Visual Social Media Smackdown – 5 Things You’re Doing that You Need to Stop

You've heard all the tips and strategies for visual social media.

But now it's time for “what NOT to do”.  It's time for a visual social media smackdown.

In this post I share 5 things you may be doing that you need to stop doing.

Like… right now.

The Visual Social Media Smackdown
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Empty Boxing Ring by Shutterstock

The rise and rise of visual content has been huge, and we can select from a virtual smorgasbord of opportunities to create, share and benefit from visual content.

However, with new “things” there is a period like the Wild West…. where anything goes.

Then it's time to throw out your lasso and reign in the behaviours that are a little unruly… things we maybe know we shouldn't be doing but we keep doing them anyway.

Here are 5 things you maybe doing with your visual content that you need to stop.

Let The Visual Social Media Smackdown Commence…

#1 Say No to Google Images

Don't use google images - say no to google images.
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Just Say No to Google Images.


Let's get one thing straight. Google Images is not a stock library.

I know… it looks like one, feels like one, allows easy downloads like one.. but it's not one.

If you download a Google Image from Google and use it on your site you could be on the fast track to a smackdown.

A copyright smackdown.

You don't know the source, the owner, the copyright, the terms of use.  It's. Just. Not. Worth. It.

That little image you used on your site to make your blog post look pretty?  It was created by a photographer who wants you to pay up for using it.  Or perhaps it's owned by a big stock photo company who want payment. 

So, just presume you can't download and use them.  Be scared of Google Images.  Do whatever it takes to NOT download and use them.

Are we agreed? Cool.

No. Google. Images. Ever.  Nien. Nope. Nuh uh. No no.  Zilch. Zip.  Nada.


#2 Go Easy on the Branding, Young Grasshopper

Avoid too much branding on your visual content
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Don't over brand your image. It's overkill.

This one should be pretty obvious but, alas, maybe not so much given the number of times my eyes hurt from over-branding.

Here's the deal – when you create a visual – be it an image, infographic, slidedeck or more – you don't need to brand the thing with your URL, website, logo, business name and what you ate for breakfast.

Seriously you don't!

Branding is about consistency.  Pick something and stick to it. For me, it's my logo, for you it might be your website URL.

But just pick one thing.

Now, I do believe that some subtle branding on most images is a great idea – for identification and marketing purposes.

It also protects your image in a copyright sense from people wanting to pass it off as their own (see #3).

But you don't need to include ALL THE THINGS when it comes to branding an image.  Just one thing will do.

If you want to add more just branding, remember this – most images have a space for adding a description – add the extra bits there (ie your URL, business name, etc).  Your profile will also have a link to your website and if you are smart you will have a call to action to visit your website on many images or listed in the description.

Trust me. People will find you.



#3 Play fair and SHARE.

Don't upload an image as your own - share it instead using the share function of a social platform.
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Use the Facebook share function. Writing “sourced from” is not enough. You don't have permission.

I have been harping on about this for a few years now. There is nothing that irks me more than seeing a business page on, say Facebook (because that's where it mostly happens) take an image from another page, download it, then upload it again and post it.

People, this makes the image look like your own. Which is not cool. Just not cool.

Not only is it a copyright risk (as the original owner may report the image or ask for payment) but it is just not cool.

And what's the harm in sharing someone else's image by hitting “share” on Facebook rather than doing all the downloading and uploading? Nothing.

And no, attributing the image with “Sourced from… xyz Facebook Page” is not really cutting it.  Facebook may still deem this to be breaching copyright if you are challenged.

Not to mention the owner of the original image deeming it a breach of their copyright if you do not use the in-platform share function.  And when it comes to your website refer back to #1 – don't use any images without a licence or explicit permission.

And when it comes to Facebook, you can get some pretty good “Facebook Reach” juice by sharing an image from another page, especially if that page is getting some good reach and engagement. Facebook likes Facebook.

But seriously, you don't need to do it.  You will still get good reach by simply sharing an image “within platform” (repinning, retweeting, sharing) and the best part? You get to pay it forward to the person creating the image – by sharing.

