6 reasons why visuals should rule your content marketing strategy

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Words are really not enough.

Sometimes we want to say something but can’t find the words, or we want to describe something for which there are simply no words. Maybe that’s why we are fascinated with images, paintings, motion pictures and visual arts. The same is true for content marketing. You can’t just blab for 2,000 words in a blog.

Content can’t live on words alone.

Visual content marketing is not only easier on the eyes; it’s also easier to digest. An infographic hits hard because it presents and explains complex data simply and concisely in a visually stimulating way. An image with a statistic or a short quote impresses us more forcefully than a kilometer-long blog.

One thing you must know about the brain: It processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. No wonder marketers exploit visuals in their content marketing. Millions of content pieces bombard your audiences every day. You want your content to stand out and make an immediate impact.

According to research by MDG Advertising, content with images gets 94 percent more views than text-only content. Sixty-seven percent of consumers consider clear, detailed product images very important and say that images carry more weight than product information. Engagement increases by 37 percent when Facebook posts include photographs.

The reign of visuals in content marketing is here to stay. Here are six reasons to focus on images in your strategies and campaigns:

1. Visuals give consumers something to snack on.

Content with too much text clutters all social media platforms—there’s too much information. How do you stand out?

Instead of subjecting followers to a long, detailed blog, why not offer them a one-minute video? Give them something they can consume now, not save for later.

Understand that people have millions of choices; they are always in a hurry and have become unbelievably impatient. Give them bite-size visuals to snack on. Your visual should make them say, “Oh, there’s a sale happening this weekend,” or, “That looks like a cute café around the corner.”

2. Storytellers must show, not tell.

This is the one rule that storytellers must obey—and marketers are storytellers.

Don’t just talk about a brand—show your audience what it does, what it stands for and the story behind it. Don’t expect consumers to take your word for it. Create a user experience with stories told through visuals.

[RELATED: Master your visual communications prowess at the National Geographic Museum.]

Visuals may be the best way to tell a story, thus the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” You can always count on memes, GIFs, comics, graphics and other visual arts to tell a good story that audiences love.

3. Images are the new headlines.

David Ogilvy, the father of modern ad copy, said that “five times as many people read the headlines as read the copy.” That’s true today, with the addition of images.

Headlines make you click and want to find out more. Images do that more effectively. Text will not be enough in a mobile world addicted to visuals.

4. Images are social-media friendly.

If you’re on social media, don’t be satisfied with likes and comments. Shoot for genuine engagement.

Data from socialbakers.com about the top 10 percent of posts on more than 30,000 brand pages on Facebook proved that posts with visuals generated 87 percent of pages’ total interactions. Tweets with images also got 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites and 150 percent more retweets.

Adding visuals enhances your brand and boosts engagement in your audiences. Visuals make your content more shareable.

5. Visuals are audience magnets.

Among the most important benefits of visual content is its ability to attract and build an audience. Visuals are a magnet pulling consumers to notice your brand.

By including images, you maximize the attraction of your content and entice audiences to look at your brand. Converting text to visuals increases awareness, helps your brand generate traffic and drives social activity.

Our eyes by habit look at images that are stunning, disturbing and emotional. Add visuals to your content to attract audiences and make loyal customers out of them.

6. Visuals appeal to emotions.

Images are powerful—some movies have very little dialogue and yet elicit big emotion. Imagine a blog post topped by a close-up of a really sick child or a photo of utter devastation. Wouldn’t that give you more reason to click and read? Visuals make people understand better and faster, and care even more.

Colors also affect human emotions by drawing different feelings from audiences. They also influence how audiences will decide, take action and feel about something. Colors are very important for marketers.

The exploding use of Instagram, Pinterest and Vine proves that visual content marketing is more than a trend. It is here to stay. Visual content makes up 93 percent of all human communication, so it’s fitting for marketers to strategize visually. The challenge is finding the right blend of visuals, words and design to make your content memorable.

Emily Harper is a home stylist and upgrade consultant. She also writes articles on lifestyle, security, technology and the latest trends. Check out her blog.

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How to create engaging social media visuals

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Interest in infographics has risen 3,000 percent during the last five years, according to Google Trends. That’s because infographics—and images in general—can cut through all the content that overwhelms the public today.

Here are three ways to catch the wave and grab short attention spans with distinctive visuals:

1. Curate customer photos. Photos of real people move audiences.

“It’s instinctive to look at faces, and a smiling face seems less corporate than a logo,” says designer and infographics expert Bob Zeni. “More than anything, that explains the popularity of emoticons.”

That’s why Harley Davidson often posts images of customers riding, relaxing on and tinkering with their bikes. These photos are usually submitted by customers.

“Ask for submissions from customers using your product if you can’t create these kinds of images,” Zeni suggests. “Or use hashtags to collect and curate photos. You can create your own unique hashtag or piggyback onto an existing one.”

#POTD and #PhotoOfTheDay are two popular hashtags to consider. Both were used in the Harley tweet captured here.

[RELATED: Register for PR Daily’s Sept. 24 PR University webinar, “Images and Infographics for Communicators,” to create distinctive visual content with the potential to go viral.]

2. Talk the talk. It’s not necessary to avoid acronyms and jargon on social media to the degree you do in PR and press release writing.

“Instead, speak the secret language or lingo of your online community of users,” says Zeni.

For example, Lego’s popularity extends to a global community of adults who speak a unique shorthand language. Among these fans, AFOL stands for “adult friend of Lego” and SPUA stands for “special part used again.”

Lego uses these and other acronyms in every image caption, Tweet or post.

3. Fly your colors. Federal Express images show an astonishing variety of subjects—signage, drivers, planes, packages, the FedEx-sponsored race team and even the sky. What unites them all is FedEx’s signature color purple.

It’s a canny and insightful choice as it communicates in a vibrant, dynamic and regal way that contrasts sharply with the brown of its leading competitor,” says Zeni. Though brown is meant to convey dependability and durability, FedEx was built on speed and flair—and purple certainly communicates that.

His advice: “Be consistent with your color palette. Use it in your logos, signage and every single image you post to social media.”

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Editor, designer and infographics guru Bob Zeni will share more visual marketing secrets in the Sept. 24 PR University webinar, ”Images and Infographics for Communicators: New Techniques for Attracting Audiences with Compelling Visuals.”

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