Digital Outreach

Social Media Images for Nonprofits – 4 Photo Optimization Tips

According to a study by eMarketer, Facebook posts that included photos received an 87% interaction rate compared to a mere 4% and below for links, video, and status updates.

You may have heard that social media posts with photos receive far more attention than those without. With this in mind, you can’t just add any old photo to your posts and expect results; photos that aren’t fully optimized can actually hurt both your traction on social media and your SEO rankings. The four tips below point to how social media images for nonprofits can be more fully optimized.


1. Use high quality photos

A major downfall we see on social media pages is low quality imagery.

Qualities include:
  • images that are unedited: when images aren’t edited properly, they become less effective.
    • if they aren’t cropped, there ends up being unnecessary and distracting details in the photo – this often causes the viewer to look past it.
    • if they have low contrast or saturation, they don’t stand out on the page, again losing traction for the viewer.
  • images that have poor resolution: this results in a blurry image and does not reflect well on your nonprofit, making it appear less professional.
    • Nonprofits often use photos from events, like the photo below. The problem is that there’s so much going on, and not one thing comes into focus.


Tips for improvement:
  • use photo editing tools: If you can’t afford a photographer, even just using the free tools can go a long way. For example, there are many free photo editing apps in the App Store and Mac users have access to iPhoto. You can also try some options available online – pixlr, piZap


  • use the right file size & type: Read about the difference between PNG, JPG, & GIF as well as the proper image size for most online images on Jimdo blog.


  • use online databases: At ArcStone, we often use Thinkstock when searching for photos, but there are many other databases with free photos. Here’s a BootStrapBay review of a few of them.


  • hire a photographer: Yes, the appeal of using your own photos or stock images is that they are affordable. However, hiring a photographer to come to a few of your nonprofit’s events or to take photos of your office might be worth the extra cost. Even if they only have a few hours, you can have hundreds of quality photos in your database for future posts.
  • sometimes unedited works: The example below is a fairly unedited photo, but due to it’s candid quality and its focus on one individual, it’s engaging.
    • Make a Wish: Some of their photos aren’t even edited, yet they draw you in with their strong stories. Granted, they have a lot of cute kids to work with, but you can take a lesson or two from them…


  • recycle what works: If you notice a post that received a lot of clicks/likes/shares, consider repurposing it for a future post. This could mean simply reposting the entire message, or you could incorporate the photo to promote a new event or piece of content.

2. Be aware of the source of your photos

If a nonprofit doesn’t have the database full of photos, they may be tempted to use a google image search to snag a few ones for free online. But just because it came from Google’s search or the like, it

doesn’t mean it’s okay to use it:
  • this can be illegal: Often using images off other sites is considered stealing, and worse case scenario, can result in a lawsuit. Read more on Copyright Infringement at Paragon Digital Marketing.
  • not representative of your nonprofit: The best social media images we see are candid – displaying the ways your nonprofit affects the lives of real people.


Tips for improvement:
  • use the Google tool: When you don’t know the origin of one of your photos, go to this Google Images page and drag and drop the file into the bar. It will show you where the image could have come from and can help you determine if it is within the public domain.
  • know your resources: when you can’t find an image of your own, have a few open-source photo sites that you regularly refer to, ones that you know will have relevant photos.

3. Match image to content

Another common mistake is using an image for the sake of using an image: the most effective use of imagery is in using it to better explain your text.

The result is…
  • confusion: people click through your social media post to come to your site, with an expectation in mind. If the photo is non-representative of your work, they will wonder why you brought them there.
  • a high bounce rate: with this confusion comes a higher bounce rate, meaning people click away from the irrelevant page fairly quickly. Higher bounce rates mean lower rankings from search engines.
Tips for improvement:
  • use more free tools: even if you don’t have the most enthralling image, you can use a tool like Snappa or Canva to place text on top of a background photo.
  • study the work of other successful nonprofits: their photos are both captivating and relevant. Take time to think of the right photo for your post – the time won’t be wasted if it both captivates your audience and draws them to the appropriate content.


4. Use Alt. tags & photo descriptions

According to Raven Tools, one of the biggest errors regarding SEO is in un-optimized images – read more about the common mistakes in, “Study Reveals Biggest On-Page SEO Blunders.”

These blunders included:
  • misuse of keywords: this can be tactics like keyword stuffing or using keywords that aren’t relevant to your photos in order to rank higher with search engines.
  • no tags / titles / file names: when images don’t include this information, you aren’t using keywords to the best of your abilities.
Tips for improvement:
  • fill out the file information: we often neglect to fill out this info for our photos, yet Google uses this to search your photo’s file and determine its ranking. For search queries, if a social media post’s photo has quality SEO, it can rank on Google.


  • don’t stuff with keywords: SEO guidelines don’t only apply to text – they apply to image information as well. Don’t just stuff your file with keywords, but consider focusing your images around one long-tail keyword phrase.