a half,” Krynen explains. “Word of mouth goes really quickly in social media — when the tourists come and start to see the pictures, they’re just blown away by the quality.”

Even if your business doesn’t have the advantage of astounding wildlife photography, there’s no reason you can’t put images to work for you, too. Here are a few more great examples of brands using images effectively in their social media marketing mix.

Why You Should Grow Your Social Presence With Images

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“I had images in mind when starting out on social networks,” says Mulidzas-Curtis Wilson, an artist who does traditional First Nations carving. Wilson has dabbled with Flickr and Twitter, but found the best results on Facebook, where posting images of his sketches and finished work got immediate feedback from followers.

“In the past I was what I like to call ‘old school’ — I had photos printed off and a portfolio made. It was nice to have pictures grouped together to show people when I actually had it on hand. Moving forward, I found out very fast that I needed to keep up with the times, which brought on the website and utilizing social media.”

Now, Wilson’s images have been used commercially for conferences and meeting materials — and he’s started to develop designs for corporate logos, letterhead, and even greeting cards. And the attention his Facebook Page has created has brought him enough commissioned work to keep him busy, a feat any business would be happy to accomplish.

Product Shots Work Too

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Not every business has the advantage high-end art or photography for their social presence — but that doesn’t mean ignoring images is a good idea for social. MachineFinder, the used division of John Deere, is as far removed from the art world as you can imagine, but utilizes images of iconic John Deere equipment to great success.

“People are really passionate about the brand and visuals play a big role in igniting that passion,” explains Rachel Veznaian, Social Media Coordinator with KoMarketing, which works with MachineFinder. “With Facebook, we started posting one photo per day. Throughout they rest of the day, posts would consist of pure text or a standard link update. It became obvious that image posts were much more effective at generating likes and shares.”

Now, most of MachineFinder’s Facebook posts have a strong visual component to accompany them. “One of our best stories as of late would be a post that involved a photo of an antique tractor,” says Veznaian. “We received a huge number of referrals to the site and while the content of the blog post was compelling, it was the photo that arguably grabbed the attention of followers and drove shares.” In the end, shares are less important than generating business — but they can certainly help.

“The real goal is to get people aware of, interested in, advocating for your brand, and coming to you when they want to make a purchase,” says Veznaian. “We want them talking about us, coming to the site, checking out equipment, and ideally, we want them making their purchases through our MachineFinder dealers. Social has certainly helped us achieve a lot of that.”

Picking the Perfect Images for Your Social Campaign

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There’s no one-size-fits all image solution: the kind of images that appeal to your target audiences may not match what works for another business. What is certain is you want images that are as eye-catching as possible in order to grab viewers’ attention in crowded social channels.

When asked what types of images work the best, Krynen says, “Just beautiful shots. Some fun photos get a lot of attention as well — grizzly bears seem to be doing a lot, and orcas seem to be doing a lot, especially jumping orcas. The one shot that got the most attention was about 15,000 dolphins at once out of the water — that one went berserk with 400,000 views in one hour.” During the winter — when Krynen isn’t taking tours or photos — he keeps posting, putting up fun photos and collages from previous years. “People need to know you’re still alive on social media,” Krynen says.

Wilson posts work as he completes it as well as sketches of designs in progress. However, he also makes use of holidays and events to create timely — and very shareable — images. “In October I posted a pink cancer ribbon to give my contribution to Breast Cancer Month. In November I posted my version of a red poppy to help remember our veterans. During the last 3 years I have posted my little spin to the Canadian Flag.” Wilson’s flag image above, which features K’utala-Salmon within the shape of the Canadian flag, has been shared and seen thousands of times. This year Wilson is working on producing it as an actual flag — and a photo of the prototype on Facebook has already started to generate social buzz.

At MachineFinder, it’s more about metrics. “Over time we observed which photos our audience interacted with more,” says Vezaian. “It was also important to understand who the audience was. In this case we had people who loved the John Deere brand, farmers, and dealers and we saw that they interacted best with ‘up close and personal’ images of new equipment, vintage and antique tractors, and action shots.”

MachineFinder also makes use of seasonal imagery. “Farming is seasonal,” Veznaian explains, “so in the spring users are more apt to identify with planting equipment, while in the fall they are more likely to want to see combines and other harvesters.”

Where Should You Post Images?

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You might think images belong on image-centric networks like Flickr, Pinterest, or Tumblr — but both Krynen and Wilson have found their best image success on Facebook, where images are easily shared and circulated.

MachineFinder has done more social experimenting, posting images on Facebook and Google+, and they’re planning on using more images on Twitter, as well. Of course, your mileage — and your audience — may vary, but the basic strategy of using images to grab viewer interest probably won’t.

[Image credits: Eagle Eye Adventures, MachineFinder, Mulidzas-Curtis Wilson, mkhmarketing]