What happens when you pair product photos with social media? Potential — for brand awareness, visibility, conversions, reach, and more.
According to GlobalWebIndex, 97% of digital consumers have used social media in the past month. To go further, 43% of internet users use social media to research what to buy. What exactly does this mean for ecommerce businesses looking to leverage their own product photography? It’s a perfect opportunity to create a social media campaign to highlight those products.
From setting your goals to engaging with your audience, this step-by-step guide has everything you need to know about creating a successful social media campaign with the product photography you have on hand.
Set your goals
With any marketing campaign — whether it’s email, content, or social — you must set a goal or objective. This helps you assess the campaign’s performance and determine whether you achieved the desired result — as well as keeping your team focused and working toward a common goal. Plus, understanding your campaign’s goal or objective can help you tweak social posts during the campaign as you see how other posts perform. For example: If you use two photos to highlight different features of the same product and one performs better than the other, you can gain insights into what resonates with your audience more.
Before we dive into how to determine a goal or objective for a social media campaign, let’s talk about the purpose. For ecommerce businesses leveraging product photography, the purpose of your social media campaign can be anything from selling a new line of products to bringing awareness to a new rebrand. These are just two examples of what the possibilities hold for using product photography.
Now, let’s discuss how to determine what your goals and objectives may be. Unfortunately, there’s no single answer we can provide, as this is unique to your business’ specific needs and larger objectives. That’s where the S.M.A.R.T. method comes in.
The S.M.A.R.T. method can help you create an actionable, achievable goal that supports your business. Here’s how it works:
- Specific: Be clear about your goal. For example: If you want to increase conversion rate, by how much? If you want to increase engagement, what’s the specific number you’re looking for?
- Measurable: Whatever your goal may be, you must be able to measure it. (We’ll get to this below.)
- Attainable: Make sure your goal is both within arm’s reach and a worthy challenge.
- Relevant: Tie your social media campaign goal back to your business’ larger objectives so you know the campaign is serving a larger purpose.
- Timely: Create a timeline that can help keep you and your team accountable.
With an idea of what your goal may look like, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of determining your social media campaign’s KPIs — or key performance indicators — to measure that goal.
KPIs are tracked over time to evaluate and analyze results. For businesses using product photography, you’ll likely be looking at the more common social media KPIs for reach, engagement, and conversions.
Measuring reach is actually quite simple. To start, identify which social media platforms you’ll use for your campaign. Now, add up your followers for each to assess your potential reach. With that “total followers” number, you can easily measure your audience growth rate and post reach.
Here are two handy percentage formulas from Hootsuite:
- Audience growth rate: New followers / total followers x 100
- Post reach: Post views / total followers x 100
Measuring reach in your social media campaign can help you determine if there’s a trend when gaining new followers (when comparing to previous months), and if you’re posting at the right time with the right content.
Think about your own social media feed. As you’re scrolling through posts from family and friends, you see a product from a brand that catches your eye. You check out the image, read the caption, tap the “like” button — maybe even save for later. All of these are examples of engagement.
Here’s how to track rates of likes, comments, and shares from Hootsuite:
- Applause rate: Likes / followers x 100
- Average engagement rate: Likes + comments + shares / followers x 100
- Amplification rate: Shares / followers x 100
While these are only surface-level metrics of a social media post, they’re still a good indicator that your product photography is engaging and resonates with your audience. So when you begin creating your social media assets, this is an important piece to keep in mind.
To many, conversions are the ultimate way to really know how effective your social media campaign is. For example, if your goal is to highlight a new product line, you want your audience to make a purchase, right? Choosing conversions as your KPI can help track that action.
Here’s how to track conversion rates from Hootsuite:
- Conversion rate: Conversions / clicks x 100
- Click-through rate: CTA post clicks / impressions x 100
It’s also important to track the not-so-great stuff: bounce rates. While no one wants to see a bounce rate at all, it can still be incredibly valuable to understand what your audience is acting on, what they’re not, and which posts or products are associated with those actions. Plus, if you see a low bounce rate, you’ll know you’re targeting the right audience with the right products and content.
