How visuals outperform copy

At least on social where a picture is worth a thousand words

Not getting reaching your reach on social? Not getting the results you want? Take another look at your visuals and be totally honest with yourself. 

Do your visuals create curiosity, do they tell a story by themselves, do they pop from the screen, and are they irresistible to take another look and maybe even click on it? 9 Out of 10 times, the answer is 'no'. Most brands excel in predictable, dull, boring, not distinctive visuals. You actually are invisible to your audience. The branding department is the only one who is delighted and ecstatic -- mostly because they created these visuals. 

In the meanwhile, the marketing team is looking for more variety, diversity, and a bigger stock. For visuals, more actually is better. Having a lack of enough visuals for content is one of the biggest frustrations, at least what I heard.

And even worst, some marketers still rely on the copy to grab the attention... they could not be more wrong. Let alone the reviewing of the social post on desktop or in word, and not 'in situ'. Meaning, not in the same flow as when your audience thumbs through their social timeline on mobile. Fast and vertical on a very small screen. 

How to fix this? A few pointers to create more impact on social and look professional at the same time. 


Visual requirements

First things first, a reminder for the requirements for great visuals to be used as a companion for the copy. No rocket science, we all know these, yet we tend to forget them in the daily business. 

  • Thumbstopping power: is this something you yourself would click on during the endless scrolling on social.
  • Evokes curiosity: sparks an 'I wanna know more'. 
  • Tells a story by itself: looking at the visual makes you curious and or inquisitive. You get a feeling 'I want to know more', especially in combination with the caption or title. 
  • Is emotional. All content must add value: emotion or knowledge. If the visual is just there for decoration, rethink. 
  • Enhances the title or caption. This is all about the combination between the copy and the visual. The visual should add value to the title, and vice versa. It is about the teamwork between these two that creates magic. If the title is merely describing the visual, it's boring. If the visual is just a visual representation of the title, it is equally boring. 
  • Easy to digest: on mobile you have 1.5 seconds to grab the attention in the social timeline. 

Thinking out of the box, a visual can also be a text, a meme, or a statement. Or an infographic. Play with your title or caption and see what works best for your post. A visual doesn't always need to be an actual visual.  


How to get your visuals

The next step is to create your own database. And you do not always need to invest big budgets. 


Produce your own

The most expensive option. A professional photoshoot is expensive. Not only in budget for the photographer and editing. Also, the time needed to think about what kind of visuals you want to produce and how and where you are going to use them. Please do not forget to include the specific social formats in the briefing: vertical, square, and adorable on a small mobile screen. 

If you are a smaller company with less budget, think about producing your own visuals. A visual doesn't always need to be produced top-notch to be engaging. In 2021 a bit more raw, authentic, and DYI feeling can spark more than the professional version. 



Please, step away from the usual stock images. Be creative in your search. Invest the time in your quest. The world is crowded with boring stock stuff. Yet stock can be an amazing source for visuals if done correctly. 

Take a deep dive down the rabbit hole. Expand your search with the synonyms of your brand values. Search on colors. Try combinations.  And if you find a photographer you like, check their portfolio. 

You can go paid, like Getty. 

Free stock and a great platform for amazing talent: Pexels, Unsplash

A complete overview of 16 free-to-use stock websites.


Make them your own

Once you have your (stock) visuals, make them your own. Customize. Adjust. Crop. Focus. Play and have fun. Be distinctive and make sure you stand out. 


Be inspired

Easier said than done to be creative. Once you are drowning in the daily business and down to your neck in the brand you will have a hard time looking outside in.

My fix is to turn to social to be inspired. With all the brands and influencers wanting my attention on Instagram, this is also an amazing platform to be inspired by how others excel with their visuals. Equally for the other social channels like LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, Snap, Twitter, and even Facebook. 

When I stumble upon a visual that grabs my attention, I save the post. Once I need inspiration and to step out of the brand comfort zone, I scroll through this section. In the meanwhile, I have over 1.000 posts saved and growing. Time over time again it makes me smile, I always get new ideas and insights to improve my own content. 

Once you got some of these posts saved, you can also turn to the 'search' section. The social algorithm serves you with more content like what you already saved. 

Next hack, in the search you can use # to discover more content. Try it out, click, be inquisitive, and be surprised. Save it and repeat. 



Me being a fan of IG, a very small selection of my favorite inspirational handles worth following. Click on their posts and check out them having fun with words and images (or videos). 

Emotional. Passionate. Proud. Engaging. Enthusiastic. Authentic. On brand. Sometimes a bit raw. From the big commercial brands, top chefs to the influencers.

instagram.com/siredmondgin/ can you discover their themes? And how they have fun with stock? At the same time promoting their Gin without being pushy. It's is the lifestyle, not the product. 

instagram.com/baileysofficial/ how a big commercial brand knows how to share their passion for their product and inspire me to have fun with Baileys. 

instagram.com/jamieoliver/ His passion for food is just mesmerizing. 

instagram.com/nigellalawson/ Same as for Jamie. Her engaging passion for food and preparing the food. At the same time, she inspires me to be creative in the kitchen. 

instagram.com/natgeoyourshot/ Just great visuals from all over the world. The visuals all tell a story by themselves. 

instagram.com/thomas_iceberg/ He makes me want to go climbing. At the same time, he is pretty commercial as an influencer. Yet his content adds value by giving me an aspirational sneak peek into the mountain life. 

instagram.com/ortovox/ Great brand with a passion and pride for their product. Yet, their story is about mountaineering and sustainability and not the commercial side. 

instagram.com/fuckologyofficial/ Great examples of how copy can be visuals as well. Don't be offended. 


Credits for the visual in this blog

instagram.com/lindameixner/. This girl knows how to produce great engaging visuals and share her passion with the world. I kindly suggest you follow her if you love skiing and the outdoors. 


Fleur Willemijn van Beinum
A visual doesn't always need to be an actual visual. Thinking out of the box, a visual can also be a text, a meme, or a statement. Or an infographic. Play with your title or caption and see what works best for you.
Fleur Willemijn van Beinum