Good visual content is a key component of online marketing. Posting pictures and illustrations on social media networks helps brands boost engagement and get noticed by fans.
Our social media images guide seeks to provide you with everything you need to know about using images on social networks. We’ll be covering:
Where to get free social media images
Optimizing images for dimensions and sizing on various social networks
Techniques for using images creatively on social media
Where to Get Social Media Images
When it comes to using images online, it’s best to play it safe by using social media images that are under a creative commons license. What is a creative commons license?
Creative Commons licenses let creators easily choose a simple license that communicates which rights to their content they reserve, and which rights they choose to waive so that others may use their work.
These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators.
There are a number of sites that offer images under a creative commons license with photos that are free to use. Most require attribution, but not all.
Pixabay: Great source for free photos and free vector illustrations. The best thing about it? You can use these images and illustrations without attribution, even for commercial purposes. Just be sure to steer clear of the ShutterStock ad photos that show up within the results for free photos - those will cost ya.
Free Images: Lots of free high-quality stock photos and graphics to choose from. Avoid the “premium” photos on the top line of searches which are not free.
Open Clipart: I’m a big fan of using clip art, as clip art is often no-strings-attached free and easy to use with other photos to create a new, customized piece of content. Open Clipart is a gigantic resource of free clip art, with unlimited commercial use.
This clip art and more could be yours!
Morgue File: MorgueFile is another great collection of free photos. Some photos can be used for commercial uses, while others can’t. Usually you’ll have to provide attribution.
Free Digital Photos: There’s a lot of free, high-quality stock photos to choose from here. Only the small sizes of images are free, but they should be adequate for most web-related purposes. The images require attribution and you’ll also need offer up an email address to download the images.
Unrestricted Stock: Here you’ll find a solid selection of free photos and vector files. Everything is free and can be used for commercial purposes.
Wiki Commons: Searching for photos in Wiki Commons often feels like a grab bag, but there are definite gems here. Most content is under a creative commons license, so you’ll usually have to credit the source and author.
Social Media Image Dimensions
It’s often hard to keep track of all the various social media picture dimensions on the web. That’s why we’ve created a collection of quick and dirty social media image cheat sheets for formatting pics across various social networks.
Facebook Image Dimensions
Cover Image: 850 X 315 px
Profile Picture: 180 X 180 px
Shared Image: 504 X 504 px (Note: horizontal images are scaled to 504 width. Vertical images are scaled to 504 height and may show a grey border on the sides. To take up maximum image real estate, use square 504 X 504 images).
Shared Link: 484 X 252 px
For complete Facebook sizes of every sharable item imaginable, plus ad image sizes and variations, check out this great Facebook image guide by David Coleman.
Twitter Image Dimensions
Dimensions for Twitter Profiles
Cover Photo: 1500 X 500 px
Profile Picture: 400 X 400 px
Twitter has semi-recently rolled out a sleek new look for Twitter profiles. You may get a sense of deja vu, as this redesign is highly reminiscent of Facebook’s look.
For Twitter posts, keep in mind the expanded, full-size image as well as how the image will appear via in the in-stream pic preview.
Dimensions for Tweets
Twitter In-Stream Image Preview: 440 x 220 px
To optimize images so that the preview image and expanded image are the same, use a horizontally oriented image with a 2:1 aspect ratio whose dimensions do not exceed (1024 X 512 px).
Always use images with a 2:1 aspect ratio and vertically centered text and graphics. This ensures that the main message is viewed in the Twitter in-stream preview, with the expanded image revealing additional info or imagery.
Twitter Image Tip: The links for photos use up 26 characters of a tweet. This gives you a remaining 114 characters for your tweet message. Remember to keep it short!
YouTube Image Dimensions
Channel Cover: 2,560 x 1,440 px
Profile Picture: Linked to Google+ Profile Picture
Other YouTube Info:
Video Title: Max of 100 characters
Video Description: Max of 5,000 characters
Video Dimensions: 2,560 x 1,440 px
Pinterest Image Dimensions
Profile Picture: 165 X 165 px
Board Cover Photo: 217 X 146 px
Board Thumbnails: 51 X 51 px
Pin Image Dimensions:
Pin Feed Preview: 238 X scaled height
Enlarged Pin: 735 X infinite
LinkedIn Company Page Dimensions
Cover Photo: 646 X 220 px
Horizontal Logo: 100 X 60 px
Square Logo: 50 X 50 px
Instagram Image Dimensions
Profile Picture: 110 X 110 px
Instagram Pics: 2048 X 2048 px (this is maximum resolution of photos taken with Instagram camera app)
Note: Maximum resolution is 2048 x 2048 px with Instagram camera. Pictures exported via mobile, not taken with Instagram, will have a resolution less than 612 x 612 px.
Google+ Image Dimensions
Google+ Icon: 250 X 250 px (Note: square upload is displayed as circle)
Google+ Cover Photo
Recommended size: 1080 x 608 px
Minimum size: 480 x 270 px
Maximum size: 2120 x 1192 px
Google+ Posting Dimensions:
Google+ Shared Image: 497 X 373 px (Note: photos are auto-resized to fit display. This is the minimums size recommended. Photos can be uploaded at maximum dimensions of 2048 X 2048 px).
Google+ Shared Video Preview: 497 X 279 px
Google+ Link Thumbnail: 150 X 150 px
Social Media Images: Innovative Techniques
Despite all this talk of social media image sizes, you may be wondering if it really matters whether or not your photo fits the ideal dimensions perfectly.
Usually a little bit of image cut-off is not a huge deal. But if you’re using social media images innovatively with text, you’ll want to be exact and match the specified social media dimensions to ensure no important parts of your image get cropped.
Let’s look at some creative social media image examples and marketing ideas.
While it can be difficult to share full infographics as social media images, you can still capitalize on an infograhic’s visual appeal. On Facebook or Twitter, try cropping part of an infographic to post as a social media image and then link to the full infographic.
Pinterest allows you to post full infographics with its unlimited height dimension. However, users will probably still have to click the preview pin and view the enlarged version in order to make any sense of the infographic. To capture attention in a user’s Pinterest feed, make sure your infographic is visually interesting, even from a distance.
Social media images can also be used to advertise a sale or special promotion.
When you have text overlaying an image, you’ll want to use the proper social media sizing to prevent any wording from being cut off. In the example below, an image with text was uploaded to Twitter without considering how the image would look in the Twitter image feed preview.
As you can see, with certain words cut off, the initial preview image makes no sense (it also makes the women pictured look naked, which distracts from the mission of the campaign). The user is required to expand the image in order to make sense of the post. In situations like these it’s better to use the recommended social media image dimensions to ensure that your message doesn’t become distorted.
Social media images with text overlays can also be used as a kind of cover image for your blog post, or simply to promote specific products and offerings.
You bet they do!
That concludes our guide to social media images. Never dismiss the power of visual assets online: when done right, you’ll find they greatly increase engagement across all social media outlets. And isn't engagement the real goal of your social media strategy?
Do you have any creative uses for social media images you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!