Searching for visual content

Using creative content for social media

We’re in the age of visual content marketing. With the sheer volume of activity on social media, it’s no wonder that people’s attention spans have reduced and we’re more likely to scan things to avoid content overload. Images on the other hand, can tell a story, provoke an emotional response and from a business point of view, develop brand recognition. You can also double your chances of exposure, as the image has separate metadata from the text (but that’s a topic for another day).

Earlier this year, Hubspot released some interesting statistics about the power of visual marketing. Read more.

  • Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favourites and 150% more retweets.  (Source)
  • Images and photos are the most important tactic in optimizing social media posts.  (Source)
  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. (Sources: Business2Community and Zabisco)

Where do you go to find images for your website, blog or update? It’s worth considering as you could unwittingly be breaking copyright law.

Many people think that because an image has been published on the web it is free to use.  This is a popular misconception because finding something on the internet does not mean it is in the public domain.  Work in the public domain applies to content where copyrights has expired, been forfeited, or is inapplicable.

What are the rules about copyright for creative content?

Copyright is a form of legal protection that is attached the moment piece of work is created (text, image, video and audio) and applies to both published and unpublished work. So, when you take a photograph, you immediately own the copyright to it. You don’t have to assign the circle c image to it, you don’t have to register it with an organisation, fill out forms or add a legal notice to the image for copyright to apply.

As copyright owner you have ‘exclusive rights’ which basically mean:

  1. Only you can reproduce the copyrighted work;
  2. Display the copyrighted work publicly;
  3. Create variations based on the copyrighted work; and
  4. Distribute copies of the work by selling, renting, lending or displaying the image.

You can give away or sell rights to the work. This is typically done via Creative Commons which is a standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your work.

There are six types of licenses ranging from allowing any type of use to setting certain permissions for changes and use. An Attribution license offers the most flexibility; it lets anyone use the image in the way they want, even commercially, as long as they give the originator the credit for the image.

It’s important to remember that content published online, including social networks is protected by copyright law and anyone who wants to republish an image should obtain permission from the original owner. Of course, it’s a reasonable expectation that that when content is published on social media it is going to be shared, retweeted or re-pinned and therefore, falls within the bounds of fair use. However, if you then saved the content to your desktop and uploaded it to your website, this would infringe copyright.

By its very nature, the internet is a difficult area to enforce copyright but businesses are far more likely to be pursued for legal claims if they break the rules.

Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Use a common sense approach to creating content
  • Take the time to create your own original content wherever possible
  • Share, repin or retweet content shared by the original rights owner
  • Ask permission from the content creator
  • Obtain the appropriate licenses for purchased content
  • Crediting someone for the work does not always negate copyright. If you are in any doubt,  seek legal advice or just don’t use it!

So how do you find images to enhance your content without worrying about permission and copyright?

Stock image sites are a great way to get access to copyrighted material and pay for the right to share it. When you use stock photography some rules may still apply from the content creator. For example if you see an image is labelled “Editorial use only” these typically include news and celebrity images, are not for commercial use.

Here are some stock image sites to consider:

Paid for image sources

And of course there are a myriad of stock photo sites to choose from for high quality paid for images.

Image creation tools

Canva – Easy drag and drop tool to create images using their extensive collection of graphics, photos, templates and fonts available, or you can upload your own images.

Pablo  – Similar to Canva, select from a range of background images and fonts to quickly create engaging images.

Pic Monkey – Photo editing tool that also enables you to create text and photo combinations to enhance social media posts. Requires a paid for membership.

Skitch – Screen capture and annotation tool via Evernote.

Although not a tool, have a look at this infographic from

Updated 11/8/17

up to date social media image size guide 2017.

Social Media Images Sizes – Cheat Sheet was created by
Finding licensed free images online

You can use the main search engines to help you find images you can use for free.

Google Images: Search using keywords as normal and when the results and returned click “Search tools” and then “Usage Rights”. This then gives a drop-down menu with various licensing options.

Search tools

Flickr has similar functionality.  Again, search for images using a keyword or phrase then click  “Advanced Search”, tick the box “Only search within Creative Commons licensed content”.

Concise Digital – Of course, if you don’t have the time or inclination to create branded images to enhance your updates take a look at our content management packages and design services. More