And social media is all about being social, right?


#4  Don't do the visual vomit

Avoid posting to all the platforms at once.
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Use image sizes that are native to each platform and don't post them all at once.

You've created a great image and can't wait to share it.   But I need you to wait.. a little.

Whether you use scheduling tools or your own posting-power, it's really important that you try to avoid posting the same image everywhere at the same time.

Firstly,  it's best if you tailor your images to different platforms. Consider the native content on that platform – the shape, size and content of images that works on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook.

Then create images to suit those platforms and post them at different times. You might get to cross post – one image may work on two platforms, but just try to avoid blasting them all out at once.

Just remember:  Some of your fans will follow you in more one place and the virtual visual vomit ain't so fun on the receiving end!


#5  You don't have to be everywhere with visuals – just yet.

Take on one platform at a time with your visual content
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Get consistent on one platform before moving to another.

Whoah Nelly… hold up a little.

If you bolt out of the gate wanting to post visuals on every platform you will burn out.

In fact you probably won't get to burn out as you will be so overwhelmed, you might not actually create any visual content at all!

Trust me, I have been there.

Instead, here's what you should do. Pick a platform. Pick one that you love and where your content resonates with your fans.

Then start creating a visual content plan for that platform. How often will you post? What type of images? What shape, size, style? Will you post in series of images or via themes or post a daily image type?

Then set yourself a minimum goal of consistency.  How many images will you post per day or week at MINIMUM?  If you start out thinking you need to post 10 per day, you won't achieve it (trust me on this), but if you start out with, say, one original image per day then you have a good shot at it.

Then WHEN (and only when) you are consistent, start posting a second or third image per day, and so on and so on (eventually moving on to other platforms when you have systems in place).

Promise me you will put the reins on?

Stepping off my soap box… rant over.

I don't usually rant too much on this blog as I prefer to focus on the fun and creativity and business building aspects of using visual content and content strategy in the right way.

But these 5 smackdowns are things that bother me on a daily basis (not just because they bother me, but I can see it hurting businseses), so I hope the rant has benefited you.  Keep these “smackdowns” in mind when creating your next batch of visual content.


Over to You

Do you agree? Are you guilty of doing any of these and realise you need to stop?  Have you done any of these in the past?  Let me know in the comments (and feel free to add your own smackdown if you have one!).

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Donna Moritz

Visual Social Media Strategist at Socially Sorted
Donna is a Visual Content Strategist and founder of Socially Sorted, listed by Forbes as a "Top 5 Social Media Blog You Need to Know About in 2019". Donna helps brands leverage the power of visual storytelling and content strategy in their business. Her content has been featured in publications such as Forbes and Entrepreneur Online and she is a contributor to Social Media Examiner. Donna speaks about digital and visual content for the marketing and tourism industries internationally.
The Visual Social Media Smackdown
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  1. Mel Kettle

    great advice – can’t believe people still use images without permission.

    • Donna Moritz

      I know… it’s crazy that people still think google images is a free for all.. not using the innate sharing link of a platform is risky too (and just not necessary too) as I know of people in legal battles over that too. It’s polite to hit share and credit the original page, regardless.

  2. Fran Kitto

    Thanks Donna. A reminder now and again is great. I try to follow these as it is just plain stealing if you use others work inappropriately. It does add time to find a royalty free image so sometimes it is easier to pay the small amounts on canva or one of the other sites than waste time looking. Prepaid options are great and I have a couple of other site for when Canva does not have the image I need.

    • Donna Moritz

      TOTALLY! I definitely opt for creating my own or paid images now… and I agree, Pre-paid options are great or memberships. Canva is great for that purpose!

  3. deborahhartserafini

    Thanks, Donna. I love your stuff always! The copy editor in me cannot pass this up, though… “Promise me you will put the reigns on?”, should be “reins”. Don’t shoot me! I can’t help myself!

    • Donna Moritz

      Ha! thanks! Funnily enough I know it’s reins but must have just subconsciously substituted it…that’s why I love blogging – easy fix! It could have been worse… ie switched their/there/they’re (I would be mortified about that – I think as we get older the wrong words start to pop out haha).

