Using stock photos is common practice in web building today. At The Social Brand, we've gone against the flow a bit and we actually don't use stock pictures for any project. Stock photos tend to be cheaper in web projects, they're easier (because you don't have to get in front of a camera) and that's why so many people use them.
So, we are going to start this blog out with a disclaimer or preface. We don't judge people for utilizing stock images and we certainly don't question their usefulness. In fact, on occasion, we do have to pull a stock picture and tuck it away in a project if we don't have a good picture for that particular instance. So, please approach this blog post with that understanding.
With all that being said though, we have made the decision to eliminate stock pictures from as many of our projects as possible. But, why? It takes more effort, requires more time of our clients and it's more expensive. Below are a few reasons:
- It's more authentic. The most important job of your branding and marketing is to help your website visitors or new contact feel like they know, like and trust you. If your whole website is full of fakey stock pictures that aren't your team members, your customers or even in your location - how are we building trust? When we are authentic about something as simple as putting our face forward, the entire image changes.
- It feels more professional. Oftentimes, it won't be a conscious thought that the website visitors have of "oh that's a stock image." But, when you replace the stock pictures with a real picture of you and your team, there's a noticeable difference in their perception of you. They feel like you're more professional, more polished, they feel like you really have it together. We've heard this feedback from our clients time and time again that their end customers are noticing the added layer of professionalism.
- It builds authority. When your customers have seen you and your team performing the services you offer or your products before you ask them to spend money with you, it legitimizes you. It makes it easier for your potential customers to trust you.
- Stock photos are repetitive. There is a shortage of stock photos (and especially free stock photos). So one mistake we see businesses make is pulling from the same stock websites that their competitors are pulling from and before too long - everyone looks the same! It's hard to stand out when all the images on your site are identical (or at least similar) to those on your competitors site.
- Your customers pick up on stock pictures. It's a new digital age and now more than ever, our potential customers are aware of things that don't feel right. Consumers notice things like corporate stock images and it ultimately ties back into a feeling of inauthenticity.
- Lack of control over your brand's image. You've worked hard to build your business, it's reputation and to accomplish the level of quality you provide. However, you lose quite a bit of control by allowing someone to represent your company with a stock image. The images often don't convey all of this hard work.
- It's generic. Marketing is about standing out in a crowded world. Often times these stock images are taken in a way that is intentionally generic and your chance to showcase your brand's personality or unique features is lost.
- Everything about business is social. Hopefully, if you're reading this blog post - this isn't the first time you've heard this from us... because it's kinda the backbone of every single thing we do here. We believe that everything about business is about people. So showcasing your people, yourself, your customers... this is the biggest tool you have! People connect with other people - they connect with nice photos of corporate desks or random examples of your industry off the internet.
- Puts your customer at ease. Allowing your customers to see your services, see your team, see the product before they are asked to take any action will put them at ease. Can you imagine ordering a product off of Amazon that didn't have a photo? What if you ordered something off of Amazon and the product you received looked totally different from the product you received in the mail? Probably wouldn't go over well. Especially in service-based businesses, allowing your customers to see the team member who will be performing their service goes a long way! For example, a handyman business where an older woman is having a stranger come to her home. Making sure she's seen the face of her service provider before he's at her door knocking really improves her experience.
There are even more reasons on why not to use stock photos for social media. To hear my thoughts on that one, click here.
At the end of the day, it's a compromise on finding something that works for your business and budget versus creating something that makes sense. Having a website that has stock photos is always better than not having a website at all. However, having a website that properly and authentically represents you and your brand is a step up from this. Our goal as an agency is to provide top-notch, top-performing branding assets for our clients and that's why using stock photos is something we avoid whenever possible.