“I don’t get it, what does it mean?” my girlfriend, Heather, asked.

“I dunno,” I said. “It doesn’t really have to mean any one particular thing. How does it make you feel? What does it mean to you?” I asked as I stared at a painting by American Contemporary artist, Lyonel Feininger, at North Carolina’s Museum of Art.

Trust me. I would’ve loved to say something that made me sound “sophisticated”.

“Well as you can see, the light brush strokes the artist is using on the building in the background is the artist’s commentary on the complexity of American culture.”

Nope.

I’m not that sophisticated. I don’t drink wine. I’m a tequila guy. I love Taco Bell. And the fact of the matter is, I have no idea who the artist Lyonel Feininger is, though I did really dig his painting that I was standing in front of.

(Actually, after hearing good things, I’m thinking of taking up wine as an occasional alternative to the tequila. Maybe.)

With all of that said, I actually do love walking around art museums. I’m the guy that stops at each art piece in the museum and stares at it longer than anyone probably should, trying to figure out what the artist is trying to say with the piece and analyzing how it makes me feel.

And while each painting and sculpture in a museum affords the visitors all of the time in the world to interpret the art, the images your business uses on Social Media do not have that same luxury of time.

Optimizing Images For Social Media

A few weeks back, I wrote an article on the importance of using the proper image size for your website’s Facebook feature images – and how most businesses are failing to do so. If you’re not following Facebook’s rule on this, you’re hurting the engagement on any link you share to your website on the platform.

Before you continue, feel free to check out two of my previous articles that tie into this one, Social Media Open Graph Tags and Image Sizes On Facebook.

This week, I’m going to dive even deeper and show you how to further improve your results on Social Media when you’re sharing links to your website. And while I’ll be focusing on Facebook for much of this article, the same logic I’ll be covering does apply to all of the other major Social Media Networks.

Better Performance With Social Images

As I stated in a previous article:

“People go to Facebook to get rid of boredom…but they stay for the images.”

If you jumped onto Facebook right now – on your phone or desktop computer – and scrolled down your newsfeed, you’ll notice that posts with images catch your attention more than posts without.

And when I say “catch your attention” – in the world of Social Media – that means you spend an additional quarter of a second looking at the image, opposed to just scrolling past the post without giving it a second thought.

As I also cited in my previous article, Kissmetrics states that posts with photos actually get 53% more likes, 104% more comments AND 84% more click-throughs.

Click-throughs is definitely an important stat when we’re talking about sharing links on Social Media to your own website.

Don’t let the stats above fool you though. As you might imagine, it’s not just about adding any old image to a post. It needs to be an eye-catching image. One that will pique interest. One that motivates your audience to stay on your post to engage further.

And very importantly, the image must tie into the page of content you’re trying to drive traffic to or it’s just click-bait. For example, the below ad fooled me the other day.

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Despite what the image suggests, Tom Selleck is not gay and has been happily married since the 80s.

Image Text: The Missing Piece In Your Social Images

There’s a simple trick that most businesses are missing when they use images on Facebook.

Like art in a museum, businesses are leaving their Open Graph feature images and ad images up for interpretation to audiences on Social Media. Like a painting in a museum, your business’s Social Media images can be interpreted in countless different ways. And as a business trying to drive targeted traffic from Social to a piece of content on your website, you want as much control over the message that’s driving the clicks as possible.

For example, have a look at the following image:

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What do you think of when you see that image?

Soccer, referee, red card, etc. right?

Now, have a look at same image – one that we used on Facebook last week – but with a slight tweak to it.

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Now what do you think of when you see that image?

You probably think exactly what we wanted you to think when we used it on our post:

“Trying To Get Banned”

The reason you thought exactly what we wanted you to think is because we told you what to think with the text. This is the opportunity most businesses are failing to take advantage of when they share links and run ads on Social. They’re NOT explicitly telling their audience what to think when they see the image they’re using.