  4. Melanie Deardorff

    Great post, Donna! I shared it in my Social Media for Health Coaches Facebook group. Here’s what I said …

    “Are you using images on Twitter, FB, Pinterest, et al? Check out this great advice from a well-known blogger who’s one of THE pros on the topic of visuals for social media. And she’s from Down Under, so you gotta love that.”

    Oh — and I tweeted it, too, but it’s Buffered and will be out sometime later. 🙂

  5. Emma Tustian

    Great post. Us UK bloggers have recently been discussing copyright issues and Google images, because there’s still people using them, and telling others that it’s fine as long as you credit. It drives me insane, and some are convinced they’re right when obviously they aren’t. I shall be sharing this with them.

    • Donna Moritz

      Thanks Emma… and wowzers… I understand ignorance as sometimes people don’t know better but when they should know better but still tell people the wrong thing it frustrates me… I know that there are ways to search on google images for the source of an image but I have still heard of that going wrong and it’s not set up as a proper stock library with customer support etc… just seems waaaaaay easier to avoid it altogether. But I agree with you- there are a lot of bloggers that post an image and then add “credit to…” below it – huge risk. Huge.

  6. Laney Galligan

    Great tips Donna. Now that Canva magic re-sizes your image for the different platforms it makes the image vomit thing really easy! Are you saying that for our blog post (for example) we should create different images (as in the content of the image) for each platform?

    • Donna Moritz

      Hey Laney – glad you liked it. Yes definitely Canva is a huge help with the magic button. It’s more about avoiding the same post going out to all platforms at the same time and in every FB group etc at the same time… mix it up over a couple of days and you can get a little creative by using different versions of the same image (even changing the caption) or if you are strapped for time, then at the very least use the Canva Magic Button to resize from square to portrait etc. Then you are posting the right size to the right platforms – ie square works for Instagram and Facebook, landscape works for Facebook and Twitter portrait works for PInterest and Google+… my workflow is to usually create those 3 sizes when I create a blog post and when I create those images I will sometimes modify the pinterest version to make it a little different or perhaps use a different background image for the Instagram image etc. But for busy people who need to save time, Canva Magic Button is a winner!

  7. surprisinglives

    Great post, Donna, I must say though that’s it’s somewhat scary that you need to remind us especially on some of these points! LOL

    • Donna Moritz

      Yes it is a little scary. I see one of these every day… especially where people take an image and upload it as their own on facebook instead of using the share function… drives me crazy to see people not just use the share button – and don’t get me started on google images haha

  8. Suzanne Stephens

    Donna, just a brief
    comment about #3. “Credit” isn’t sufficient license to use another
    creator’s image. People need to understand that per U.S. law at least,
    they MUST get written permission to use an image. Giving credit is not
    the same as getting permission in writing.

    • Donna Moritz

      Oh hi Suzanne – I just realised you commented here as well as emailing me (I replied to your contact form as your email was blocking my reply) – here’s my response – hope it clears up that I agree with you – maybe you didn’t get to read the whole post? Here’s what I wrote back…

      Hi Suzanne

      Thanks for your comment. I am guessing maybe you didn’t get to read the post? I totally agree and I am constantly telling people to not upload an image as their own on Facebook and then write “credit from” – it doesn’t cut it (same goes for blogs in fact) Maybe you missed this in the post:

      “….And what’s the harm in sharing someone else’s image by hitting “share” on Facebook rather than doing all the downloading and uploading? Nothing.

      And no, attributing the image with “Sourced from… xyz Facebook Page” is not really cutting it. Facebook may still deem this to be breaching copyright if you are challenged.

      Not to mention the owner of the original image deeming it a breach of their copyright if you do not use the in-platform share function. And when it comes to your website refer back to #1 – don’t use any images without a licence or explicit permission.

      And when it comes to Facebook, you can get some pretty good “Facebook Reach” juice by sharing an image from another page, especially if that page is getting some good reach and engagement. Facebook likes Facebook”.


