Social Media Imagery: 5 Must-Knows

 This guest post was written by Hope Frank, Assistant Account Executive at Social@Ogilvy Chicago, and Josh Williams, Art Director at Ogilvy PR Worldwide.


Imagery is key to any social content strategy. Here are 5 must-knows for social media practitioners about the basics of using images on social.

1. File Format. With so many different image types, it can be confusing to know which ones work on social platforms and which don’t.  Formats accepted across social platforms:

  • .JPEG: most common, basic image file, but with every save more of the picture is lost.
  • .PNG: most likely to look exactly as planned on the web.

Formats not accepted:

  • .PDF: not accepted as an image file.
  • .GIF: image files that are compressed and look like a moving picture, but will not upload to social networks (if you’re really looking for a .GIF, check out Giphy).
  • .PSD/.AI: editable versions within Photoshop and Illustrator that are not considered image files.

2. File Size. Each platform has recommendations as to which image sizes populate best both on the platform. As of March 2014, the recommended image sizes are:  Facebook:

  • Photo Post: 403×403 pixels
    • Note: this is the size that the image will preview on the Timeline, but it is recommended to use larger images with a similar aspect ratio of 1:1.
    • Images with other aspect ratios can be used, but will preview as letterboxed.
    • Cover Photo: 851×315 pixels
      • Note: design consideration must be given to the bottom left corner where the profile photo overlaps.
      • Profile Photo: 180×180 pixels


  • Photo post: 900×450 pixels
    • Note: this size fully populates the preview screen. Other sizes can be used, but only a portion of the image will preview.

On April 8, Twitter announced a new profile layout. Updated creative specs (for when your brand page transitions over to the new layout) include:

  • Profile Photo: 400×400 pixels
  • Header Photo: 1500×500 pixels
    • Note: the header is cropped to a 2:1 aspect ratio on mobile devices.


  • Banner image: 646×220 pixels
  • Standard Logo: 100×60 pixels
  • Square Logo: 50×50 pixels

3. Usage Rights Possibly the most important aspect of using images on social media is whether your brand actually has the right to do so. Three key questions to ask yourself include:  Do we own this image?  In what context do we own this image?

  • Royalty-Free: stock images for purchase that can be used in any application, for as long as you like, in as many different projects as you like.
  • Rights-Managed: stock images for purchase based on licenses for a defined scope of usage and some are available with exclusive rights.

 How long do we have rights to this image?

  • Rights-managed stock images will state in the license when usage runs out

4. Advertising Considerations. While each platform is constantly changing, there are a few considerations to keep in mind when utilizing imagery in paid social: Facebook:

  • Facebook Paid Ad images have a recommended aspect ratio of 1.91:1 and an upload size of 1,200×627 pixels.
  • Promoted posts only allow 20% of the image to contain logos/copy within the image. Want to know if your image works? Try out their handy tool here.


  • As far as we know, Instagram ads have the same image requirements as regular Instagram uploads.

5. Quick Facts. Beyond basic image sizes, advertising, and rights, here are a few nuances to images that are helpful for social media practitioners to understand.  

Pinterest [1]

  • Images with less than 30% whitespace are repinned the most.
  • Images with multiple dominant colors have 3.25 times more repins per image than images with a single dominant color.
  • Red, orange and brown images receive approximately twice as many repins as blue images


  • Twitter images now have a preview that automatically populates within the user’s feed. This part of the image – or whole image – has a 2:1 aspect ratio (the proportional relationship between an image’s width and height).
  • Tweets featuring images garner 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets than tweets without images.[2]

Now that you know the basics, what questions do you have about imagery?


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