Everyone has a smartphone, everyone is a content producer, and everyone is getting better at it.
From selfies, to Instagram accounts with 500K followers, visual content marketing is no longer just for professional brands.
In an increasingly crowded digital space, how do you make sure that your content stands out?
- Through savvy visual design, and aspirational imagery
- With high quality enticing content backed up with well selected photos, infographics, and video footage
They found that:
- 53% felt that Instagram helped them define who they are
- 63% used Instagram to document their lives
- 72% posted images monthly
- 52% said they found a sense of community on Instagram
- 68% said they used Instagram to interact with brands (liking and sharing content)
It’s apparent that young internet users enjoy visual content. It’s easily digestible, they can view it on a smartphone screen, and it’s readily available throughout their day.
Most importantly, they’re willing consumers, and they actively choose to interact with brands online.
An effective visual content strategy promotes conversation with online audiences. On Instagram brands present themselves as people. They are no different to the other users, and this adds to the feeling of community.
The lines are blurring between products and the end user’s sense of identity. Brands can capitalise on this by using slick well produced content to develop their story and inspire their audience in the process.
It’s All About Looks
Aesthetics are important (as they’ve always been), but now good content has to bridge the gap between function and art.
Your content must be pleasing, it can’t be half thought out, or poorly constructed. The online world is increasingly beautified, and content consumers are interested in high quality image conscious brands.
You may feel that Instagram is a specific example, that it’s stating the obvious to say that visual content thrives on the platform.
But it’s worth noting that Instagram is so popular because it provides people with what they want.
Consider these statistics courtesy of Matt Brady’s article titled ‘The Ever-Increasing Importance of Visual Content in Online Marketing’:
- Humans process visual information 60,000 times faster than text
- Human communication is 93% visual
- On Twitter, Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favourites, and 150% more retweets
- Targeted customers increase engagement by 37% when viewing enticing visual content
It’s not just young audiences that love good imagery and compelling aesthetics. We all want pleasing content because it adds to our own sense of identity and individuality.
It’s Not Just About Visuals
Of course, the statistics above show that audiences respond well to carefully thought out images. But there has to be an effective strategy in place to build from.
It’s not enough to simply share beautiful imagery. You have to be adding to your brand’s story.
One lovely image might do well, but its legacy burns out quickly. It’s not a memorable, or even useful approach if it’s not part of a wider strategy.
Your visual imagery has to add to your brand’s identity. But it must also positively impact on your audience too. It should build on their sense of self – not simply advertise to them.
Enticing Content Isn’t Advertorial Copy
Effective content, be it visual or written, adds value to the end user. It doesn’t overtly advertise your brand; instead it shapes perceptions about what you stand for.
That’s partly why image based content does so well. You can develop an impression of who you are through a mood board like approach.
You select and share the images that reflect the things that your brand loves, and this helps audiences to define the wider niche that you exist within.
Apple doesn’t simply advertise computers. It sells an image, an intangible quality, an aura.
Consider this Apple advert from the 1990’s. Originally written by Jack Kerouac, Apple borrowed his words for their ‘Think Different” campaign:
They’re not selling a product. They don’t even talk about what they do as a company. Instead they state who they are as a brand through other like minded visionaries, thinkers, and world shakers. And it isn’t even written by them – it’s effective advertising, but it never says anything about Apple the company, only the brand.
Apple tells you that they’re going to change the world. They show you who they are through well chosen imagery, and none of it belongs to them. They use it to create an image, and a clever one at that.
We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s why religion, sub culture, and branding exists. We seek narratives, and stories that we can believe in.
Visual content has an immediacy, it’s intangible, and it’s all about emotion. You need to think about your strategy and how it makes your audience feel.
We’re not utilitarian. There are better technological products than the ones produced by Apple, but we buy what they’re selling.
Because it’s more than what we can physically hold or own.
Because it shapes us, and it lets us state to the world who we are.
Because we’re sold on an image.
A Photo is Worth 1,000 Words
The cliché holds true: a picture is worth 1,000 words. But it has even more value than that when you consider content marketing.
The reason we create content is to leave a mark, to scrawl indelibly on a metaphorical wall “I was here.”'Content is our chance to speak up, to let our brand's voice be heard.'Click To Tweet
The beautiful images that we share on Instagram define our lives, and they instil a sense of aspiration in those around us.
But it has to be more than that too. Our branding must be consistent across all of our channels, from our social media blurbs, to our website copy.