      Hope that helps clear it up! I do agree – I couldn’t agree more.

      • Suzanne Stephens

        Thanks for taking the time to reply to me both here and via email, Donna.

  9. Veronika med K

    I agree with the overkill of branding, but having SOME reference really helps prevent copyright issues, for those of us that may be saving images en masse to use later, when relevant to our own audience/something we’re talking about. It’s an opportunity to have your word/creation spread at a later date, rather than being discarded because the would-be-happy-sharer can’t figure out what the source is.

    And SOOO agree on not posting the same thing across various platforms! If you do this, I will inevitably unsubscribe/unfollow you on one or the other because who has time for all this duplication? Not me! 🙂 But if I like you, I’ll happily follow you everywhere if you adjust your approach 🙂

  10. Harriman Real Estate

    I have heard from many people that using Google Images is OK IF you use the advanced search function, scroll down to Usage Rights, and select “free to use, share or modilfy, even commercially” from the drop down. Is this incorrect?

    • Donna Moritz

      Hi – yes I know that there is a search function however I don’t recommend it in any of my posts because people read into it that they can just search and grab and image when in actual fact I know people who have used that function and then found out that an image was incorrectly listed or later bought by a stock company (who then send them a “please pay up” letter) – it’s why I have come to a place where I just recommend steering clear of it altogether unless you do major checking on the image you search for and track it to it’s source and get written permission/usage guidelines – but the problem is most people don’t and that’s where they come unstuck. But yes, it is an option – I just don’t recommend it.

  11. Russell James

    I hear you about google images, I used to search for ages through search and waste a lot of time. I ponied up for a yearly subscription to a image provider and it is a lot easier and safer, not that I have had any problems previously but, in the voracious world of litigation you do not want to get into any conflict.

    • Donna Moritz

      Totally! It’s the changing goal posts that worry me and what might be ok to use now can be snapped up by another image company and then deemed not ok to use – I don’t mind paying and to be honest you get better range and quality when you pay, and there are some affordable options out there with sites like Canva – as you say – peace of mind!

    • Donna Moritz

      Cheers Cassie – glad you liked it (hey I am doing a workshop for Sunshine Coast Destination in November if you know any small businesses in tourism that might be interested – I can send info. It’s about visual content. It’s really affordable for members and I don’t do workshops really anymore so it’s a good opportunity for them to get a full day training.

  12. Megan Roth

    This may be a novice question, but I’m going to ask anyway :o) What about quotes in plain graphic/background that you may see in several places? If you wanted to share the quote in a graphic and then write more about it, cane create your own graphic with the quote (cited) and be ok?

    • Donna Moritz

      That’s a fine question! It’s ok to make a quote image about any quote, but I do recommend that you make sure that (a) you check the source (sometimes there are more than one sources attributed and you can usually do a search to find the original – people sometimes get it wrong) (b) make sure you add the name of the person making the quote. There are many versions of many quotes floating around the internet… as long as you are not claiming it as your own work and you attribute it correctly then there should be no issue. But just some extra advice …keep your branding off or very minimal – make it about the quote. Hope that helps! (oh and you can share the quote image made by someone else – for instance on facebook if it was produced by a page that is getting decent traffic sometimes by sharing that image (keeping the link to the page) it will still get good reach and engagement for you – worth considering. You not only build relationships with other pages/businesses but it saves you the time creating every image.

      • Megan Roth

        Thank you!! One more follow up– what if it is one of those funny little things going around that don’t seem to have a source. An example, I’ve seen this floating around “this morning I choked on a carrot and all i could think was “I bet a doughnut wouldn’t have denotes to me.” does that make sense? Just floating around in several places with no source??

        • Donna Moritz

          ah ok – so in that case I google the heck out of the terms and see if it comes up anywhere and then if you can’t find a source you wouldn’t copy it – but would take the “concept” and make your own – ie “why is it that carrot is always the thing you will choke on. Chocolate would never do this to me. Never” etc. Just think laterally.. that’s the safest way. If it is a polish proverb or something then it’s (I believe) acceptable to post it again with a different picture etc though. But for these “observational humour” posts I would be respectful that someone came up with that exact line and create your own version. You can also put “source unknown” or “anonymous”. but I would prefer to avoid that if possible. You can sometimes also search in google images for it and find examples of that same phrase (just don’t use the images haha).

