Visual marketing is a major trend online that’s only growing more and more popular. Take a look at some of the most popular social media platforms over the last few years: Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Vine — all visual media. Marketers who leverage a variety of visual content will get more views, and that can lead to more customer engagement, more leads, and more followers. All that, in turn, can mean more sales.

When you think of visual content for your digital marketing efforts, you probably imagine images. While images are important, visual content includes many other formats such as:

  • Videos
  • Infographics (a visual representation of data or information that presents complex ideas in a simple way)
  • Memes (a usually humorous image accompanied by text that conveys an idea or message and spreads throughout the Internet virally)
  • Word art
  • Cartoons
  • Quotes accompanied by images
  • Charts and graphs
  • Brand logos
  • Design elements

4 Reasons Why Images Are Essential

1. Images Convey Meaning Quickly

visual contentSure, a picture says a thousand words, but did you know it also says it in just 13 milliseconds? According to a study out of MIT,  researchers found that it takes only 13 milliseconds for your brain to process an image. Once the image hits your retina, your brain begins processing information — shape, orientation, color.

Visual information is much faster at conveying concepts — words take more time to be read and processed than images. A strong image or video can help grab attention more immediately than straight text blog posts and text-only social media updates.

2. Visuals Help Tell Stories More Vividly

psychology of colorImages are especially effective in marketing because they can help effectively tell a story. Not only are images and videos powerful in storytelling, the colors in the images themselves can evoke strong emotions to enhance your storytelling. While psychologists do approach color theory with some skepticism, there is some evidence to support the idea that color does affect people’s moods and emotions. It is important to note, however, that colors can have different meanings based on culture, so approach color use with care if you are catering to a global audience. About.com references these examples of how color can affect mood, emotions, and behavior:

  • Warm-colored placebo pills were reported as more effective than cool-colored placebos
  • Installation of blue-colored streetlights can lead to a reduction of crime in the area
  • The color red causes people to react with greater speed and force
  • Sports teams in black uniforms tend to receive more penalties

3. Visuals Are Essential in Branding

branding designImages are absolutely essential for branding. You want your company icon or brand logo to be instantly recognizable to your audience. Think about the Apple logo, McDonald’s Golden Arches — they can be immediately spotted by most consumers. It helps them quickly find their brand of choice. When you scan the shelves on a grocery aisle, you are probably looking for your favorite brand based on the logo — bright, red French’s pennant logo; the bright, red Kellogg’s signature or Tony the Tiger character. Color and symbols help people identify their favorites quickly. Make sure your brand stands out instead of blending in with the crowd.

4. Visuals Improve Your Social Media Engagement

Finally, visual content is great for social media. In my post on “Take a Picture, Why Don’t Ya,” I covered a few of the stats on the power of images in social media. Here are a few of those statistics to underscore the importance of images and video in social media marketing:

  • Nearly half of all Internet users have reposted a photo or video they have found online. (Source: Buffer)
  • Content with relevant images gets 94 percent more views than content without. (Source: Buffer)
  • Half of buyers say they are more likely to seek out more information about a product and more confident in making an online purchase after viewing related video. (Source: Business2Community)
  • Instagram has a 58x higher engagement rate compared to Facebook for top brands. It’s 120x higher than on Twitter. (Source: Hootsuite)
  • According to Search Engine Land, YouTube is the second largest search engine and is the third most visited site on the web.

Visual Content Ideas

Sometimes marketers — especially ones without access to an on-staff designer — feel stymied when it comes to visual content marketing. The question becomes what to create and how to do it? The answer to “what to create” is anything relevant that engages, entertains, or informs your audience is a good candidate for visual content. It’s just a matter of finding the right way to represent the concept visually.

A popular option in B2B is to take information you may normally present in a text-based article and turn it into an infographic, video, or slide deck. This can be a terrific option for taking something complex and turning it into an easy-to-understand visual representation.

Your visuals don’t have to be stand alones, of course. Add images and video to your blog content, articles, and press releases, too.  Videos or memes in your blog posts and social media channels give your readers another way to consume and quickly understand the concepts you’re trying to convey.

Having a Designer is Great — But Don’t Let it Stop You if You Don’t

Maybe you think your design skills aren’t really up to par. Maybe you don’t have a full-time designer on staff. Don’t let that stop you from at least experimenting with visual content marketing. There are many great visual content creation tools and resources to make it a little easier to create images, presentations, videos, and more.

How do you think you will incorporate more visuals into your 2016 content marketing?

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