The article our “Trying To Get Banned” image linked to on Facebook detailed an experiment we ran where we actually tried to get banned on Facebook. Sound crazy? Check it out here: I Wanted Facebook To Ban Me. Here’s Why You Should Too.

When everything was put together into the Facebook post, we’re able to control the full message we’re trying to convey with the post – right from the start. The end goal is to generate enough interest to get someone to click the link to our website. 

When it was all put together, this is how it looked:

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The image, image text, the headline, description under the image, and the copy above the image all work together.

In my own personal case, this is the order in which I analyze a Social Media post to decide if it’s worthy of my attention or not:

  1. Image
  2. Image Text
  3. Headline
  4. Social proof (how many likes, comments and shares)
  5. Description
  6. Status copy

My eyes move through each post, in this order – until I have either clicked the link or decided to scroll past the post.

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This order in which I analyze posts is probably the same – or very similar – to you and your audience on Social Media. As you can see, as the second thing I look at in a post, the image text is crucial. The image text is the bridge between the image and the headline.

It frames the image for me and puts the headline into better context.   

Ever See A Blank Billboard?

Think of the images you’re using on Social Media as a billboard.

How ineffective would a billboard be if there was no image text on it at all?

Just like on Social Media, the image text allows you to put the image into context and further tell your narrative, without leaving it up for the viewer to decide.

Imagine the following billboards I took pictures of yesterday around my hometown of Durham, NC without any image text on them at all.

How effective would these billboards be with no image text – and the images were simply left for the viewer to interpret?

Again, audience interpretation is great for art at a museum, but not necessarily great for your marketing and advertising.

Image Text Good, Too Much Image Text Bad

A few years ago, Facebook had something called the “20% Rule”.

A Facebook post that was boosted or advertised would have its reach throttled if the image in the post had image text that occupied more than 20% of the image. Facebook doesn’t like image text.

It used to work like this.

You would add text to your image. Upload your image to the old Facebook Image Checker. Manually select the number of boxes on the grid overlaid on your image that contained any text.

If over 20% of the boxes contained text, you’d want to resize your text until it was at 20% or below.

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A few years back, Facebook did away with the 20% rule – or at least they said they did.

They replaced their Image Checker with the automated Text Overlay Tool. There are no boxes on the new tool and when you upload your image, Facebook just automatically tells you if the amount of text in your ad is Ok, Low, Medium or High.

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It’s an indication of how restricted or unrestricted the reach of your ad or post will be. If there’s too much text, Facebook will label it ‘High’, and then there’s a good chance nobody will see it at all.

You always want to shoot for your image to be deemed ‘Ok’. Anything else, modify your text size and recheck it.

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In most cases, we’ve found that the 20% rule still applies for the most part. Images that are deemed ‘Ok’ will almost always have the text occupy 20% or less of the image. Images with text over 20% will be deemed as ‘Low, Medium, or High’.

To make things easier on ourselves, we use a handy image template Simon created for Adobe Photoshop that includes a 5×5 grid of guidelines, like the old Facebook Image Checker.

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When we create an image for Social, we keep the text within 5 boxes and it almost always passes.

You can download our template – completely FREE – at the bottom of this article.

(You might also want to have a look at the ad mockups tool from AdParlor, which can help you create a mockup of your Social posts before you publish them).

But, even with this grid template that we use, we ALWAYS run the image through Facebook’s Text Overlay Tool – and you ALWAYS should too.

Remember, your image should always be deemed as “Ok” by Facebook before putting any money behind it.

Easy Wins Count!

I’m not quite sure why businesses aren’t using image text in their images more often, to be honest.

If you ran any type of ad, you’d want to use text to help frame the message you want to convey with the ad for the reader. Your Social Media Images are no exception.

Use shocking, eye catching images. Use images that’ll grab attention. And in most cases (not all), use image text to frame the image and move the viewer’s eyes to the headline below the image to keep them interested.

Download the same Photoshop template we use for creating Facebook-friendly feature images.

Enter your information below for immediate access!