Is your content marketing strategy missing something? If you feel like you’re lacking a key component in 2016, it’s possible that your visual content strategy isn’t up to par.
If so, it may be time to spice things up with a variety of popular techniques.
The human brain and the rise of visual content
In case you haven’t noticed, we — as a global society — are on a path to visual domination. In terms of marketing, this rise is characterized by the dramatic increase in visual content.
To put things into perspective, consider this striking fact. In the entirety of human history up until 2011, it’s estimated that 3.8 trillion photos were taken. However, in 2015 alone, there were 1 trillion photos taken. And that doesn’t take into account the number of times the same photos and images were shared and viewed by other people. Aside from being very interesting, this shift shows just how important the average person perceives photos to be.
This rise in visual content is the result of abundant mobile devices, widespread availability of the internet, and the surging popularity of social networking sites. However, there’s also a much more genetic side to this trend.
“The reasons for the explosion and impact of this visual content are also tied to the biological mechanisms for how humans consume information,” Gerald C. Kane and Alexandra Pear point out in their article about visual content in the MIT Sloan Management Review.
“Sight is our strongest sense: 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and 40% of nerve fibers to the brain are connected to the retina,” they continue. “As a result of this hardwiring, visuals are processed faster in the brain than text. Not only are visuals processed faster, they are processed better. Some suggest that 80%–85% of our perception, learning, cognition, and other mental activities are mediated through vision.”
In other words, our brains are hardwired to crave visual content. As technology continues to improve and marketers become increasingly aware of the human proclivity for visuals, we’re seeing visual content marketing and storytelling strategies rise to prominence.
Are you doing everything you can to connect with users via visual content, or are you still relying on archaic, text-based strategies that fail to pack the same punch?
It’s definitely not easy to dramatically shift from one approach to another, but it’s categorically necessary in 2016 and beyond.
5 tips for better visual content
In the coming months, it would be wise to shift your attention to visual content. It’ll take some time, but you’ll see results soon after placing an emphasis on things like images, video and infographics.
Here are a few specific tips to help you get started:
1. Target visual social media platforms
There are currently dozens of popular social media platforms. If you try to develop a strong presence on each of them, you’ll quickly deplete your resources and end up with low quality results. Instead, you need to pick two or three platforms and spend your time and energy investing in them.
By targeting visual social media platforms — such as Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest or Periscope — you can leverage the marketplace’s affinity for visual content. While there’s nothing wrong with Facebook and Twitter, they simply don’t have the visual influence.
As a rule of thumb, don’t “tell” if you can “show.” Whenever possible, rely on powerful images, videos, graphics, and animations to creatively express your brand’s value. In terms of visual social media, quality is preferred over quantity. It’s perfectly fine to reduce the number of times you post each week in favor of creating better visuals. Quantity of posts may produce better short term results, but high quality visuals will get shared and viewed more down the road.
2. Use on-site photo galleries
When it comes to website content, visuals should make up a high proportion of the overall content. By using visuals, you can say more with less, establish a cleaner layout, and create more memorable website experiences with users.
Aside from using immersive, high-quality visuals on the homepage (such as in this example from Quechua), consider integrating more visual elements on internal pages. One effective strategy is to use photo galleries (such as in this example from Pool Guard).
Photo galleries are great because they allow you to maintain a minimalist design, while still being able to present a handful of images that customers find valuable. Photo galleries are particularly useful for portfolio pages and product landing pages.
3. Leverage emojis in SMS marketing
Are you using emojis? You know… those silly cartoon faces and symbols that your kids use when texting their friends. While emojis may seem fleeting or shallow, they’re actually becoming a mainstay. If you’re investing in SMS marketing, then you should also be using emojis.
However, don’t let the light-hearted nature of emojis cause you to become careless. There’s actually a lot of strategy that goes into highly effective emoji marketing. This guide from Hootsuite is a good place to start. As you’ll see, there’s ample room for creativity. But there are also plenty of “do’s” and “don’ts.”
Emojis should always have a purpose and are ideal for real-time engagement. Never use emojis to communicate serious messages and be sure to accompany long messages with plenty of textual cues.
4. Invest in Infographics
Businesses are becoming increasingly adept at collecting data. But the only way to make data valuable is by clearly conveying the takeaways to your audience. Traditionally, boring spreadsheets, charts and graphs have failed to yield positive results. That’s why many marketers are now turning to robust infographics.
While infographics may look complicated to design, the truth is that they’re relatively easy once you have all of the data on hand. There are a variety of tools – some free and some paid – that can be used to streamline the design process. Find a couple that fit your style and begin using infographics in your content strategy. Infographics are highly shareable and often gain a lot of referral links.
5. Make product descriptions visual
If there’s one area of your website that absolutely needs visuals, it’s product pages. While textual descriptions certainly have a place on these pages, it’s becoming apparent that customers want to see more images and videos in product descriptions.
By providing images from multiple angles — and possibly even tutorial videos — you can help customers overcome their hesitancies and feel more comfortable with the product. This is something clothier Allen Edmonds does well. Their product pages — such as this one — feature images from all possible vantage points. This means more satisfied customers and less returns.
Bring your visual content strategy to life
According to this infographic from Contently, people remember 10 percent of what they hear, 20 percent of what they read, and 80 percent of what they see and do. Since one of the primary goals of marketing is to drive brand awareness, it makes sense that visual content should be a major focus. By emphasizing visual storytelling, you can instantly spice up your marketing strategy and enjoy the full benefits of your investment in original content.
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