Welcome to the age of infobesity in which marketers struggle to separate themselves from online information overload and draw meaningful interest from current and potential customers.
Pair this digital noise, in which YouTube videos are uploaded at the rate of 100 per minute, with our limited ability to stay focused. Did you know the average adult’s attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish? We have just eight seconds of attention versus nine seconds for the fish. So, how do we capture our audiences' attention?
In your upcoming marketing content, consider incorporating more visuals to get noticed. One HubSpot study shows photos on Facebook pages receive 53 percent more likes than the average post. Some commenters tout that visuals are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text. Though there's disagreement on the accuracy of that specific number, we can all agree that telling your brand's story through photos, gifs and videos can be much more engaging than plain text.
In fact, social channels with a laser-focus on visual content are exploding. lnstagram has more than 200 million active monthly users and more than 50 million users have signed up for the social network within the last six months.
The woman who coined the term "infobesity," social media expert Ekaterina Walter, now speaks frequently on the topic of visual storytelling. Most recently, I saw her at the 2014 Social Media Marketing World, in addition to Australia-based spitfire Donna Moritz, who also spoke about visual content. These visual storytelling insights that follow were inspired by their recent presentations. Take a peek at how images and videos can help us connect with a message much more quickly:
Visual Storytelling Tips
1. Stay "on brand." Benefit Cosmetics did a fantastic job with its #BeautyBoost campaign that used "on brand" images in response to Twitter fans in need of a pick-me-up. The brand attitude and graphic feel shine through in these social media photos.
(Source: Benefit Cosmetics)
2. Make it original. Skip the cliché stock photography and be unique. A great deal of what's circulated around the internet is someone else's content. In fact, 80 percent of Pinterest pins are shared content (versus original). Be in the 20 percent and create your own imagery.
3. Use video effectively. Video content can bring to life what can’t be shared in text. An epic example is Volvo’s video with Jean-Claude Van Damme, depicting the precision of the dynamic steering in its trucks. Watch it:
4. Leverage Pinterest. Don't forget about Pinterest as part of your online content strategy. Not only is the image-intense Pinterest social channel visual in nature, it’s a great traffic driver. Perpetually popular content on Pinterest is crafts, home decor, food and style, but it can be so much more. For BuzzFeed.com, 30 percent of its referrals from Pinterest are to humorous BuzzFeed articles.
(Source: BuzzFeed's Pinterest)
5. Find ways to add humor. Speaking of which, explore brand-appropriate approaches to adding humor to your online content calendar. This could involve sharing cartoons or other laugh-inducing graphics. Another example is the meme-like image series created by H&R Block.
6. Ride the trends. Develop visuals that are relevant to current events and consumer taste. One example is the Oreo brand Super Bowl tweet image. Note, though, that relevancy does have a deadline. Even better, check out Expedia's smart retro photo campaign that capitalizes on the recent online phenomenon of recreating childhood snapshots (Example: Then/Now Tumblr). The travel company is helping lucky fans do just that on a weekly basis. Cool!
7. Be snackable. Consumers love short and punchy. Provide a visual snapshot of an idea, concept or story in small, bite-size chunks. Moritz recommends creating and sharing mini-infographics, screengrabs with text, and photos with overlayed text like quotes, stats and facts. Here's an example of how Twitter expert Kim Garst uses simple, easy-to-digest graphics on her social sites. This photo quote not only tells a story, but helps Kim stand out from other social strategists. Her content is very frequently shared in other peoples' newsfeeds.
8. Batch Content. Avoid making one-off graphics for each time you post. When you can, create a series of images all at once.
9. Marry content with context. Don't write one post for all platforms; ensure the sizing and tone of visual content matches each of your channels. Customize, customize, customize.
10. Activate your passionate advocates. Dunkin' Donuts does a stellar job of this by encouraging its social media fans to share their Dunkin' Donuts love, as pictured below, in nail art.
(Source: Dunkin Donuts)
11. Know the rules. Several social sites have rules stipulating the type of photo content you can share. For example, to ensure high-quality content, Facebook stipulates advertisers share photos with no more than 20 percent text in the ad's image.
12. SlideShare is a go-to network for business info. From e-books to infographics and PDF one-pagers to presentation decks, SlideShare is a powerhouse for sharing visual business information and education. If you have a B2B audience, don't overlook SlideShare!
13. Don't forget about the press release. According to a PwR 2013 study, 81 percent of journalists are more likely to cover news that includes an image. Punch up your next press announcement by including a photo or video that tells the story of your news.
Ready to add more visual content to your online arsenal?
If you're not yet convinced to include more visuals in your marketing, read these words from The Visual Marketing Revolution author Stephanie Diamond: “Most businesses that don't make a real commitment to create great content won"t achieve the success they envision for themselves... The Web has trained customers to expect a certain level of visual professionalism. If they don’t find it, they won’t choose you."
If you're ready to get started creating your own images, consider using a photo editor, like Pages for Mac or PhotoShop, or one of the many low-cost graphic design creators, such as Canva. Best yet, consult your graphic designer and always reference your brand style guide!
Be inspired by Benefit Cosmetics, Kim Garst and Dunkin’ Donuts to come up with your own visual storytelling successes. Ratchet up your social media and online content marketing efforts with visual content today.
We'd love to hear from you - which brands have you seen excel at creating video, gif or photo content?
Christina Milanowski (pictured at left with Mike Stelzner at last year's SMMW conference) is social media director and account supervisor at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.