Visual Content Marketing: Building Digital Stories That Really Connect
Visual trumps text, so make it a key part of your marketing strategy, says columnist Jim Yu. He outlines seven steps to follow when telling your story with visual content.
Visual content has been dominant in the marketing and personal communication worlds. In recent years, professionals have begun to notice that rich media do much more than look nice — they increase engagement, understanding, and can tell the brand story.
When people think about the best ways to communicate with their brand audience, they often assume that written content is the best path. But the human brain actually processes visual content faster than text. That might explain why Forbes found that among senior executives, 59 percent would rather watch a video than read an article when both are provided.
Using visual content is quickly becoming a critical component of every brand’s story. Here is what you should know about the rise of visual media and how to use it to make your story even more powerful.
The Importance Of Visual Content
People’s natural love of visual content means that they consume it everywhere they go online. Rich media is playing an increasingly important role on social media, mobile devices and standard browsing.
Over the past several years, the ability of your computer and smartphone to display high-resolution images and videos has improved drastically, which has led to the increased importance of rich media when it comes to the sites you choose to visit. At BrightEdge (my employer), we compared the click-through rates for different types of content and found that content that contained images and videos had a 13 percent higher click-through rate than content that was plain text.
People appreciate the value that visual content offers them. Because rich media is faster and easier for them to process, they are able to gauge the value of your content much quicker.
Given the incredible amount of information available online today, that skill has become necessary. Google itself also appreciates content with rich media. When websites employ multiple types of content on their pages, they are generally ranked higher.
These factors come together and increase the number of clicks your content receives. As you receive increased traffic and higher engagement, you will increase your rank even further.
How To Create Fantastic Visual Content
Our research at BrightEdge has also indicated that an estimated 51 percent of your traffic comes from organic search. Despite the rise in social media, paid search and referrals, it remains the strong leader in driving site traffic across all industries.
The importance of creating highly engaging visual content to entice these visitors and build engagement with your brand has never been more evident.
A variety of different types of visual content can be used to express information. For example, while static images might be a wonderful way to show how customers use your product, they generally are not the best at expressing detailed information, such as statistics. Instead, infographics or charts and graphs tend to be the best formats.
Videos, on the other hand, are fantastic for product demonstrations, providing footage from past events or introductions to different members of the organization. Screenshots are excellent for providing images of workflows or of your products.
Producing the high-quality content and paying attention to what your customers respond to best is the optimal way to create visual content. Here are a few basic guidelines to follow.
Make sure it is authentic.
Customers tend to be a little wary of advertisements produced by companies and place far greater value on what other consumers say. According to Nielsen, when it comes to advertising, 84 percent of customers trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family.
This extends to the images you create. Customers respond more favorably toward images that show authentic customers rather than stock images. Stock images can lead to issues, like a competitor either intentionally or unintentionally using the same image. Google provides image search from an uploaded image that can find all the existing uses and the source of any stock image.
Make sure it is relevant and high quality.
You do not want to have an image for the sake of having an image. Visual content performs best when it has something to add to the conversation, either as a piece of standalone content or as a complement to a piece of written content.
Similarly, make sure the rich media you select and use are high quality. Poorly created videos, confusing infographics or blurry images will not help the brand image and instead could hurt it.
Include headlines and captions for improved understanding.
Images and videos are both fantastic media for providing visitors with an improved understanding of what your brand has to offer, but adding headlines and descriptions will only help enhance this effect.
Headlines will make it easy for customers to understand what they are looking at and why it matters. Make sure to add metadata in the image alt tags to make the rich media easier for search engines to index.
Generate content that reflects your personality and brand.
Customers have grown tired of the static and boring. No one enjoys looking at images that do not seem to have any personality and look as though they could be used on any website.
Instead, make content that accurately reflects your brand and its personality. Use consistent filters, color palettes and fonts to make the content recognizable from one image to the rest.