To track bounce rates, you’ll need a Google Analytics account. (Don’t worry, it’s free!) This analytics dashboard gives you all sorts of insights into your website and audience. When tracking bounce rates, don’t forget to compare the rate with your specific social media campaign goals.
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Determine your budget
The industry average for a social media marketing budget can be anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 per month, according to an analysis by The Content Factory. Sure — those numbers are big, but it doesn’t mean that you have to scrap your social media plans if your budget doesn’t fall within that range.
In fact, Alfred Lua, product marketer at Buffer, wrote a hypothetical piece on how to spend just $100 on social media marketing. He offers three plans:
- Plan A: All-in-one social media budget
- Plan B: Invest in education
- Plan C: Advertising-focused
We won’t get into the weeds of it all, but the opportunities with just $100 are vast and wide. For example, you can spend only $40 on graphics, photos, and videos — using websites like Animoto for video creation, Placeit to create product mockups, or Creative Market to find icons, themes, templates, and more. Alternatively, run an ad for a few days on Facebook or Instagram for the same price to test the investment opportunity.
So, what can you actually spend your money on when you’re using product photos as your creative? We have a few ideas to help you determine your budget:
Incorporate paid media
Putting money into paid social media posts can be a powerful tool to help ensure your social media campaign is successful. For example, you can increase your reach, gain insights into your audience, increase brand visibility, and make existing content marketing efforts even more effective.
According to a report from Hootsuite and We Are Social, 27% of internet users discover new products through social media ads — with only search engines, TV advertisements, and word-of-mouth recommendations as higher sources of brand discovery.
So how much do you put toward paid media? There’s no right or wrong answer. The bottom line is knowing how to maximize what you can spend before you begin. Here’s what to consider:
- Understand your audience: Define their location, challenges, budget, likes, dislikes, priorities, age, demographic, and more. This will help you determine who you should target for your posts, because not everyone on a social media platform will be your audience.
- Prioritize your channels: Say you use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn for your ecommerce business. Which ones have you seen the most engagement and success from? Those are the ones to consider for your paid media budget.
- Tailor your posts: When you tailor the content of your posts to your audience and platform, you’re optimizing your dollars — from the product images you use to the copy you write.
- Track the performance: If you don’t know how your paid posts are performing, did they really ever work to begin with? Like previously mentioned, paid media comes with many insights into your audiences and how they engage with content. Observe and analyze this data so you can see what works, doesn’t work, and adapt as needed.
Have some extra cash to put toward paid media? Consider hiring a paid media specialist or consultant to help you through the process.
Hire creative help
If you’re struggling to visualize how to leverage your product photos in a social media campaign, you’re not alone. But help awaits. From optimizing your product images to writing copy that highlights their benefits, freelance creatives from all over the world are available to assist you and can fit any budget.
Here are just a few types of freelance creatives and specialists who can be of assistance and help optimize your social media campaign’s assets:
- Graphic designers
- Photo editors
- Paid media specialists
Rates will vary based on a variety of circumstances, such as project type, level of effort, and years of expertise — and there are many online resources you can browse to find help that meets your needs and budget.
Set up a photo shoot
Looking for additional assets to go along with your existing product photos? Then scheduling a photo shoot for new and improved photography may be one of the most important parts of your budget.
According to fash.com, the average rate for product photography is between $35 and $170 per image. The final cost is dependent on a variety of factors — equipment needs, photo editing, set-up time, and more.
If a photo shoot seems outside of your budget, we have good news — it’s still within reach. For example, you can outsource the photo editing, build your own studio at home, or even take product photos on your phone.
