Visual content is exploding on the web. Image-based social sites are appearing everywhere and they’re seeing skyrocketing popularity. The numbers are eye-popping: Pinterest visitors have grown by over 1000%; 100 million people watch Vine videos each month; Instagram photos see 1 billion likes a day.
Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised by the dominance of “the visual web”. Before we had writing, or even language, we had images. Our brains were already hardwired for visuals when our idea of social media was cave painting - in fact, 83% of human learning is visual and we understand images 600,000 times faster than text.
Visual content marketing
Marketers have long understood the power of the image. Even in the relatively new world of content marketing, we were quick to turn to visuals - as our old friend the (sometimes abused) infographic can attest.
Visual content sees 94% more total views, it’s 40x more likely to be shared on social networks and 44% of users are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures. Just compare that with the fact that the average person reads only 20% of the text on a webpage.
Visuals allow brands to convey ideas more quickly and easily - and viewers are more likely to retain them. That’s no bad thing in a world where audiences are increasingly time-poor, attention spans are shrinking and it’s more common than ever to consume content on-the-go or while multi-tasking. Inspiring and engaging visuals are simply the shortest route any brand can take to create an emotional impact and more powerfully connect with audiences.
Images are easier than ever
Another reason for the rise of visuals on the web is they’ve simply become easier to create. Powerful visual content no longer demands a dedicated design team. Today, every mobile phone has a built-in camera with a ridiculous number of megapixels, comprehensive image editors can be found for free online, and even video-editing and special effects packages can be picked up for nothing if you know where to look. Meanwhile, apps like Visme allow anyone create engaging web visuals without any need for coding. And once the visuals have been produced, sharing them couldn’t be easier – uploading images to social platforms takes only a matter of minutes and each one can reach a vast audience.
Creating compelling visuals
So we know visuals are impactful and easy to create – but what should brands be creating? Just as with the written word, there’s never an excuse to bombard audiences with worthless content. The three golden rules of good content still apply: 1) Base content on your prospect’s needs, not yours 2) Avoid bombarding them with sales messages, and 3) Tell them something they don’t already know.
Start from a journalistic perspective and ask: What’s the story? Why should my audience care? How can I communicate it in the most engaging way? This simple approach can have a huge impact - making content far more fresh, relevant and interesting while driving prospects to take immediate action.
Getty Images recently suggested there are four core principles in visual storytelling: authenticity, sensory impact, relevancy, and character archetypes:
- Authentic images allow brands to show they understand their customers (think real-world photos, not photo-shopped models)
- Images that engage more of a viewer’s senses have a stronger, longer-lasting impact (remember all those colourful close-ups of food that were so good you could taste them?)
- Brands shouldn’t shy away from bold visuals relevant to the moment, especially given the rise of social media
- A central character viewers can relate to in an image drives a stronger emotional connection
We don’t think visual storytelling can be so easily defined. A paint-by-numbers approach won’t work, but there are some rules that every brand should remember:
- Inspire curiosity! Just like a good blog or article, visual content needs to hook viewers in and give them a firm call to action at the end.
- Social media moves at light speed, so if you’re incorporating cultural images make sure you use them while they’re still relevant. This can also affect the lifespan of your content. Referring to that hot meme might work fantastically in April 2015 – but will anyone remember it in April 2018?
- Your visual content should always keep colours and design in line with your brand identity. Even if you’re not explicitly using your logo, the brand connection should resonate in the minds of your audience.
- While lots of social channels support images and video, they all have different format, length and size requirements. Make sure you factor in the need to tailor content for each channel and that you pick the right ones for your marketing objectives.
Have you explored the world of visual marketing? Are you giving it a first glance or a second look? Let us know what worked for you: firstname.lastname@example.org.