Using Royalty-Free Images in Your Social Media Posts

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

Using Royalty-Free Images in Your Social Media Posts

Marketing through social media involves using visuals – graphics, photographs, animation, and video. While you can post with plain text to some of the major social networks ,like Twitter and Facebook, others – like Instagram and Pinterest – require that you use some kind of visual file, even if it is simply words typed on a graphic.

One challenge of social media marketing for many business owners is that they are not professional illustrators, photographers or videographers. If you’re running a vet office or an accounting business, chances are you don’t have a photographer on staff. If you have a bakery or a furniture store, a professional videographer is most likely not on your team.

A common way to get visuals for your social media posts is to use royalty-free stock images. If you hire a professional photographer, illustrator, or videographer, you typically pay for “labor” and sometimes “supplies,” and then you may pay a licensing fee for the right to re-use the images produced. Royalty-free images use a special kind of license – one where you can use the image anytime, and for as long as you’d like, without having to renew the license.

Royalty-free image sites offer a variety of price structures that could include

  1. An annual subscription with an unlimited number of images you can use each month –billed once a year.
  2. A month-to-month payment with a set number of images you can use each month.
  3. A “free” version where the images may have specific limits set on how you can use the image and a request that you credit the creator or stock image site.

Most royalty-free stock image sites contain color and black and white photography, vector graphics and other illustration files, and video. Some even feature audio files with music clips and sound effects. Both prices and quality vary.

There are pros and cons to using royalty-free stock images and files:

PROS

  • You can save a lot of time and money.
  • You can find images and video files that fit your budget (including free ones).
  • You can usually search and find images that fit your needs and suit your brand image.
  • You can attract more attention for your posts with interesting visuals.

CONS

  • You may not find the images you need or that fit your brand.
  • Quality and style vary a lot making it hard to maintain a cohesive brand look.
  • Other people may be using the same images.
  • Some consumers may be turned off by the use of stock images.

To get the most out of royalty-free images, consider these tips:

  1. Check out several royalty-free sites before settling on the main one you’ll pay for and use. Some popular ones include iStock, Shutterstock, Unsplash, and Pixabay.
  2. Consider using several royalty-free sites to get more choices or pick ones that focus on a specific type of file such as one for illustrations, one for photos, and one for video clips.
  3. Look for royalty-free stock sites that allow you to manipulate the files.
  4. Use the stock images or files as a starting point and edit or embellish them so they fit your brand. For example, modify the colors of an image or create a frame around them with your logo to create more visual consistency.

Be creative when thinking about visuals to illustrate your posts. By being more symbolic than literal, you are able to use more types of images. For example, if you are a wellness consultant, images of flowers could be used instead of people or bodies. If you are a nutritionist, images of food are an obvious choice but so could photos of a field of wheat to represent a post about whole grains or an orchard to represent fresh fruit.

Note that some software products you use to manage your social media could come with their own stock image offerings such as Adobe, Canva, and Shopify. Whether you’re paying for them or tapping into the free stock files, using any multimedia can enhance your posts, but take the time to find the ones that best work for your brand.