Taking the creative direction of your photo shoot into your own hands? Use these product photography tips to ensure your social media campaign’s images pop:
- Understand the product: Ask yourself: Who’s in the market for this product? Why do they need it? What features are they most interested in? Approaching your shoot from the perspective of your audience can help you pinpoint the best way (and angles) to showcase your products.
- Clean your lenses: Cleaning off dust, scratches, and smudges from your lenses (even if it’s your smartphone) can go a long way in the photo editing process.
- Be steady: Investing in a tripod can be a simple (and affordable) way to ensure your images don’t come out blurry.
- Shoot in RAW: JPEGs are compressed images — so when you go to begin the editing process, you can lose some of the data. But RAW images are much easier and non-damaging to edit. Plus, they can bring back some much needed details that might’ve not been captured well in the shooting process.
- Control your lighting: Ensure your photo shoot only uses one source of light — and always avoid harsh, direct light sources, too. Using a window’s light? Set your product outside of the direct light, or use a sheer curtain if that’s not an option.
- Avoid using flash: This one is particularly important if you’re using your smartphone, as it helps to avoid glaes and discoloration. Using a professional camera? Invest in a diffuser to help soften the flash.
- Know your subject: Different products have different photography requirements. If you’re selling backpacks, for example, you’ll want lots of detailed shots of the exterior and interior. A graphic t-shirt, on the other hand, just needs a few shots so shoppers can see the design.
Brainstorm your creative
Now it’s time to come up with ideas for content that fits within your social media campaign. While you’re brainstorming new ideas to leverage your product photos, always keep in mind that everything should ladder up to the overall purpose and goals you set in the first step.
To get you started, here are a few ideas that can provide inspiration — and variety — to your social media campaign’s creative:
Hosting a weekly contest (or even just a single one, depending on the timeline of your campaign) is a great way to increase engagement, as followers may be more likely to engage with your posts if they can win one of your products or receive a discount.
AMAs on Instagram Live
Go live! Utilize the Instagram Live feature to answer pressing questions from your followers about your products. Plus, this is a great way to humanize your ecommerce business and provide a face to your product imagery.
Uncomfortable in front of a camera? Instead of going live, prompt
followers with an “ask me anything” question using the questions feature in Instagram Stories. Then, post each question with your answer.
Hashtags act as a call-to-action phrase that helps your audience have another way to remember your brand and your products. They also help tie all of your social media campaign’s posts under one single umbrella, and encourage your audience to have a conversation surrounding your brand messaging.
Plus, promotional hashtags lend themselves very well to contests, product launches, and more — making it a great fit for a campaign that leverages product photography.
Before you settle on a hashtag, search for it on the platforms you plan to utilize to ensure it’s been mostly unused. Also consider incorporating your brand name (or a variation of it) for brand recognition purposes, as well as another word that can bring a theme to your social media campaign.
Sprout Social has a great list of tips to consider that can help you get started:
- Keep it short
- Make it memorable
- Focus on a single message
- Ensure it’s unique
- Stay consistent with your brand
When it comes to products, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that most consumers aren’t privy to. So why not show them? Providing a look into the efforts it takes to make your products can add even more information to support your products outside of the usual product listing.
Take inspiration from Southern Candle Elegance Company:
Now that you have some thought-starters for types of content, let’s talk about ways you can add something extra to your product photography. Whether you possess these skills yourself or are hiring additional creative help, these are easy-to-implement tactics to bring your products to life:
Just because you’re using product photography doesn’t mean you can’t add a little movement. That’s where cinemagraphs come in. These are still photographs that add a small but repeated movement, turning it into a video clip — making it perfect to add a little motion to the background of your product photos.
Add on-image copy
On-image copy can help your message be easily seen, as many users look at an image first before reading a caption. If you do include on-image text, ensure the copy is quick, actionable, and memorable.
Pro tip: If you’re planning to use paid media in your social media campaign, remember Facebook’s 20% rule for on-image ad copy. Thankfully, there’s a text overlay tool that can help you determine if you’ve met the requirements.
