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Why You Should Never Use Stock Art

As a leader, you lead by real examples with real people

mannequin, display, model
Photo by ArtisticOperations on Pixabay

Yesterday I closed a $120,000 project for a PR client.

The proposal was two pages of plain text, no images or flowery stuff.

I had originally assigned a designer to “pretty up” the proposal, which ballooned the document up to 14 pages, largely with vague aphorisms like “we deliver excellence and have great client communication”, plus the kind of motivational posters you see in the waiting room of a dentist’s office.

The designer was dismayed that I threw away her work, since she spent 2 days making it pretty.

Now I’m going to rant…
We have a chronic problem with using stock art.
Not only is stock art not authentic, but most of the time it’s not relevant– so it’s just wasting space on the page.
We’re trying to eliminate stock art from all our materials, but somehow it keeps coming back. And I’m puzzled on how to stop our VAs and agencies from doing this.

Ever see a compelling TikTok post that was just stock footage?

Or a movie you really liked that is just a slide show of stock images?

If you’re doing B2B marketing– say, you’re a tax prep SaaS– then it’s hard to visually convey something intangible.
So your website and marketing materials might have those “professional” stock art photos– one of every nationality in a conference room, all pointing at some fake chart on the screen, while celebrating.
Or worse, that attractive black girl with frizzy hair– I could swear I saw her in a Verizon ad, then selling Fiverr gigs the next moment.
And those impossibly smiley people shaking hands in front of a house that has a “sold” sign in– like a scene from the Truman Show.
You feel like you “have to” put an image on your home page or landing page, right? After all, it would be “too plain”.
Even this article has a featured image (I chose some mannequins from the required stock art library), which won’t help with our SEO, since so many other people are using this exact same image.
If you’re selling services or are an expert of some sort– if you’re not, why are you even here– then use images or diagrams that add value to surrounding content.

Perry Marshall and I have a book on TikTok ads, which is currently #1 on Amazon in the social media category.  We have virtual assistants helping us process the videos that we turned into the book. The irony, I know– of teaching a video-first platform using text.

One section of the book is about performance benchmarks at each stage of the funnel. But maddeningly, instead of organizing the metrics into a helpful funnel shape, the VAs started injecting random, stick figure stock art into the book.

It’s easier to mindlessly paste in stock art instead of actually understanding our material and being thoughtful about how to visually support the text.

Arguably, the text doesn’t need a diagram or stock art.

Judge for yourself:

The “Standards of Excellence” is about performance benchmarks for digital marketing campaigns.
The current set of standards cover the basic objectives, arranged in a funnel diagram, so that our users can clearly see what metric sits at what stage in the funnel. TikTok has most of these objectives– and the medium is short-form video (which you can see in the chapter on 15 second stories).

In short, we are looking at CPM, view-through rate, engagement rate, cost per like, cost per follower, cost per lead, and cost per acquisition.

CPL is for lead gen and CPA is for e-commerce– so use the benchmark you’re already using. This is our primary metric, while all other metrics below are diagnostic (secondary).
  • We know that CPMs vary from $2 to $10, depending on engagement rate and targeting, much like Facebook.
  • View-through rates (impression to view) is higher on TikTok, since they count a view at 2 second (or less) instead of a standard 3 second view). So getting over 50% here is good.
  • 10% engagement rate (likes/impressions) is a good organic or paid benchmark not just on TikTok, but all platforms. A “killer” TikTok can get 35% engagement, which drives the effective cost per like down to 3 cents.
  • Cost per follower on TikTok is much like cost per fan on Facebook– expect 10 cents for viral categories (entertainment, fashion, sports) and north of $5 for unsexy (B2B, SaaS, enterprise/industrial).

I hope you’ll now demand that whoever works on your material to not just mindlessly decorating your social posts, website, and landing pages with stock art or robotically pasting modules into our Academy, but are active practitioners who understand the material they’re working with.

Watch what happens to your close rate when you use only real images, real stories, and real clients.

Now go do a search on your company name in Google Image Search and see if you’re guilty!

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Written by Dennis Yu

Dennis Yu is the Chief Technology Officer of BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company which partners with schools to train young adults. Dennis’s program centers around mentorship, helping students grow their expertise to manage social campaigns for enterprise clients like the Golden State Warriors, Nike, and Rosetta Stone.

He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, CBS Evening News and is co-author of Facebook Nation – a textbook taught in over 700 colleges and universities. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you.