The Psychology of Visual Marketing in Social Media

A picture is worth a thousand words. You have heard that saying over and over I’m sure, and for good reason.

It’s not that the picture talks more than your mother-in-law, but that it instigates triggers inside of your brain that communicates to the important parts causing you to connect in a way that words would never be able to.

The psychology behind visual strategy in social media is very important and I want to share some of the research I have found that will help your social media strategy get stronger by doing one simple thing.

Adding visuals.

The Concept of Visual Marketing

The concept of visual marketing is simple.  Go find an image and use it on your social media update.

That’s just the first part of this whole strategy.  Any image won’t do and I’ll explain why in a moment, but I want to talk to you what you should be doing to create this concept so well that people are reacting every time.

#1: Visual Perception

According to a study done by Stanford University, the human brain has something called visual perception.  This is where the brain calculates its surroundings and then makes an educated guess determined by the experiences that it has had in the past with these surroundings.

Understanding what image you should use is important because you want to be able to play off of past experiences in the reader.

Get the image too generic and there won’t be any connection, go too drastic and you will possibly trigger a bad memory within the brain causing the whole thing to go down the drain.  On that note, being drastic like this can also cause you to reap great rewards as well because you could hit an emotional cord in the reader, making them remember something good in their past experience with an event in their life.

That’s where you want to be with your image.  Always be creating the best content possible with it.  But you can’t always go to the drastic measure because what’s good for one person may not trigger the same response in another.

Our minds influence the key activity of the brain, which then influences everything; perception, cognition, thoughts and feelings, personal relationships; they’re all a projection of you. -Deepak Chopra

But how do I create an image that everyone can connect with?

That is the million dollar question, and one I hope to answer before this article is over.

#2: Why the picture is worth so many words

There is a role that emotion plays with memory and it’s important to bring some of this out when you’re picking your image. The idea behind the picture being worth a thousand words is connected to the emotional side of the brain.

Let’s go a little deeper into this so you can understand why they work.

Both sides of the brain play an important role when it comes to an emotional standpoint, but it’s the right side that focuses on, not what, but how it makes the person feel. The University of Virginia conducted a study about the role of affected information within emotion and perception that shows us why the picture gives its worth to us.

Clearly we are affected emotionally by images and this is why they are so important in your social media.

So the reason it’s speaking so many words to our brain is because it has connected us emotionally with past experiences or future hopes.

But that’s not all.

The Psychology of Visual Marketing

So let’s talk about how the psychology of visual marketing can help your business on social media.

#1: How to Choose the Right Image

One of the reasons people respond to images is that it affects them on a certain personal or emotional level.  That is why it’s so important to entertain your target market on social media.

If you’re an SEO blogger, but you are promoting your articles with food blogger images then it’s not going to work. I know that’s a simple explanation, but you will be surprised at how many people miss this part of the social strategy.

Make sure your image is sharing relevance to what your article is about on social media.  The right image should also have the right color palette that speaks to the reader as well.

Take my brand, for instance. My brand is speaking about Relationship Marketing and why you should be using it in your social media.

When you think of relationships, you think of a warm and safe place where you can be yourself.

I chose this particular blue because, from a psychological standpoint, blue shows trust, reliability, and responsibility.

You want to be able to do something like this in every image that you create.  You should be instigating some sort of positive emotional response every time.

You may also want to bookmark this quick color psychology reference guide from our CMO.

#2: Visual Communication and It’s Power

The image is speaking to the brain.  It is a communication process that must always be marketed.  Since 90% of the brain is visual communication you should never underestimate the power that it has on your target market.

Be ready to build your strategy around visual marketing because of visual communication being so important!Click To Tweet

What do you want your image to say? What can you make it say that will communicate the message effectively and properly to the reader?

Again, take your brand’s message, what the article is trying to say, and communicate that message with your social media update.

While all of this triggers responses in the user in mere nanoseconds, the process behind creating the right image for your visual marketing can be time consuming.

Look for this when communicating effectively with your visuals:

  • Faces: Does your image include a human face?  When in doubt, include a face.  Studies have shown that we are drawn to human faces in imagery.  It’s familiar, it connects and draws the reader in.
  • Screenshots: This shows the reader right off that you’re about to help them accomplish something.  These are very effective forms of communication through visuals.
  • Foreground: Images with a large foreground peripheral and a blurry background also work well.  Just make sure the foreground image is something that people can relate to.
  • Cartoons:  Everyone loves a good cartoon image!  I know I do, and the effects of laughter bring about a positive psychological experience in the user.


If you’re like me and don’t have the experience to create your own, there are other options out there for you to try. Buffer has an extensive list of free resources that you can use to help you accomplish that perfect image. And again our own Dustin W. Stout has shared his list of the best places to find free images online.

Everything has to be right.  The color, depth, image choice, placement, perception…everything.  It’s not that you couldn’t throw up any old image and hope it sticks, but when it is conjunctive with sending qualified traffic to your site you want to make sure you’ve done your homework.

The Final Thought

Visual marketing has came to the forefront of social media. If you want to propel your brand or business to the top then you have to play the right music. Those notes sing to the key of imagery.

Visual marketing has gone global in 2015, stepped up their game, by making video the strategy to shoot for.  Make sure you create an awesome article.  That’s always going to be a given, but when people are passing you by on social media, no matter how awesome the article is, because you have failed on the image, you are losing a game that you should be keeping up with.

Make use of the tools around you to help you create the best visual marketing strategy your brand has seen all year!


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