Do pictures of people affect Facebook engagement? A new study reveals

Do pictures of people affect Facebook engagement - A new study reveals

Mark Kelley, co-founder and CEO at Taggs, a visual content marketing software provider, headed a study on how different types of pictures affect the way Facebook users respond to certain brand marketing posts.

Their hypothesis is that brand images without pictures of people would evoke greater engagement than those with pictures including people. This is based on the observation that whenever Facebook users see a real non-celebrity person associated with a brand, they will not be able to project or “see” themselves with that product, therefore they are not likely to comment, like or share.

They used Tagg’s visual content marketing software to gather 3, 656 brand images posted on Facebook from January 1 to June 31 of 2013. These images are from 14 leading consumer brands that use Facebook marketing, which includes:

Abercrombie                     H&M                     Pizza Hut             Victoria’s Secret

American Eagle               Kohl’s                   Starbucks            Wal-Mart

Dunkin’ Donuts               Macy’s                  Subway

Forever 21                          Old Navy             Target

This is the frequency of images posted according to 3 classifications:

  1. Showing no person or body part – 1, 964 images (54%)
  2. Showing at least one person’s face – 1,502 images (41%)
  3. Showing body part only (hand, feet) but no face – 190 images (5%)

Here are the results of the study based on likes, comments and shares per type of image:

Type of image




Overall Engagement

Showing no person or body part





Showing at leastone person’s face





Showing body part only





As you can see, images that show only certain parts of the body and not the face generated the most likes and second best in comments and shares, which makes it the winner in overall engagement at 81%. Images that show no person or body part at all generated the most comments and shares and came in at second in overall engagement at 78%.

Meanwhile, at only 62% engagement, images that that show at least one person’s face generated the least engagement, which somehow approves the study hypothesis.

So what does the study imply?

If your Facebook marketing strategy aims at getting more likes from users, then your brand images should only show certain body parts, such as a hand holding a cup of coffee, or a pair of feet wearing designer shoes. On the other hand, if you’d rather get more shares and comments, your images should not include any human pictures at all.

Kudos to Mr. Kelley and his team for generating such important statistics for visual content and social media marketers.  Of course, additional studies may be done to further strengthen the findings, and perhaps widen the scope a bit to cover business-to-business marketing and other industries such as IT products and services.

For a more detailed account of the research, check out Mark Kelley’s blog.