We have to consistently define our brand identity and its image – that’s what people buy into.
Typography, Words, Story
The importance of visual media extends beyond snapping photos. It encompasses everything that your brand creates – everything your brand shares adds (or detracts) from its image and legacy.
When you’re defining your content marketing strategies you need to think deeply on:
- What your font says about your brand
- Your tone of voice and how it adds to your image
- The type of visual content that suits your image
It really does matter. Everything you do should promote and sell your brand and its image.
Here are some of the results:
- 93% stated that photography was of high importance
- 88% felt that video had to be utilised
- 69% considered illustration as a valuable avenue to explore
But what you say has to be considered too. It’s easy to look at statistics and feel pressured to emulate what everyone else is doing.
It might not be the right approach for your brand.
Think long and hard about what your brand says, and then consider the best medium to express those thoughts within.
The Visuals of Written Content
As a writer and content creator I think often about what my work looks like to readers. It’s not just about a singular image, it’s about a harmonious presentation, that’s consistent, recognisable, and self conscious.
Whatever I write should be able to stand on its own, but it should also reflect my brand as a writer. I want people to read something and know that I wrote it.
Part of my approach involves developing a house style, alongside selecting visuals that add an aura to my writing.
Mary Stribley discusses the idea of branding everything you do in an article titled ‘Visual Content Your Brand Should be Creating’:
“…every single status update looks the same…the interfaces change…but it’s all just black text on black backgrounds…if you used a visual to communicate your message, used a bit of punchy type, a vibrant palette, or eye catching imagery, you have a much better chance of ensuring people will stop scrolling and have a look.”
Mary’s point is a good one. And it’s one that I agree with wholeheartedly. People love images, but we should be considering that as a principle, not as a rule.
We need to understand what causes audiences to have an emotive response in the first place.
Visual content provokes audiences because of the way we see the world.
The Psychology of Visual Content
We’re hot wired to process the world through imagery. In Becca Fieler’s illuminating post on ‘The Importance of Visual Content Marketing’ she states:
“According to psychologist Albert Mehrabian, 93% of all communication is nonverbal. Consider how we react to body language or why silent movies are so compelling despite the lack of verbal dialogue.”
When you consider this through the lens of content marketing it becomes apparent that consistent blog posts won’t cut it.
We have to be doing more. Our content has to be visually enticing. If it’s not, we’re doing our brand a disservice.
“What we see has a profound effect on what we do, how we feel, and who we are.” (Becca Fieler)
A good use of visual media fosters a positive emotional response from consumers. When you consider that buying decisions are based on 20% logic, and 80% emotion, you can see why it’s important to get it right.
According to John R Rossiter (via Images – The Visual Content of Champions):
“Emotions drive the basic motivations that energize behaviour.”
We need to tap into the emotions of our audience, and we need to give them something that adds to their sense of identity. Our content has to be excellent, it has to have a sublime, indefinable quality that makes our readers want to be a part of what we do.
Behavioural psychology is an important aspect of a well considered visual content strategy. There’s an excellent infographic on ‘The Role Emotions Play On Purchasing Decisions’ if you’d like to explore the subject further.
Understanding human behaviour is key to capitalising on it. Smart branding and marketing research will lead to content that truly adds to what the customer wants.
Your brand image can be built into something compelling if you know the response your content elicits.
Good Design is the Goal
Everything we create for our online audiences should have aesthetics as the main consideration.
Our blogs should be laid out with care.
Social media posts should contain beautiful imagery, with lovingly crafted typography.
Essentially, I advocate a holistic approach. Everything should add and build from everything else. Of course content should stand alone, but it should also be part of your brand’s bigger image.
It would be easy to write an article detailing how to succeed on Instagram. There are plenty already online. But I believe that image is more than just a well placed photo.
There’s a good argument for developing branded images that work like logos. We use them on Storkey Media.
But again this approach is the end result of careful planning, and well conducted audience research.
Don’t grab your camera and snap a beautiful photo of a sunset, put a filter on it, and upload it to Instagram (unless that’s something that suits your brand identity).
Foster a sense of community, authenticity, and real human connections through the content you produce.
Think long and hard about the form you choose.
We’re all image conscious. Some of us buy trendy shoes, others buy designer dogs, but we all love to share photos of our lives.
Make your brand into something that people want to be defined by. Give your audience content that means something to them. Build your reputation and your image, and share those intangible qualities of love, aspiration, inspiration, community, and identity that we all pine for.