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Stock Photos or Organic Content? What Are Customers Looking For?

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What makes a site or social media profile stand out? Is it a plethora of high quality photos of glossy scenes and pretty faces? Or is it personality, a site that showcases an individual with a name and a face just like anyone else? These questions are pondered by marketing experts on all ends of the digital spectrum – is the asset of personability worth sacrificing for a more glamorous aesthetic? In other words, stock photos or organic content?

At first glance, using a stock photo to fill up dead space in a site or liven up a social media post may look incredibly appealing. After all, the photos are made to look as professional as possible. However, before you copy and paste a stock photo onto your latest post, ask yourself if the image you have chosen is relevant to the content you are pushing or if it simply fills up space. Studies tracking the digital content that the eye is most drawn to have discovered that viewers pay attention to images that contain relevant information about the content being pushed and tend to glaze over images that are not as relevant. So, while a glossy image of a woman sitting at her desk in her flawlessly organized office may make you feel as though you’ve made your site or social media profile more professional, your viewer is not necessarily going to feel that way when they scan your site for relevant content they can grasp onto to understand what you are trying to convey. In short, a more professional looking photo isn’t going to be worth it if your audience glazes over it anyways.

In addition to losing your audience’s interest, using a stock photo can actually decrease the trust your viewer has in the authenticity of your site or social media profile. Stock photos are fair game for any digital user, meaning that, regardless of your authenticity as a brand or company, you can buy and utilize stock photos. While this accessibility is a positive thing for smaller sites wishing to give themselves a more professional aesthetic, it also creates a distrust between the audience and creator as it makes it difficult to tell a legitimate site run by real people from a potential scam or spam account. Boosting your audience’s trust requires authenticity – creating a site or profile that gives the audience someone to identify with. While a photo of you and your team at a staff holiday party may not seem as high quality as a stock image, it gives your audience something to relate to and identify with, in turn giving them a greater trust in you with their best interests.

Choosing which images to include in your digital content can be a tricky thing. It is difficult to decide between professionalism and personability. Luckily, you don’t have to compromise. A personal photo can be just as glamorous and glossy as a stock photo with the right resources and techniques. Many cameras and photo taking devices have settings built into them that can provide a more professional looking photo with relative ease. As well, making a simple effort can make a world of difference. Making photo taking a priority during workdays and special events will make it easier to collect content to post on a regular basis. But above all else, ensure that you are giving your audience a piece of yourself. Glossy photos are great, but they cannot capture the individuality and trust that an organic photo provides.