Offer customers a glimpse of “behind the scenes” of the company to show your people in action and the personality they bring to the table. This helps build relationships with customers by helping them get to know you and your team on a personal level.
As visual content in general has grown in popularity, the number of infographics created has exploded. These unique visuals can be fantastic for communicating trends, statistics and other hard facts in an appealing way that is easy for users to digest. Like other forms of rich media, however, there are right ways and wrong ways to create infographics.
The most important guideline in the creation of high-quality infographics is simply ensuring that it makes sense.
That sounds obvious, but a surprising number of marketers make this mistake. They use pictures, icons, designs and colors that do not match with the information being communicated. They might also create a design that is confusing or contains so much data that users do not know where to focus to absorb the information.
Instead, follow these golden rules:
- Make sure the design is easy to follow and absorb.
- Use pictures and icons to bring the infographic to life.
- Use images that reflect the information.
Getting Your Outstanding Visual Content To The World
Once you develop your outstanding content, you then need to present it in a way that attracts attention and gets it in front of your key audience. No discussion of rich media and video would be complete without YouTube.
The video-hosting platform powerhouse is the second-largest search engine in the world and easily dominates the conversation when it comes to video. It provides the perfect intersection between content, search and social in an entirely visual atmosphere.
YouTube has its own built-in algorithms that help users find content based on their queries. Similar to how Google works with general search results, YouTube takes into account factors such as tags, keywords and video popularity to create lists of results for users. When you create high-quality videos, correctly label them with tags and descriptions and promote them across social media, your videos will attract more attention and naturally rise in the search results.
YouTube is not just a prize itself. With people watching hundreds of millions of hours every day, ranking highly on YouTube is an excellent way to build brand recognition and engage with new users.
The sheer number of people you can reach with the content and the opportunity to build your brand reach are incredible. Adding video overlay links and messages will increase the messaging capacity of your videos.
The rest of social media also provides an excellent base for visual content. Tweets with images, for example, have 150 percent more retweets than those that do not. Facebook found that in 2014, the amount of video that people and brands used in its News Feed increased 3.6 times year over year.
When creating content for social media, remember the “social” part of the platform. Users desire content that they can interact with, share and enjoy. Remember to also pay attention to the size and quality of the content to ensure that all users can see it clearly.
In addition, you should keep in mind the general guidelines for creating high-quality rich media, but there are a few types of visuals that do well on social media that might not work elsewhere. For example, memes are frequently passed around social media platforms because of their witty way of expressing thoughts or ideas. These can be wonderful for Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
Creative photography, fun videos and even comics can also be good choices.
Like any other type of content shared on social media, it is important to keep the voice of the brand for that particular platform in mind. For example, while Facebook tends to have a more playful approach, meaning that fun memes and pictures would be appreciated, LinkedIn is much more professional, and those images would not be looked upon as highly.
Mobile phones have begun to dominate an increasing percentage of online traffic as well, so every visual content campaign must take them into account. On YouTube alone, mobile users make up about half of the video views.
As people’s smartphones continue to become faster, smarter and capable of taking high-quality pictures and videos, the role of mobile in visual content is only going to grow.
Make sure your images can easily travel across the different platforms. For example, closely cropped images tend to work better on small screens, where the details might be harder to see otherwise.
Seven Steps To Tell Your Story With Visual Content
- Select the type of content that best communicates your desired information.
- Draft your content, paying close attention to quality, relevance and brand.
- Make sure the content is mobile and social-media friendly.
- Find the best places to publish your content.
- Promote your content through social media and your website.
- Track your audience’s response to your content.
- Be consistent in style and regular in cadence to build a following.
For humans, the brain is wired to absorb and interpret visual content. For marketers, that means learning how to work with this type of content and build a strong rich-media campaign.
As you learn how to perfect these skills, you will see improvements in SERPs and your social engagement. Implement these seven steps, and take part in this visual revolution.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.