It’s no secret – I’m a big fan of stock photos!
So much so I create them for a living, and use them for my own business nearly every day on social media to build my brand awareness, connect with my followers and grow my audience.
They’re much more valuable than just a pretty addition to your feed. When used with intention, they can actually help you grow your business.
So what makes stock images so great?
Stock photos help bridge the gap for smaller businesses, allowing them to look just as shiny as the bigger guys – without the massive overheads. They help you put together beautiful graphics, websites & social media feeds without the headaches or in-house photographers. And they allow you to create seriously good promo material without the insane production costs.
So basically, stock photos are an incredibly affordable and effective resource for your visually marketing.
But I can barely find any that represent my niche!
The problem is when curating your social media feeds, it can be hard to find the right kind of stock images for your business. And sometimes it’s hard to know what to say, even if you’ve found the right images to use.
It’s a bit of a vicious circle.
There’s also the issue of making sure you still look ‘authentic’ whilst using stock images. Therefore you get even fussier when choosing images just in case people may think you’re misleading them. (You’re not by the way)
You end up just using the same stock images you’ve scrambled together that represent business over and over again. You feel repetitive, and your audience is possibly getting a little bored of your constant sales pitches using the same stock images. Sound familiar?
It’s a totally understandable rut that online entrepreneurs can get themselves into (I’ve been there myself) and it essentially boils down to not having a strategy in place. Or if you do have a strategy in place, you possibly haven’t thought about your visual strategy enough.
Social media growth and engagement comes from two things (when talking about Instagram, Pinterest & Facebook): attracting the viewer with strong imagery, and then converting them with strong copy. When you start thinking of both sides of your posts in this way (visual > copy) then you can really start to craft an effective strategy that works for your business.
It’s all about the strategy, people.
So what do I mean by strategy, anyway? I ask this because sometimes I feel that word gets loosely thrown around as a blame and cause for everything in your business that’s not working. (“Oh you just need to get a strategy in place….” sound familiar?)
I mean having a pre-determined goal for your social media. Having a reason to be on there instead of just thinking ‘well it’s just what you have to do these days’ – coz’ that’s just not going to work. In essence, having a goal, and then matching content to achieve that goal, is a strategy.
Sometimes businesses will have just an over-arching goal (say, to grow their brand awareness) so their strategy to achieve that goal simply repeats itself each week, month or year for example. Sometimes businesses review and set new social media goals each month or quarter (say, to get 50 new email subscribers a month), and will decide on a strategy with that goal in mind.
There’s no right or wrong way, as long as there’s intention behind what you’re posting everyday.
Whether you’ve already got a plan or not, thinking about how your images can form part of that strategy will get your social media working much harder for you. Producing aesthetically beautiful and varied feeds that gets your viewers attention much quicker. Then, your captions can take it from there. This keeps your audience coming back for more as they’re intrigued on both levels – with the visuals and your message.
So how do I use stock photos as part of my social media strategy?
In my line of work, I’ve found there tends be three over-arching areas that your visual strategies can fall into, that help to work for your business rather than just being a pretty photo.
Because as we know having a profitable business is way more important than a pretty one.
Yes you saw that right, you don’t always need to post pictures of yourself when talking about you. Whilst I still encourage you to share pictures of you on a regular basis, you don’t have to show up all the time when talking about yourself, if you don’t want to.
Some ways to use stock photos in your ‘About You’ posts:
Images that show your passions outside the business; cooking, walking, beauty, adventure, fashion etc
Images that show your struggles or successes; inspiring scenery, self care, hustling and work images, coffee or images that indicate sitting down for a heart to heart etc
Images that show where you envision your future; travel, spa, family, office, stationery etc
Images that show a unique or quirky fact about you or your business; isolated objects or scenery that represent the fact etc
No, not the band. Think of all the different parts of the journey your potential clients or customers could be on and then think about the problems or struggles they have that you can help them with. Don’t just share your offerings, share content that helps them relate to every part of the journey.
