Build Your Business and Enhance Social Media with Photos

By Gail Z. Martin

Photos get attention, and that's what you want online. Add a photo to your Facebook posts, blog posts and Twitter tweets, and more people notice what you've said. When the photo is the most important thing you're sharing, consider sites like Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram.

Pinterest works like a giant bulletin board where you can sort photos by category and share them with friends. It's search capability allows you to look for more of the kinds of photo content you want to see, which you can then pin to your own boards and/or share to other social media channels.

Some of what you see on Pinterest are stand-alone photos, but many photos link to websites to connect to articles, recipes, do-it-yourself instructions, craft how-to info, etc. Many people use Pinterest like a shopping wish-list or dream folder for everything from kitchen make-overs to wedding planning. If your photos are compelling,

Pinterest users won't mind if the link takes them to a site where they can purchase what they see, but the photos need to be more interesting and have more personality than standard catalog fare.

Instagram is less about sorting the photos or arranging them into collections than it is taking and sharing pictures. Because the photos (as opposed to the grouping of photos) is the focus, Instagram offers more ability to add filters and other enhancements.

It's less common for Instagram photos to link to other sites, so active selling doesn't work as well here. Consider building brand awareness with photos about your product's history, vintage / retro shots, behind-the-scenes photos, even artistic portrayals. Make the photos striking, memorable, and unusual so people want to share.

Tumblr is a photo-blogging platform, meaning that it is set up to share photos and text, with the emphasis on the photo. That means you can share more of the story that goes with the photo on Tumblr than you can on Pinterest or Instagram, allowing you to create more context. Keep it short and sweet, and make the photo the star.

Regardless of where you share your photos, make sure to tag the images. Search engines can't “crawl" photos the same way they scan text, so they won't be able to read your logo in the photo.

Tags and titles link descriptive words to your images to help search engines recognize the content.

Titles are descriptive, as in “photo of a white wedding cake by Jane's Bridal" while tags are meant to grab the attention of search engines looking for specific queries. So, the tag for the white wedding cake might be “weddings, wedding cakes, celebrations, Jane's Bridal, bride, reception, fondant, cake, #whitewedding." When in doubt, more tags are better than none.

What makes for good photo content? Eye candy. The more appealing and luscious the photo, the more attention you'll get. If you're sharing a recipe or a how-to, use step-by-step photos to illustrate your text. Before and after photos are especially compelling. If your business has visible results, use photos to convince viewers that the “after" you provide is a big, visible difference from the “before."

Consider showing your product in different seasonal, holiday or situational settings. Or, theme the photos you post to the season/holiday to take advantage of people being “in the mood" for certain content.

For example, if you sell housewares, show the same room or table setting decorated for different seasons, holidays or types of gatherings. Give people ideas on how to use what they want or have in new ways and help them be more successful in using your product.

Pinterest photos tend to be pretty and straight-forward. Instagram gets artsy. Tumblr gives you more room for explanation. Take those fundamental differences into account as you plan your strategy. It may not make sense for you to be on all three sites.

Video is now supported on the sites as well as still photos, but make sure to take the audience into consideration as you plan your videos to be a good match for what they want from the site. Pinterest and Tumbler will be more receptive to how-to videos, while a video tour of a scenic setting might do better on Instagram.

Demographics also differ. Pinterest tends to skew a little older, while Tumbler skews more to teens/twenties. Instagram gets more serious art/photography users. If you know the hobbies of your core audience and their interests beyond your product or service, you'll have insights that will serve you well in deciding which platforms to utilize and how to style your content.

All three sites are social media, so take advantage of the social aspect. Consider running photo-based contests where you encourage your customers to post and tag photos of your product in use. Reward them by acknowledging, sharing and commenting on what they post.

Retweet the best submissions to your Facebook business page and Twitter feed, acknowledging the contributors. Encourage conversation in the comments and get your customers talking about their experiences with your product, new ways to use/maximize the items, or share tips and ideas. These are creative sites, so find ways for customers to have fun with your product and brand!

Excerpted from The Essential Social Media Marketing Handbook

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Gail Z. Martin owns DreamSpinner Communications. Contact her at Gail@GailMartinMarketing.com