The Bible is filled with visuals like justice rolling down like waters (Amos 5:24) and God causing the sun to rise on the evil and the good (Matthew 5:45). Jesus' parables are even more potent as they weave principles and images into a single narrative. The Bible's use of imagery is part of what makes it so captivating and why we must become fluent in the use of visual images to communicate.
If yours is like most churches, outside of direct traffic, most visitors access your site through a link you or someone else shares on a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter. Much of what attracts attention is the image associated with the post. Here are tips on selecting images that will drive more traffic to your site.
1. Zoom in on faces
Georgia Institute of Technology and Yahoo Labs researchers looked at 1.1 million photos on Instagram and found that pictures with faces are 38 percent more likely to receive "likes" than photos with no faces. Close-up shots show emotion, and eyes looking at the camera draw the viewer into the image. If done well, these tight shots can be a strong traffic driver.
It's important to note that this method may not work for certain organizations or social media channels. In the retail world, research shows that people in images decrease Facebook engagement. However, the church is not a retail business. It is all about people and community, so take this research with a grain of salt and find out for yourself what works best. Do an A/B test: images with people vs. without. Test wide-shot vs. in-your-face. Publish each post at the same time and be sure to superimpose the same text over the image or in the post itself. Which post gets the most likes, shares and comments? We'd love to see your results.
2. Pay attention to size and orientation
Whatever image is associated with your content (usually the topmost image in a particular blog post) must make sense at a small size. Facebook does not display full-page images; in fact, more than half of the people using Facebook look at it on their phone screens. That means you do not need to use images with a lot of detail and small text.
In addition, most social media platforms display all pictures associated with a link in a horizontal format (most common being 2.1:1 and 1.8:1) or a square format (1:1). Images either need to be horizontal or must work if they are auto-cropped to that orientation. If you want to export just the right size, these social media image dimensions are a quick reference.
3. Use bright colors
If the mood in your post is bright and happy, then it follows that your image's colors should match! Toys-R-Us has become a master at this by taking a close-up of a toy or character and filling the rest of the image with a solid neon color. The contrast of this image to everything else in someone's social media stream attracts the eyes as the individual scrolls through an otherwise uniform feed. Create these kinds of images using a simple editing tool to cut out the subject of your image and adding the color behind them. GIMP is a great, free option for this. Check out our basics of GIMP screencast.
4. Display opposite meanings
Sometimes breaking the rules drives traffic. Opposites attract, right? An intentionally ironic pairing can signal that the content will deliver a unique perspective on the topic at hand. For example, if you're writing about uniting the church, the images could show division, like sheep squabbling or birds squawking. You could use a poster telling people to keep quiet in an article on how to encourage youth to talk. Hunting for these images should be fun.
Don't forget about image copyrights. Using a Google image search and downloading the first image you see may not be legal. Make sure you own or have a license to use the image. A great way to guarantee you are in the clear is to download free or paid stock images. We have already covered the legwork for you in our article on breaking the chains of clipart.
Interesting images do not make up for bad content. In fact, an appealing image that draws people to bad content will make people feel duped. Content is king. If you create great content, you will build an audience. If not, all the great images in the world will not help your traffic. That means you need to develop a great content marketing strategy before you start obsessing over the perfect image.
When you pair great content with images that help grab the attention of your social network connections, you will make serious inroads into reaching more people with your online ministry.