Some ways to use stock photos in your ‘Audience’ posts:
Images that relate to their problems – naturally this varies for every niche but some examples could include; messy desk or home scenes to indicate stress or lack of organisation, coffee to indicate late nights, bed scenes to indicate lack of motivation or productivity etc
The benefits they could get
Images that show the plus points of your solution – again this varies depending on your niche, but some examples could include; inspiring scenery to indicate clarity, tidier looking desk or home scenes to indicate organisation, lifestyle and travel to indicate freedom, health images etc
Images that show where your audience want to be; views, scenery, travel, gorgeous home scenes etc
This is where you can get your audiences ‘buy-in’ and show them how you can help them, why you want to help them and essentially, what you stand for – this is the deep stuff that creates those truly valuable connections.
Some ways to use stock photos in your ‘brand’ posts:
Images that show what your brand represents; inspiring scenes, desk mock-ups, healthy living, social scenes, gorgeous home scenes etc
Images for showing testimonials, mantras or case studies; mock-ups for client work, inspiring scenes, home or desk scenes with empty space for their reviews, technology mock-ups of testimonials on your website etc
Images that indicate why you do what you do; travel, home, community, self care, family etc
Bringing it all together
And to show you how the above visual strategy ideas can form part of your overall social media goals, I’ve listed some of the typical things you’d want to be sharing, within those areas.
- Blog posts
- Email newsletters
- Freebies, quizzes & other opt-ins
- Premium offerings – products or services
- Free consultation calls or audits
- Collaborations or sharing other people’s content (credited of course!)
- Courses, guides or private communities
- Podcasts or YouTube content
- Previews of upcoming products or services
- Asking for their insights – polls & surveys
- Sales and promotional activity
- Sharing quotes, mantras or affirmations
- Social proof
From these ideas, it can help spawn a series of topics thats relevant to your audience & niche. You can talk about these topics regularly to build brand awareness, reach more potential customers and grow an engaged following.
Stay on message
Now before you go away and come up with 126 different topics that you could regularly talk about – stop! Don’t get carried away and have too many areas; it confuses your brand message and people tune out just as easily as if you were posting the same thing everyday.
Start by thinking of 2-4 topics around you, your audience and your brand that you can talk about regularly – this will build consistency and allow you to talk about things repeatedly, without actually repeating yourself word-for-word (for instance; don’t just share your freebie once and then forget about it, but don’t share it every other day with the same caption – find a rhythm that works)
And don’t worry, you can (and should) regularly review, refine and build on these topics as your business grows.
As an example, for myself:
THE ‘You’ posts
I talk about my love for the outdoors, my struggles as an introverted solopreneur, and quirky facts about me that I like to think people can relate to.
THE ‘WHO’ posts
I talk about how entrepreneurs struggle to craft a beautiful brand image, how quickly your business can grow when it looks as good as it deserves, and what benefits that gives you as a small entrepreneur.
THE ‘WHY’ posts
I talk about the quality of the stock images, the style of them and how versatile they are – and why that’s important. I also talk about why I create stock images that are not your typical style, intended for a smaller niche. I share social proof from my members and shout out when they’re using the stock images beautifully and seeing results.
Your umbrella, ella, ella…
I see these areas as my umbrella topics – I can talk about so much within these areas which keeps me varied, but by not talking about everything under the sun, I still stay on brand and cohesive. Oh and even without promoting the stock collections I have so much visual content to choose from when talking about any of the above areas!
The bottom line
By fleshing out not only what you talk about, but also what images you curate your feeds with, you give your audience so much more to see and learn from you. It builds the trust factor, and creates intrigue as whenever you post, your audience is drawn in from the visuals instantly, and they want to know more about what you have to say.
It’s not just the same message over and over again – with the same images. And it’s not a new, completely irrelevant topic every other day. It’s a cohesive, intentional strategy to build the know, like & trust factor and get people wanting more from you. All whilst having an absolutely gorgeous, scroll stopping feed that shows you take your brand seriously and value your audience’s attention.
Want to know how to do all this and maintain a cohesive, beautiful brand style?
Sign up by taking my Instagram quiz and I’ll show you! (I’ll even send you 9 FREE images!)
Do you use stock images as part of your visual strategy? Share in the comments!