are you making any of these mistakes with your visual content?

unless you are rarely online, i bet you have noticed an increase in the use of visual content by businesses. there are good reasons for this:

images stand out on facebook, they can be pinned to pinterest, they make your blog posts look awesome, they can add pizzazz to your newsletters… and they can send very powerful messages.

(pop over to the visual marketing library to see more on this topic.) 

we are visual. we are drawn to visual content. and i definitely think you should be using visual content as part of your business marketing. 


you cannot just post and use any image you like.

  • you cannot do a google image search and grab any photo you find

those photos are protected by copyright. just as you would not just copy and paste someone’s written content into your website, you cannot just use someone else’s photos.

  • you cannot grab any image you find on pinterest (even if you do plan to use the handy embed code)

pinterest presumes that the image is pinned with permission from the owner, but that is not always the case. the onus is on YOU to make sure you have permission to embed a photo in your blog post or use it for any purpose. plus the owner of the photo deserves the link back, not pinterest (which is what the embed button does.)

  • you cannot use any stock photo / stock clip art  you like for any purpose you like

you MUST look at the terms & conditions on stock image sites. most free stock image sites will not allow you to alter the photo in any way – no adding text, no cropping, no embellishing. and most require a credit & a link back to their site. and even if you pay for stock images there are terms. most will not allow you to use the image in logos or branding for instance, and there are usually restrictions for what you can use the photo for.

  • you cannot save and re-upload any image you come across on facebook to your own page (even if it is watermarked or you credit the source)

this is just bad form. if you see an image you like on facebook use the share button. and if you see an image you like off of facebook share the link or pin it and then share the link, but don’t just save it and re-upload it. the author of the photo deserves the link, not you & your page. it ain’t your photo! 

now, i don’t mean to be harsh here. truly. i believe that when we know better we can do better, which is why i am writing this post.

just because an image is public ( found on google, facebook, pinterest, instagram, wherever!) does not mean you can use it anyway or anywhere you like.



images are like any other content. they belong to the author/creator/designer/photographer/illustrator/artist. they are protected by copyright. you can indeed get in trouble for using images without permission, in ways break terms & conditions, for not properly crediting, for altering images that you are not allowed to alter and more.

just think of the golden rule.

how would you feel if someone used your product image. or your instagram photo. or a facebook photo of your child. or something that you invested time & money & passion to create. if someone stole your website copy. or completely copied one of your designs, services, products, or ideas.

do unto others.

ok, so now that you know better, you can do better.

  • build your own stock photo library.

get out your phone camera and start snapping. with the whole instagram culture, perfect photos are not necessary. what you want are photos that will resonate, that will evoke emotion, or garner interest or send a message. have some fun creating your own photo library that you can use in any way you want – no worries about copyright, terms, conditions, types of use etc. (though be aware that if you have people in your photos you need their permission to use those photos for your business.)

  • seek permission.

if you do come across an image you would love to use in a blog post or whatever, make sure you have permission to use it. read the terms & conditions. credit the author and link back to their site. never remove watermarks, or otherwise alter the image. i for instance grant permission for people to use my images… you can find them here.

  • create your own branded images.


the best bet as you embrace visual marketing as a tool for your biz is to start creating some of your own visual content. while it is great to share images from other people on facebook and pinterest, you also need to include some of your own branded content as well. just as you wouldn’t always share other people’s blog posts, you would write some of your own too. and just as you wouldn’t always comment on other people’s facebook posts, you would make some of your own too.

images that branded to your business, that match your brand look & voice, and spread your brand message are the ones you really want to be using! they build brand recognition, they help you stand out, and they help you connect with your right people.

try using one of these handy resources:

pixabay – you are free to adapt and use these images for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source.

morguefile – these images are free to use for creative projects. you must alter the image, use it in some creative way.

picmonkey – a free online photo editing tool – use photos in creative ways, add text and all sorts of fun embellishments, even create your own facebook covers easily

recite this – an app for creating quote images

graphic springs – an app for creating a logo

simple diagrams - an app for creating your own simple diagrams

animoto – an app for creating your own videos

i hope these “rules” and resources help you as you work on visual content for your biz!

i see smart, wonder full people make these mistakes all. of. the. time. and i would really really hate to see them get in trouble, get fined, get their facebook pages deleted, or their websites shut down for copyright infringement. please help me spread the word. share this article, tweet it, pin it… i really really appreciate your help!

would you like some help creating your own branded visual content? building your own stock library? using free resources like the ones listed above? having some fun using visual marketing for your biz? we cover all of these topics and more in the visual marketing DIY online workshop. starts again soon! click here for all the details.