2019’s Social Media Image Optimization Handbook

Marketers are contending with two very crucial realities concerning modern audiences: Attention spans have gotten shorter (so you have less time to hook your audience), and people are engaging with images now more than ever before. As humans, of course, we respond to visual stimuli naturally, but as technology has advanced and viewing channels have multiplied, images have become an integral part of daily life for everyone. So, to cut through the advertising competition, you need to make image optimization a core element of your social media marketing strategy.

This is the process of ensuring all images you upload to a particular channel are of the highest quality while at the same time being the smallest file size. This ensures quicker page-load times, which translates to reduced bounce rates. Regarding social media marketing, image optimization is as vital as any other channel, especially with the rise of new visual platforms like Instagram Stories. Below we list some best practices and guidelines for image optimization for all the major social networking sites.


Starting with the cover photo, the image appears on the site at 820x312 pixels. The minimum quality of the image you’ll want to upload is 820x320 pixels, as anything less will appear stretched. The cover photo will display on smartphones at a quality of 640x360. For optimal results upload an RGB JPEG file less than 100 kb, but if you have text or a logo, a PNG file might be best.

The profile image appears on the lower left of the cover photo, and this should be a minimum of 180x180 pixels, although it will appear on screen as 170x170 pixels. The photo thumbnail of this profile image, which is displayed at various other locations on Facebook, displays at 32x32 pixels. Despite its smaller size, you’ll want to put a lot of effort into your profile image. After all, this is the visual that people will see most often, be it on your timeline or when you post on the wall or comment on posts. Best to make sure your profile image captures the essence of your brand.

Also, any image you share in a link on Facebook should be uploaded at a size of 1200x628 pixels.


Like with Facebook, your Twitter profile image is displayed at the bottom left of the header photo. It should be a minimum of 400x400 pixels (although it will display at 200x200) and you can upload it in JPEG, GIF, PNG, or BMP formats. As for the header, image guidelines suggest uploading a photo at 1500x500 pixels and with a maximum file size of 10 MB. This can also be in JPEG, GIF, PNG, or BMP formats.

In-stream photos are another matter entirely. If you want your image to appear expanded in the stream, the minimum requirement is to upload at 440x220 pixels. The maximum to appear expanded is 1024x512 pixels. On the other hand, if you want your photo to appear collapsed (and have Twitter shrink it to a smaller size) then to do this and still maintain quality requires a minimum of 506x253 pixels.


Instagram is a crucial one, as this is where more and more young people are turning for their social media visual fix. As a business, you’ll want to have a well-maintained IG profile with an engaging calling card, and that means a slick profile image. You’ll want it to appear on your home page at 110x110 pixels, and make sure it’s a perfect square (1:1) aspect ratio.

Any thumbnails that appear on your IG account will display at 161x161. Make sure these are also formatted in the 1:1 aspect ratio. As for photo sizes, IG has allowed for larger image sizes (1080x1080 pixels), although the platform still scales them down to 612x612 pixels.


This is one of the best social media platforms for B2B networking. And although LinkedIn focuses on producing stellar content like blog posts, you still need to optimize your profile photos to help reach an audience. The profile image which appears on a personal/individual page should be the face of your operation or at least a branded logo. Image requirements are recommended between 400x400 and 20,000x20,000 pixels. The file size should be 10 MB maximum and you can upload in JPEG, GIF, or PNG formats only.

If you are focusing on a brand/company page, then the logo you use instead of a profile image should be 300x300 pixels in PNG, JPEG or GIF formats with a max 4 MB file size. The recommended background image size is 1536x768 pixels uploaded in a PNG, JPEG or GIF with a max file size of 4 MB.

You can also upload a hero image, which is a large image displayed below the profile image. This image should speak to your company and industry, as it will be one of principle things potential clients and employees see. The guidelines for the hero image are 1128x376 pixels in a file size of 2 MB in PNG, JPEG or GIF formats.

Below the hero image, you can add a business banner (646x220 pixels; 2 MB file size in PNG JPEG or GIF) and a square logo, which should be 60x60 pixels with the same file requirements.


These are the current recommendations for image optimization for major social media platforms. And don’t forget about YouTube—even though it’s a video site, every business should have a branded YouTube channel that they update frequently with quality content. And on the channel page there should be a channel profile image uploaded in 800x800 pixels (displays at 98x98 pixels), in JPEG, GIF, BMP or PNG formats. For video optimization tips, see this handy guide.

Pro-tip: Image optimization doesn’t only apply to social media. All marketing content sent on newsletters, promotional emails, or even direct replies have to follow best practices for faster loading time. The recommended dimension is between 600 to 650 pixels, while the suggested file size for images and media is 1MB. But just like the nuances of different social media platforms, email clients may also have different rules. 

As an option, you can also consider using fun GIFs, which don’t need to occupy as much screen real estate on your emails to make an impact. Just make sure that before you insert GIFs into Gmail or whatever your email provider is, it’s below 200kb. The smaller the file size, the faster it loads. 

About the Author:

Ryan Gould

Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services

Elevation Marketing

From legacy Fortune 100 institutions to inventive start-ups, Ryan brings extensive experience with a wide range of B2B clients. He skillfully architects and manages the delivery of integrated marketing programs, and believes strongly in strategy, not just tactics, that effectively aligns sales and marketing teams within organizations.

Ryan is known for taking complex marketing and business challenges and developing solutions that simplify processes while driving customer outcomes and business value. He also thrives on guiding Elevation teams toward execution of strategies that help companies succeed in new verticals, while staying true to core values and brand integrity.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rygould/

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