Lastly, it’s important to understand what types of visuals and creative work best per platform so you can post strategically and optimize your campaign’s results:
- Live videos
- Blog posts
- Curated content
- High-res, eye-catching imagery
- High-res videos on Instagram Stories
- News (text-based posts)
- Blog posts
Adding social media influencers to your campaign can help you reach an audience outside of those already following you. Here’s how it works in a nutshell: Influencers have audiences that trust their styles and opinions. So when an influencer posts about a product, there’s a higher likelihood that the audience will take the time to read what the influencer has to say. This can lead to followers checking out the product, following the brand, and potentially converting to purchase.
Plus, did you know that adding influencers into your social media campaign actually fits within all kinds of budgets? According to WebFX, a Facebook post averages $25 per post, per 1,000 followers. And on Instagram, $10 per 1,000 followers.
Pro tip: Begin with using influencers on Instagram — many influencer marketing tactics work the best on the more visual platform. And before choosing an influencer, ensure your and their audience matches. This will help you know you’re reaching a new audience that will want to engage with your ecommerce business and products.
To get you started, here are a few ways you can incorporate influencers into your social media campaign:
Contests and giveaways
Anyone with an Instagram account knows that contests and giveaways are very popular these days. But what some brands may not know before doing a contest or giveaway are platform rules and legal regulations. Before you add one to your social media campaign, consult your specific state or country laws to help you determine the rules you may need to set in place.
Here’s what to consider when creating a contest or giveaway:
- What’s the prize?
- What’s the criteria for entering?
- What’s the goal for the contest or giveaway?
- Does the influencer partnership help you reach a new audience?
- How long is the contest period?
- Does your social media campaign hashtag fit within the contest?
Incorporating influencers into your social media campaign also provides the opportunity for Instagram takeovers, a marketing tactic that’s easy to implement and comes with great benefits.
Gary Vaynerchuk, chairman of VaynerX and CEO of VaynerMedia, puts it nicely: “These takeovers are not only fun, but are also a great example of a 50/50 value exchange — a partnership that’s mutually and equally beneficial.”
Like Vaynerchuk mentions, an Instagram takeover is beneficial not only to you, but also the influencer as you both are able to reach a brand new audience. But before you embark on determining the details of your takeover, ensure it benefits your social media campaign’s KPIs. Thankfully, Instagram takeovers lend themselves well to those with goals of increasing brand awareness and engagement as well as promoting products — making it a shoo-in for businesses using product photography as their creative.
Next is choosing your influencer. This can be the same person as who you partner with for a contest or giveaway — but at the end of the day, ensure that your audience will care about that influencer’s content and expertise, as well as that it’ll be a positive endorsement for you to have them show up in your feed.
Lastly, the content. For the day of the takeover, consider a handful of in-feed posts (whether images or video), as well as a few Instagram Stories that, well, tell a story. Don’t forget to include your campaign hashtag and promote the takeover a few days in advance on both your and your influencer’s social media accounts.
A rather simple way to incorporate influencers into your social media campaign is to send them your products to review, and have them post about it on their own channels. This is what a sponsored ad is, and you’ve likely seen hundreds of them on your own feed.
If you include this in your campaign, ensure the influencer tags your brand’s account, uses your campaign hashtag, and discusses key features you want to highlight about your product.
Pro tip: Share the posts to your Instagram Story for added visibility.
One important note: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines for influencer marketing now requires disclosures for endorsements when part of a sponsored campaign.
“If you write about how much you like something you bought on your own and you’re not being rewarded, you don’t have to worry. However, if you’re doing it as part of a sponsored campaign or you’re being compensated — for example, getting a discount on a future purchase or being entered into a sweepstakes for a significant prize — then a disclosure is appropriate.”
Here are a few tips to help you navigate adding disclosures to your sponsored posts:
- Use the “Sponsored Post” feature on Instagram.