          • Megan Roth

            Thank you so much for your answers and your time!! Totally helped!!

          • Donna Moritz

            Awesome, glad it helped!

  13. Kriket Broadhurst

    Always great content in your posts, I am happy to say I am not guilty of ever using someone else’s image. I see it so many times and it irks me, especially on platforms like IG.

    • Donna Moritz

      haha cool – and yes I think Instagram opens it up for even more cowboy behaviour as there is no natural “share” function… and people often don’t bother to use any sort of repost app which is better than nothing but still not the same as in-platform sharing. But when people do it without any intention of credit, that’s the worst on any platform. Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Burlington Parents

    Great post Donna, thanks. I have used google images that are labelled “OK to reuse”, I guess I assumed it was listed correctly and never considered the image might later be purchased. Appreciate your insight on that one.

    I totally agree on Facebook sharing versus “source by”, didn’t even realize that was happening. I have a related question. Lots of blog posts curate content from around the web and use images from other sites with a link and attribution to the original source (ala buzzfeed). Interested in your perspective on whether that is OK or if permission is needed.

    • Donna Moritz

      Ah great questions – firstly yes, I have had a few people comment about Google’s “ok to re-use” – I just don’t recommend it unless you can click through and sight the actual “terms of use” for that image. I just don’t yet feel comfortable with people using Google images as a stock photo library in that way, even though they have the “ok” photos listed. I want to see a terms of use for the photos… so if you have that and you keep it saved, then at least you have a record of how it can be used. As for the bloggers taking images and then putting them on their site with a “sourced from” I think that is a huge no-no. Firstly, many images on blogs are taken by photographers or bloggers who are photographers and there can be huge copyright implications.

      I think if you contact the blogger and get permission in writing then that’s another story and most likely fine but to just scrape it off their site and add it to yours – I see this done in many recipe compilations – I would say don’t do it. It only takes one blogger or photographer (or heaven forbid they have used a stock photo) and you will get a legal letter asking for payment, and I have heard of this happening. It’s different perhaps if you are doing it in an editorial sense – ie featuring their blog as a place to visit and capturing an image of the blog, but I would still send them a heads-up. Adding “sourced by” in some of these cases may get you by but it’s no guarantee.. hope that helps! But it seems your “gut” is telling you the answer anyway haha.

      • Burlington Parents

        Thanks Donna, really appreciate you taking the time to respond and your insight.

  15. Julie Toogood

    It’s amazing the number of “social Media managers” guilty of plagiarism and copyright breaches. We see it all the time. The copyright act clearly states you must have permission in writing to use someone else’s property. There are some really severe penalties for businesses when they use other peoples copyrighted material. A lot of government tourism agencies up here are in the habit of taking photos off Instagram and reposting. Not ok.

    • Donna Moritz

      Yes there is no excuse really – my motto is always to use the “in-platform” sharing function on each platform. I wish Instagram would introduce one. At the very least I think people need to use a repost app that includes the link and the watermark but even then I think it needs to be with permission. Some tourism agencies make it clear that if you share and tag to them they may share your image and many small biz want that as it is great exposure and they get a lot of new followers and traffic, but I am not sure of the legalities of that one. With instagram not letting direct-link shares like FB, it is hard to make it an absolute. I just stay away from it unless I have permission.

      • Julie Toogood

        Visit Queensland provided a document to the businesses that basically stated that if a post was hash tagged as #visitqueensland then they were free to use it. To be honest I was pretty shocked they did not get some sort of legal advice because this is clearly not true. They don’t own a hashtag. I

  16. Miami Real Estate

    Great tips!

  17. Kyle

    Great stuff. I especially identify (unforunately) with number 4.

    • Donna Moritz

      haha yes it’s hard when we have limited time not to post it all at once, that’s for sure! Thank goodness for tools!


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