When content marketing comes to mind, most people think about blog posts, news articles, press releases, and eBooks. And while these are all key components of an effective content marketing strategy, you can’t generate the positive results you want without putting a heavy emphasis on the visual side of content.
The rising popularity of visual content
The power of visual content is nothing new. The human brain is intrinsically hardwired in such a way that we have an affinity for things like shapes, colors, and patterns. But the brain doesn’t just prefer visuals. It also finds it challenging to fully process text.
“Processing print isn’t something the human brain was built for,” says Marcel Just of the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University. “The printed word is a human artifact. It’s very convenient and it’s worked very well for us for 5,000 years, but it’s an invention of human beings. By contrast, Mother Nature has built into our brains ability to see the visual world and interpret it. Even the spoken language is much more a given biologically than reading written language.”
So, while you may feel like the shift to visual content is nothing more than a bunch of marketers getting together and deciding that images are superior to text, the truth is that our human brains – the very systems that process content – are designed in such a way that they crave visuals.
How much so? Well, according to this infographic, visuals are processed 60,000-times faster than text. As a result, we retain 80 percent of what we see. Comparatively, we only recall 20 percent of what we read and just 10 percent of what we hear.
By way of science, visual content generates 94 percent more page views, while tweets with images get 150 percent more retweets, 18 percent more clicks, and 89 percent more favorites.
As marketers become more aware of the fact that visuals are so valuable, we’re seeing an influx of visual content online. From 2013 to 2014 – right around the time when video began taking control of social media – video shares in newsfeeds increase 3.6-times over.
The exciting thing is, this doesn’t appear to be a short-lived trend or fad. If you study the history of internet marketing, there’s a clear trajectory away from text and towards visuals. With the introduction of new social platforms like Snapchat and Periscope over the past few years, the need for progressive, visual-first marketing strategies is becoming a must for small businesses and established organizations alike.
Three ways you can incorporate more visuals into your strategy
Not quite sure of where to start – or even what it looks like to adopt a visual strategy? Here are some ways you can prioritize visual content, and enjoy positive returns.
- Start With Your Website
Your website is your home base, so it makes sense that you would start there. If you have more text on your website than visuals, then something is wrong. Today’s internet users are savvy and won’t waste time reading text-heavy paragraphs line by line. Instead, they’ll scan your content. Want to reach customers? Give them images and visuals to scan. They tell your story a whole lot better than some tiny words ever will.
Overhaul your website’s homepage first, since most of your visitors will end up on this page, at least momentarily. Here’s a great example of a visual-centric homepage by Diamondere. Notice how they use very few words – and only one paragraph at the very bottom of the page – yet you leave feeling like you understand exactly what they offer.
Can you do something similar? Airbnb is another good example. They even use background videos to enhance the experience. There’s ample room for creativity, so make sure you’re considering all of the options.
- Expand Your Social Media Presence
Unless you already have massive amounts of website traffic and an established brand, your best chance of increasing visibility involves social media. But don’t just work with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Try expanding your social media presence by using networks like Snapchat, Periscope, Facebook Live, Vine, or Instagram. These are the cutting edge networks where leading visual content is being shared and consumed. Bud Light has one of the most underrated accounts on Instagram. Their content frequently goes viral on other networks and sites. Check it out to see if there are any lessons you can learn.
- It’s Not All About Images and Video
Images and videos are great, but you should identify opportunities to leverage other visual formats as well. Here are a few ideas:
- Spice up a standard tweet or text message with some colorful emojis. This is a sure-fire way to catch an eye or two and generate more returns.
- Instead of listing data and raw numbers in a spreadsheet, bring numbers to life with captivating infographics.
- Want to share your sense of humor? A well-timed meme can get people laughing (and sharing).
Diversity is the key to a successful visual content strategy. Lazy use of recycled images and low-quality videos won’t deliver much of a return. Use unique images and engaging videos while complementing them with more progressive formats like emojis, infographics, and memes.
Make Your Content Strategy Visual-Centric
How is your content strategy looking on the visual front? Are you still going through the motions with boring blog posts and lifeless press releases, or are you tapping into the power of infographics, memes, and emojis? The good news is that it isn’t as challenging as it once was to adopt a visual content strategy. With the number of tools and resources you have at your disposal, it’s never been easier to get started.
Use these examples and tips as representations of what a strong strategy looks like and develop a plan for modernizing your brand as we prepare to enter 2017.
And if you’d like to know how you can start blogging consistently in 30 minutes a day or less, read our eBook!
Image by Angela Thomas