A study finds content with original images gets more social shares, suggesting brands should invest in their graphic marketing this year.

Pictures have power, but custom visuals pack a stronger punch than generic stock imagery, according Quick Sprout. Looking at social analytics data from 41 blogs across industries, the study found posts with hand-drawn images receive over 3x as many social shares as posts with stock photos (807 vs. 235).

Similarly, infographic content generate over 500 social shares on average, or about twice as many as stock images. All of these options beat out screenshots with just 165 shares, and royalty-free images with only 72.

Custom beats generic, hands down

What do these findings show us? That people respond to originality and creative content. Hand-drawn images draw attention, and so do custom graphics that offer a fresh perspective on a familiar topic. Consumers are inundated with content across the web, and they are gravitating toward information and overall experience they can’t find anywhere else.

Animated infographics get about 1,200 social shares on average, almost six times as many as stock photos 

Stock photos may be high-quality and relevant, but their weakness comes with the fact that they’re generic enough to be used by other sites to tell different stories. Customized images convey personality and give viewers stronger clues about what they should be taking away from a particular narrative.

The secret sauce for social shares? Animated graphics

Custom graphics and hand-drawn images are significantly more successful than generic alternatives, but they’re bested by animated infographics. The study found they get about 1,200 social shares on average, almost six times as many as stock photos and more than double what infographics usually see. Interactive formats have become a coveted trademark of brands with advanced content strategies because of the time, talent and tech skills they take to produce.

Marketers who want to build a bigger brand footprint and stand out from competitors need to consider how infographic marketing and custom hand-drawn images can differentiate their companies from the competition. If graphics are going in the same direction as content, then originality, quality and creativity will become factors distinguishing between businesses just showing up to the party and those actually succeeding online.

Want to know what Google thinks about stock photos? Matt Cutts says they don’t impact your SEO for now…

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.