- Include the disclosure before the caption cuts off by the “read more” button.
- Explicitly state it’s a paid partnership rather than solely relying on “#ad” and “#sponsored” hashtags.
Build out a schedule
Once you have your plan in place, it’s time to create a schedule. A social media schedule or calendar not only helps you stay organized (and reduces the need to dig for your content when it’s time to post), but it can also help you keep track of what is — and isn’t — performing.
Before you dive into creating your schedule, know the best (and worst) times of the week and day to post on each platform to arrange your posts accordingly:
- Best day: Wednesday
- Best time: Wednesday 11 a.m. and 1–2 p.m.
- Worst day: Sunday
- Best day: Wednesday
- Best time: Wednesday 11 a.m. and Friday 10 a.m.–11 a.m.
- Worst day: Sunday
- Best days: Wednesday and Friday
- Best times: Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m.
- Worst day: Saturday
Now, how do you create your calendar? Thankfully, there are tons of online resources you can use that will help keep your social media campaign organized. Here are a few of our favorites:
Now for the fun part — and where you can really make your product images shine. You already know what performs best per platform, so now it’s time for platform best practices.
Each social media website has specific size requirements for images, and staying up to date on these guidelines will only help ensure your product images are perfectly optimized.
- Static image: 1,200 x 630 pixels
- Square image: 1080 x 1080 pixels
- Landscape image: 1.91:1 and 4:5 ratio
- Portrait image: 1080 x 1350 pixels
- Instagram Story: 1080 x 1920 pixels
- Static image: 16:9 aspect ratio
One note: Be sure to size down, not up. Sizing down is typically safer as the image keeps all the pixels it needs. But sizing up needs more pixels per inch — and when your image doesn't have enough, it can look distorted or fuzzy.
Using paid media? It also helps to understand the various copy placements you can utilize, which can provide more context to your product images.
- Facebook images and videos:
- Post copy: 125 characters or less
- Link headline: 25 characters or less
- Link description: 30 characters or less
- CTA examples: Apply Now, Book Now, Call Now, Contact Us, Download, Get Directions, Learn More, Get Showtimes, Get Quote, Send Message, Request Time, Save, See Menu, Shop Now, Sign Up, Watch More, LIsten Now, Subscribe, Send WhatsApp Message, Dial Code
- Instagram images and videos:
- Post copy: 125 characters or less
- CTA examples: Shop Now, Book Now, Learn More, Get Showtimes, Sign Up, Download, Watch More, Contact Us, Apply Now, Donate Now, Get Quote, Request Time, See Menu, Send Message, Listen Now, Get Offer, Subscribe, Book Test Drive, Check Availability, Send WhatsApp Message
- Twitter images and videos:
- Post copy: 280 characters
- Title: 70 characters
Engage with your followers
Once you post your social media creative, the job isn’t over. It’s important to monitor how your social posts are doing and how your audience is responding. This gives you the opportunity to provide an active voice to your brand, as well as to show that you’re listening and seeing your audience as well.
Here are a few quick tips:
- Show appreciation to followers commenting in approval or sharing your posts. This can be as simple as a quick heart emoji or “thank you” message.
- Show that you’re listening, even to comments that may be negative. Addressing these publicly can show that you’re willing to listen and adapt.
- When you’re replying to comments, ensure it matches your ecommerce business’ brand voice and tone.
Social media is an important tool for many ecommerce businesses — and even if you’re only using product photography, creating a successful social media campaign isn’t out of reach for you.
With these steps, you can create a campaign that’s not only creative, but strategic — and can help make an impact that can increase your brand awareness, drive sales, and build customer loyalty.
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Author - Alexandra Sheehan
Alex leads content for Clipping Path India, a virtual photo-editing studio that provides hand-drawn clipping paths and image edits to product-based businesses and photographers. Path helps busy professionals by taking tedious edits off their plate so they can get back to the work they love.