When the printing press was invented, it unleashed the power of words across the world, sparking revolutions and changing the way power operates. At first, the internet seemed to continue that process, with text heavy content the order of the day.
Nowadays, we know better. Today’s web runs on images and sound as much as text. This is the age of the meme and the gif, not the hyperlinked home page. To succeed in this digital world, marketers need to grab attention through visual techniques. Text alone won’t cut it, not any more.
So how can you work visual content into your marketing strategies? In this article, we’ll look at a few techniques that have their place. There is no single template to follow, but a mix of these ideas should help you communicate visually and attract the traffic you need to thrive.
1. Infographics really work
Firstly, we need to talk about infographics. Not everyone loves putting them together, but these bite-sized explainers genuinely do convey key information in a way that text cannot.
For instance, in a 2005 study, researchers found that participants understood 95% of the content provided by medicine labels which incorporate graphics. When the graphics were removed, that fell to just 70%.
This may be because our brains dedicate a lot of energy to interpreting visual data – hence the ever-present function of art in human societies. We’re hard-wired to see the world through images, not text – at least not dense texts with nothing to make material easier to comprehend.
The evidence from studies of business presentation techniqes also suggests that visuals matter. According to one paper, 50% of attendees found a specimen presentation to be “persuasive”, but that increased to 67% when a couple of infographic explainers were included.
This doesn’t mean that you need to spam readers with diagrams or colourful statistics. The core of most content still needs to be keyword focused and relevant to the core subject. But breaking up content with infographics seems to be a no-brainer in many situations.
2. Broaden the viewing horizons of your audience with Netflix unblocking
Connecting brands and movies or TV shows is another way to get your message across without requiring huge chunks of indigestible text. And thanks to online streaming services like Netflix, it’s easy to integrate content into your blogs or even social media posts.
A simple idea which never seems to fail is to offer users a list of TV shows that link up with your (and their) interests. But this is even more effective when it’s combined with a helpful guide to accessing content that would otherwise be off-limits.
Netflix and similar platforms routinely segment the content that make available to viewers in different regions. If you’re based in the USA, French or Swedish crime dramas may well fly under the radar. And if you’ve ever watched shows like “Marseille” or “Quicksand”, you’ll know how big a deal that can be.
So, why not offer content which recommends Netflix content that isn’t available to those in your region? You can mix up video clips and reviews with quick guides to how to access Netflix international catalogs. That way, you’ll come up with entertaining and useful content – the kind of thing that Google tends to love.
3. Create original videos to emphasize your points
Linking to professionally made entertainment content is a handy standby for blog creators and social media feeds, but it only goes so far. For many companies, investing in in-house video production is much more important.
With a fully-equipped video production team in place or the ability to source skilled freelancers, marketers can create original content across multiple channels. That way, they can really grab attention when campaigns get underway.
Video marketing has numerous major advantages. Short videos are easy to watch, and viewers tend to retain a large proportion of the content they consume. They can also have incredible reach via YouTube or Facebook, potentially leading to a very high ROI.
Video is also becoming a key part of serious SEO strategies. That’s partly because videos are around 50 times more likely to achieve high organic rankings than text-based content. Sites with video thumbnails also tend to do better on Google search, and pages with video also attract around 3 times as many inbound links.
With video coming to comprise an ever larger chunk of online traffic, those are statistics that marketers can’t ignore.
4. Explainer videos are a gold mine for marketers
The question isn’t really “should I include video in my marketing strategies?” By now, the issue is more about what kind of videos have the most impact. But one genre of video stands out from the crowd from a business perspective: explainers.
Explainer video tend to be short (around 5-10 minutes) and focused on a very specific problem. The content leads viewers through several steps, explaining how each stage works, and making clear how the audience can translate them into everyday life. Everything is kept simple, short, and punchy.
Why are these videos so effective for marketing products? This goes well beyond simply attracting people to watch videos that are relevant to their interests. Content that answers questions also scores extremely well with Google’s search algorithms, and tends to have a much better chance of leading results.
Explainers also help to build the organic reach of your brand. Done well, they leave viewers with the impression that you care about their interests and communicate with them on an understandable level. People tend to share explainers that help them out, or discuss them elsewhere – increasing inbound links.
Mix solid explanations with well-chosen music and a sense of humor, and you’ll be flying.
5. Become a gif using maestro
If you rely on social media channels to get your message out there, you’ll know all about the role that visuals play in keeping things fresh and engaging with followers. While infographics play well on social media and videos can be linked with ease, you won’t get far without mastering the art of the gif.
Gifs are tiny animated files which play automatically when users read a Tweet or Facebook post. There are millions floating around the internet, and they have become a kind of supplement to language for huge numbers of people.
As the polling gurus at Harris reported in 2017, 36% of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 34 thought that gifs communicate their feelings better than words ever could. If you’re struggling to reach younger customers, they could therefore be a very valuable marketing option to consider.
Be careful about the gifs you use, and don’t go overboard. As with any visual content, you still need to focus on relevant, informative text when using Twitter or sending email marketing materials. However, adding the right animated images can make dry communications more entertaining, and help to link your brand with an audience that’s not easy to reach.
6. Use high-level photography to dominate Instagram
While Twitter is gif territory, Instagram is very different. On Insta, images rule the roost, and accounts which deliver the highest resolution, most beautiful images generally do well. That won’t apply to all businesses. Networking suppliers probably won’t find an audience for racking solutions. But if you work in food, fashion, beauty, or travel, Instagram is extremely relevant.
The kind of visual content that succeeds on Instagram tends to make use of natural light and outdoor settings, mixing natural beauty with products. Images are always composed meticulously, including everything that needs to be shown in a way that appears harmonious. And they are always simple. Users don’t linger long on Instagram photos, so images need to make an instant impact (it’s called “Insta” for a reason).
Does it work? Much of the time, yes. Instagram has around 1 billion regular users. Many of them are younger people who aren’t easy to reach with text, and users genuinely do engage with business content. About 33% of the content on Instagram Stories is business-related – showing that creators are making money while spinning compelling narratives.
7. Manage your memes to achieve Facebook success
Our final visual technique is one that’s ahrd to avoid on the world’s largest social media platform: memes. Memes can take many forms, but they usually comprise an image mixed with a short textual message. That sounds rudimentary, but history shows that it’s incredibly easy to share – and that’s why memes and marketers need to go together.
Memes have plenty of appeal for marketers, but especially for those with limited resources. They are simple to create and share, and only really require a small amount of inspiration and a sense of humor to make an impression. Even better, all creators need are basic Photoshop skills, and they can be acquired in a couple of days.
However, before you start flooding your social media accounts with memes, a word of caution. As with all of the visual content techniques we’ve looked at here, memes can go bad. Pick the wrong image and message combination, and you can look like a fool in front of a global audience.
And that’s the risk with visual media. With text, the major danger is being ignored by human users and algorithms. Visual content is much easier to propagate and consume, so it tends to find an audience. Problems arise when that audience responds negatively, potentially damaging brands.
Does this mean you should avoid visual content? Definitely not. Just plan it wisely, know your audience, and use common sense.