The Psychology of Social Media Images

Millions of pictures get uploaded onto social media every day. People have an insatiable desire to share their lives on various channels with images of holiday snaps, celebrations, reunions, weddings and friendships keeping us captivated.

Who can forget the image on Facebook of the ex-US President, Barrack Obama, hugging his wife after the election results of 2012? Did you know that the photo was one of the most popular photos on social media that year, generating almost 5 million likes? What about the “super-selfie” photo posted by Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars 2017? That picture was re-tweeted 3.5 million times. These pictures really seem to hit us at an emotional level.


Since the world’s first picture — or at least the oldest surviving photo — was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicephore, images have become a mesmerising part of society. With the advent of social media, people now have the power to share images on a daily basis helping to put faces to names and allowing us to travel around the world without even looking away from the screen. Emotions can be evoked without the need for words, a concept which has become the norm over the years but is somewhat incredible when you really think about it.

Importance of Images in Our Lives

Images are so powerful that brands regularly incorporate them into them into their marketing efforts, particularly when it comes to social media campaigns — and with good reason. Over 90% of information that gets transmitted to our brain is in the form of visuals. More than 65% of us are visual learners. In fact, presentations with visual elements tend to be 43% more persuasive.

Our brain has the capacity to scan and process images faster than text. These images get subconsciously stored as forms of expression. Everything around us has symmetry and pattern, and some of these patterns are very appealing to the human eye. For instance, Leonardo Da Vinci’s most acclaimed work, the Mona Lisa, is a perfect example of an image that follows the Golden Ratio. This symmetry is seen in various forms of arts, nature and architecture.

On a more basic level, people associate their emotions with images. Pictures have the power to trigger specific responses in people, and it is up to the marketers which emotion they want to tap into.

Visual Content in Social Media Marketing

Social media marketers have included images in their campaigns to increase follower numbers for a long time. Images are so popular that channels like Instagram and Pinterest are among the most sought-after platforms for marketers nowadays. With over 500 million active users and an average of 60 million images uploaded every day, Instagram is used by businesses to reach a wider audience in a fast and effective way.

Millennials today also use Pinterest as well as Instagram to make purchase decisions. There were over 175 million active monthly users on Pinterest as of 2017, with more than 50 billion pins on the platform.

Combining images with colour psychology and attractive fonts, marketers influence consumer decisions quite effectively. Designers are well-versed at creating logos that can tap into our subconscious and send messages about specific qualities of their brands. Did you know that shapes, such as circles and ellipses, signify friendship, trust and unity? So, what kind of images do we see associated with brands on social media channels?


Simple to understand and appealing to the eyes, infographics are a great way to convey a load of information in a very small space. They are accessible, persuasive and, to top it all, pretty impressive. Our willingness to read something increases 80% when infographics are included in the content.


Product Images

Product images are aimed at increasing the credibility of an offering. Beautiful shiny cars and high resolution pictures of mobile gadgets attract huge attention. Luxury brands, in particular, use specially curated pictures to maintain their brand image. It is probably due to posting regular, high-quality pictures that Samsung Mobile USA had over 156.2 million followers on Facebook as of April 2018, followed by Microsoft Windows with 47.15 million followers.

The above image on Samsung Facebook page garnered 12k likes in just 1 day.

Adding a Dash of Humour to Marketing Content

Take the example of a brilliant social media marketing campaign, where a little bit of humour was added to spread awareness about a very deadly disease. Worldwide Breast Cancer launched a brilliant campaign on Facebook in 2017, with the hash tag #KnowYourLemons. By using this picture, they wanted to spread knowledge about the various signs of breast cancer and how to recognise them. By striking a delicate balance between playfulness and seriousness, they aimed to encourage more women to come forward and speak about the disease.


Creating Your Own Visuals

Creating your own visuals by combining text and images adds variety to the content and attracts readers. There are plenty of platforms like Photoshop, Microsoft Paint, Microsoft PowerPoint, Canva or PicMonkey to help designers to create amazing images. Starbucks is one of the top 25 brands popular on Instagram. Check out how this brand plays with words, colours and photos to create attractive graphics.

Use of Memes

Tickling the funny bone, memes seem to be the most viral-worthy content online these days. No wonder brands love them too. Although they look quite simple, it takes a lot of wit to create something that will be relatable and humorous at the same time. Look at this image posted by Barkbox, a subscription service for dog food and toys. Its Instagram profile is full of such memes, featuring cute animals. They are shared and liked by thousands of followers.

These are just a few drops in a vast ocean of ways in which images can be utilised to attract followers and drive conversion rates.

If you are looking for ways to build up your social media profile, contact Contentworks for a free content marketing audit.

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