When it comes to your content marketing strategy, creating striking visual content is no longer a “nice to have”. This guide explores the visual content revolution and offers easy how-to examples and advice for capturing and engaging your audience.
When many companies approach content marketing for the first time they’re typically drawn to creating text-based content — blogs, articles, eBooks, social media posts, and white papers, among others. And they should be. A corporate blogging strategy and traditional content formats like reports and case studies are certainly part of a well-rounded content strategy.
But, increasingly, marketers are thinking “beyond the blog” and are finding it is the visual content — like infographics, videos, slide presentations, and, yes, even memes — that is making the biggest splash with their audiences.
In fact, according to Facebook, status updates on company pages that contain photo albums and videos deliver 180 and 100 percent stronger engagement, respectively. Meanwhile, this infographic from communications firm M Booth and analytics provider Simply Measured suggests that photo and video posts on Pinterest now refer more Web traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, and Google+ combined.
That’s pretty compelling data — and it simply scratches the surface of what is possible if your company can find creative ways to leverage visual content effectively.
Why Your Customers Prefer Visual Content
Okay, so you get that visual content is important. But what has caused buyers to skew more toward visual content in recent years?
Truthfully, the importance of visual communication is nothing new (visual imagery has played a huge part in TV, billboard, and print advertising for years, after all), but there are a few factors that have led to an increased preference of visual content, including:
- Audiences are suffering from content overload: With so many companies executing content marketing strategies today, the sheer volume of content available to buyers can be overwhelming. As a result, content that is simplified and, as content marketing expert Heidi Cohen writes on her blog, “snackable” is much more appealing.
- Too much text bogs readers down: With all of the distractions we encounter every day, our time is more valuable than ever. So, when readers stumble upon a 2,000-word opus, their trigger fingers are a little quicker than when they see a one-minute video or eye-catching infographic.
- At our core, we’re visual learners: This infographic from Social Media Chimps suggests that 83 percent of learning occurs visually, which makes visual content much more digestible and memorable. And for that reason alone, it appeals to a much greater audience.
The bottom line is that if content marketers aren’t communicating with their audiences visually, they’re missing out on a huge opportunity to generate action and, ultimately, conversion.
5 Visual Content Formats (and the B2B Companies that Excel at Them)
Admittedly, the term “visual content” is a little vague. After all, simply adding photos to text content technically qualifies as visual content (by the way, infusing text-based content with images is absolutely something you should be doing).
That being said, to truly embrace the visual content revolution, you should also consider leveraging some of these content formats:
In January, global research firm IDG Research Services revealed that 95 percent of B2B tech buyers now watch tech-related videos, and that those videos positively correlate to their purchase behaviors.
Visual Aid: Grasshopper’s YouTube page
While many B2B businesses are now producing and sharing their own videos, few companies do it as well as the ones that won one of OpenView’s B2B Oscars earlier this year — particularly Grasshopper’s “Sh*t Entrepreneurs Say” video.
Learn how to create your own award-winning videos with our Guide to Creating B2B Video Content.
If you haven’t noticed, infographics (and other forms of data visualizations) have quickly become the online marketing world’s new favorite toy. That’s been a good thing for marketers trying to make complex trends, patterns, and data easily digestible, says Jess3 information design director Tiffany Farrant-Gonzalez.
Visual Aid: GE’s Data Visualizations
General Electric is a perfect example of that. On its blog, GE features data visualizations that cover everything from winning the war on cancer to the future of flight. Complex topics, for sure, but content seems much easier to comprehend through imagery.
Through a network like SlideShare, you can turn seemingly dry content such as eBooks and white papers into eye-catching visual content. Because SlideShare is now part of LinkedIn, it’s also easy to seamlessly integrate your SlideShare content directly into your company’s LinkedIn page, which amplifies its reach and potential impact.
Visual Aid: HubSpot’s Culture Code
Hubspot is a rock star when it comes to visual content, but the inbound marketing software company’s SlideShare presentations are particularly striking. This slideshow on the business’s “Culture Code” is a great example of how dressing up seemingly mundane content can create a very impactful message.
Whiteboards/Visual Note Taking
While salespeople have long relied on PowerPoint presentations and text-based content like white papers as sales aids, CMO Magazine contributor Tim Riesterer says in this post that those mediums are losing their impact in an increasingly visual world. Through tools like virtual whiteboards and visual note taking software, however, Riesterer says companies can instantly transform static marketing messages into true sales conversation enablement.
Visual Aid: Michael Sahota’s blog posts
Michael Sahota at Agile training firm Agilitrix does a great job of doing that in this post about developing a model for organizational change.
No, memes aren’t just for comedic pictures of LOLcats. B2B brands can also use them to show their lighter side while also conveying a specific message in a very visual way.
Visual Aid: Marketo’s Facebook page
Take Marketo, for instance. In a post on Marketo’s blog, Jason Miller says the company has had significant success creating memes and tying them to specific offers. Most of the company’s memes are published to its Facebook page, and they tend to reflect Marketo’s smart, witty personality.
Visual Content Marketing Tools and Best Practices
Each of the companies discussed above clearly realizes that the Web is becoming more highly visual with each passing day, and that in order for their content to connect with their customers, it has to grab their attention.
Regardless of which visual tactic or strategy they’re using, however, the visual content they produce tends to adhere to some fairly basic — but important — best practices:
- Simplicity is king: When it comes to visual content, the adage “less is more” certainly applies. Your goal is to create content that’s easy to digest and remember, so don’t muddy up an infographic with too much text, or create a video that’s so long it causes people to tune out before they receive your message.
- Coordinating colors and themes is key: Ultimately, visual content should be appealing to the eye. That means choosing colors, backgrounds, fonts, images, and themes that make it look like you put some thought into the design. In the interest of consistency, the colors you choose should also match up with your brand’s colors.
- Layout matters: If, for instance, you want to insert an image into a blog post, it’s critical to achieve good balance and synergy between the image and the text. Likewise, if you’re creating an infographic or slide presentation, it’s important not to cram too much information into one space and make sure the images you use make sense when paired with the text.
Intimidated yet? You shouldn’t be. While not every marketer has the design chops to create striking imagery that leaves a lasting impression, there are numerous tools that can help you quickly, easily, and cheaply create highly visual content. Here is a list to get you started:
- PhotoDropper: Photo sourcing tool for use within WordPress
- Pixlr: Photo editor with more than 600 effects, filters, and overlays
- Google+ Photo Editor: Brighten, sharpen, and color-correct images
- Piktochart: Infographic and presentation tool for non-designers
- Meme Generator: A free tool for creating memes
- Vecteezy: Free and premium vector art, icons, and patterns
- ScribLink: Online whiteboard creator
- 14 Amazingly Free Stock Photo Websites by Casey Ark
- Design it Yourself: The Marketer’s Crash Course in Visual Content Creation by Hubspot
- Visual Content Marketing: Capture and Engage Your Audience by Marketo
- Elements of Content Strategy: Field Notes from a Search for the Best Digital Content Strategy Online on the OpenView Blog
- 5 Ways to Turn Existing Content into High Touch Visuals by Search Engine Journal