Imagine yourself walking down a street on a gray, cloudy day. Everyone you see looks grim and is wearing dark-hued clothing.
Unless you are utterly lost in the fantasy world within your own head, have buried your nose in your smartphone, or are being carried by your body in autopilot mode from point A to point B or for some other reason, you see her.
An extremely attractive, slim woman, clad in a form-fitting, red, satin dress. No matter whether it’s desire, lust, envy, resentment, or admiration, you are unlikely to pass her indifferently. Even if you are a woman.
The situation sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
After a moment of reflection, you realize I’ve just described a scene from the first movie of The Matrix trilogy that you most likely saw over ten years ago.
Why? You clicked on this post to read about the importance of images in websites and social media, yet you are being told about The Matrix…
The answer is simple – you remember the shot. Bear with me, I’ll get back to it.
Attention Span of a Goldfish
Whatever the field of your business is, you are eager to educate your future customers via your blog and solve their problems by the means of your product or service.
However, the sad truth is that humans have a decreasing ability to retain concentration. A study carried out in spring, 2015, has revealed that the average person’s attention span has dropped to a little over 8 seconds. That’s almost a second shorter than that of a goldfish.
Come on, you may think, did you really have to go there and compare humans to goldfish? Well, at least we know how to use smartphones!
Actually, they are the root of the problem.
Smartphones, and digital media in general, are exactly why such retrogression has taken place.
The same study suggests that this decline in attention span has been inversely proportionate to the rise of smartphones. Hence, smarter phones lead to stupider people—sike, no. But they do equate to a shortened ability to concentrate.
What Does Short Attention Span Have to Do With My Business?
While an average individual’s attention is prone to easily wander off, they possess an inexhaustible thirst for information. And where does a great deal of information come from nowadays, if not blogs?
Marketing and attracting clients is not the same as it used to be.
Geo-targeted ads have their place, but a business no longer has the need to completely confine itself to a single geographic location. The world is the limit. You can have customers from America and the UK, to China and Singapore, if you so desire.
Nevertheless, the larger your target clientele, or the range in which you try to reach out to them, the larger your competition. Having a good product or service is only half of the problem.
The real challenge businesses need to face in today’s free market is how to reach out to their prospective buyers and persuade them to purchase their product or service over someone else’s.
That means making a presence and promoting it where their target audience is most likely to hang out – on social media.
It can’t be that hard. Just drop a post and wait for the buyers to flock, right?
Remember that people’s attention span is limited and they are inseparable from their digital devices. They will spend time on social media, but the likelihood of them scrolling past your post is relatively high.
Your content can be extremely valuable, but …
It has to compete for a potential reader’s attention with exotic holiday location pictures, cute baby photos, hilarious user created memes, cat videos, and tons of other viral and visually tempting content.
Images Are Vital on Social Media
65-85 % of consumers are admittedly visual learners. That, combined with considerably shorter attention span, has transformed the dynamics of social media.
One does not necessarily have to be a professional artist, photographer, or graphic designer to create appealing images. Though neither outstanding skills or professional help will hurt in the process. Quite the contrary.
Smartphones allow their users to take, digitally enhance and post graphics online utilizing a single device. Therefore, Facebook and Twitter are swarmed with pictures. In addition to that, image-based social media sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr are gaining popularity faster than teen pop stars.
You may be a business virtuoso, yet you need to delve into the visual realm to become noticed and sell your product or service.
Going back to The Matrix scene, since marketing is little different from seduction. You must become the woman in red on social media in order to grab and retain the shorter-than-that-of-a-goldfish attention-span of a possible buyer and customer.
There are two main reasons for that.
Why Images Are Important on Social Media
1. Images Generate Engagement
Despite Bill Gates referring to content being king, photos seize the throne when it comes to Facebook and Twitter. They generate more engagement.
That does not mean that content does not matter.
It absolutely does. But a high-quality article on your blog alone is highly unlikely to bring you the results that you desire.
A research conducted in March, 2014, demonstrates that photos are not only the most frequently shared content (75% of total) but also receive the most engagement on Facebook. Photos have an average of 87% higher chance to be liked, commented on or shared with other users than links (4%), albums (4%) and statuses (3%).
As a matter of fact, a more detailed study in 2012 found out that photos generated 53% more likes and 104% more comments than an average post.
The same trend appeared on Twitter. Tweets with images received a 35% boost in retweeting leaving behind videos (28%), quotes (19%), numbers (17%) and hashtags (16%).
2. Images Increase the Click-Through Rate (CRT) of the Published Content
You don’t want your potential customers to simply notice your post and scroll past it, because that won’t bring you any income or subscribers. You want them to click on it and be directed to your blog, landing page, or the online platform that sells your product or service.
The number of people who do so compared to the total number of users equates to your CTR. The higher is your CTR, the higher are your chances of success.
According to the 2012 study mentioned above, posts with imagery get 84% more click-throughs on Facebook, while a social experiment carried out on Twitter in 2014 proved that tweets with pictures had over 100% higher CTR than those that comprise solely of text.
In addition to Facebook and Twitter, which remain the two most popular social media sites, the professional social media network, LinkedIn, which is currently the third in the line of popularity, also encourages its users to use pictures in order to increase their status engagement rate.
The trend does not stop here. These three sites are closely followed by Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr, which are primarily image-based. According to a recent study, Pinterest and Tumblr are the two fastest growing social networks worldwide, whereas, Instagram has gained 40 million followers in only 2 years.
Don’t Forget about Images on Your Blog
OK, it’s as clear as the summer sky in southern Spain that pictures are paramount to you reaching higher engagement and CTR on social media.
But how about your blog, where most of your content can be found?
Content is still king, isn’t it? Absolutely! And aesthetics is its queen. And if you’ve ever played chess, the king may be the most important piece, but the queen is the most powerful.
Your blog posts should always be complemented with visual content. Articles with images have 94% more views than those that consist of plain text. And readers are 6 times more likely to remember the information presented alongside pictures 3 days later.
Moreover, keep in mind your readers’ attention span. A single image is not enough. The 100 most popular existing blog posts feature an image per every 350 words. Thus, a 1500-word article should include about 4 pictures. That will increase the visual attractiveness of the blog and will facilitate the process of reading it.
Obviously, since not every red dress looks the same, not every picture can be used. You should select your images wisely. Pictures you choose to display on your blog and social media sites should be:
- relevant to the content,
- engage readers’ emotions,
- and not get you sued (i.e., be yours, paid for, or come from a public domain website).
So, if your images don’t pass the checklist above, it’s best to not use them at all. Choose the best possible image as your featured one and call it a day. There are times when less is more.
Since repetition is the mother of knowledge (you’ll know that if you know about brand reinforcement), let’s recap this before you head off to make your blog and social media feed look awesome:
Humans have smart devices, but very short attention spans. (Which are short because of their smart devices.)
The majority of people admit being visual learners.
Meet your future customers where they hang out: on social media.
Since attention spans are short, images are essential for generating engagement, attracting likes, clicks, shares, and comments on social media. Thich means that you absolutely must use visuals in your posts and on your blog.
Your articles should have a picture for an average of every 350 words.
Use fine-quality, appropriate, engaging, and copyright-safe images. (Or skip them altogether if are neither of these.)
So, what are you waiting for? Get on your blog and improve it some suitable and outstanding visuals.
Karina Norton holds a BA in English and Education with a minor in Psychology, as well as is certified in Inbound Marketing. She currently manages white-hat link building, market research, on-page SEO, and content management.