Anyone trawling through their social media feeds on a regular basis may find themselves suffering from a mild case of déja vu. Surely you’ve seen that overly airbrushed lasagne picture before somewhere? Chances are, you have. And way more often than necessary.

Thanks to the exorbitant costs charged by photographers, stylists and (ahem!) influencers to create new and original content, stock image libraries are regularly frequented by desperate social media marketers in an attempt to add some pizzazz to their posts. The only problem of course, is that we’re all barking up the same tree.

Much like turning up to a party in the same outfit as your sworn nemesis, using duplicate stock imagery can be both embarrassing and damaging to your brand, exposing you as inauthentic and willing to cut corners.

And while there are definite cost saving benefits to using stock imagery in the digital space, the truth is they can be spotted a mile away, their overly shiny, catalogue-ready subjects all too recognisable thanks to their toothy grins and mysteriously shadow-free environments.

So what’s a brand on a budget to do? Here are a few key dos and don’ts to get you started:

Don’t: Post for the sake of it

 Ever heard the saying “less is more”? Well it’s actually a thing, and one that is best put into practice when it comes to your social media planning. Instead of posting useless stock images, rather reduce your posting schedule to allow for fewer, more impactful posts.

Do: Up your photo budget

It may be time to grab the finance guy an extra doughnut to go with his coffee because let’s just be honest, stock photos are really just awful. In fact, eye-tracking studies have shown that consumers spend 10% more time looking at original images and their accompanying text. In contrast, most completely ignore stock photos. You do the maths.

[Source: NNC Group]

Don’t: Forget the demographics of your audience

Far too often social media managers seem to forget that most stock photo images are taken a lot further up north. Their lily-white subjects sit wildly at odds with the reality of a country like South Africa with cultural diversity all but overlooked in the endless catalogues of shiny meals, overly smiley days out and homogenous family gatherings. Remember to use images that your audience can actually relate to, or you may have a PR crisis on your hands. 

Do: Involve your community in creating imagery

User generated content is so not overrated. By engaging your audience, you can gain access to an endless supply of authentic and original images without having to lift a finger! Reward your followers with spot prizes and features on your page. A simple promise of 5 second InstaFame and that’s it – job done. Besides, they’ll love you for it.

Don’t: Forget that most people won’t read your post copy anyway

We all love a cleverly worded caption, but if your pictures fail to draw your users in, you’re done for. Remember that imagery is the gateway to deeper content, and if you’re not able to catch your reader’s eye, your story will be over before it even begins.