There’s a lot of buzz surrounding content marketing at the moment. It seems like a lot of the advice out there is all about maximizing quality and creating a ton of value in every piece that’s created for a content marketing strategy, with popular approaches such as the skyscraper technique and Moz’s whiteboard lessons on creating 10x content dominating the industry.
That’s good – we could always use more emphasis on high quality content. The further we get away from shallow, garbage content that’s stuffed with random keywords and lacking any real value for the reader, the better. It wasn’t too long ago that the search results were as vast as an ocean, but as shallow as a puddle.
That’s a content landscape that I don’t ever want to revisit again.
Still, most of the popular advice these days is focused on content – almost too focused. We can debate the value of short form content versus 3,000+ word blog posts and highlight the importance of stacking value indefinitely, but these discussions exclude marketers who don’t want to rely primarily on written content.
What about e-commerce brands or other companies that drive engagement and sales through their social channels with visual content?
A 10x content post doesn’t really help there, but if visuals are more your style, then there are plenty of ways to 10x your social graphics to boost your content strategy and capture your audience’s attention in the middle of their browsing.
In just about every industry, you can bet there are countless data hounds roaming in the audience. This is one of the reasons why infographics tend to perform well. In fact, studies show that infographics are often liked and shared 3x more than any other form of content on social media.
People love data, and infographics make it even easier to process the hard numbers. Tidbits of value-packed info, along with eye-catching visuals, simplify the process of evaluating data for consumers.
You don’t even need to hire a costly graphic designer to create an infographic. There are tools and services like Piktochart and Canva that let you plug in data, choose from themes and templates (free and paid options available), and put together an infographic on the fly.
Infographics take on a variety of forms, so don’t assume they’re just for nerd culture or Millennials. Brands often use infographics in clever ways to gain shares and brand lift, like this one from men’s apparel store Samuel-Windsor.
Or this one from Slate showing which groups are involved in the Syrian conflict.
2. Compile user-generated content
The more you engage with your fans, the more likely they are to share photos with you. This activity is most common with product-related brands, but it can work for service industries as well. User-generated content can be used in a variety of ways, including reposting on your own social media channels to show appreciation for fans that reached out and connect with you.
You can even take this type of content to the next level by combining multiple users’ submissions into mini presentations or custom slideshows – like a music video to put your biggest supporters in the spotlight and thank them for their loyalty.
Another successful approach I’ve seen was a brand compiling the pictures their reps took during promotional events or tradeshows, and subsequently creating a showcase video that was shared throughout the company’s social channels. If you were to try a similar approach, this would likely receive a lot of engagement from those who attended the event, as well as encourage other followers to come to the next event by showing them what they missed this time around.
3. Get personal
Marketers agree that visual content is critical for success in marketing, especially over social media. Studies have shown that out of all the types of content, pictures and images rank the highest for audience engagement.
If your social strategy involves a lot of images, you should aim for variety to keep your fans from getting burned out on seeing similar pictures posted by you all the time. This creates a great opportunity to show your fans that you’re more human than corporate machine.
Share personal images not just of your staff, but of yourself as well. Get your leadership team involved in photoshoots around the office, warehouse, and out in the field. Not only will this add a more human element to your brand, but it also shows off your exciting company culture. This strategy will make fans feel closer to you, and it could even act as a recruiting tool when it comes time to expand your company and finding new talent.
4. Rock out with your stock out
A lot of marketers argue that stock photography is terrible and should never be used in marketing. I say they’re missing out on a great opportunity for professional photos that are high enough quality to submit to a glossy magazine.
Stock photos are great as long as you’re not relying on poor quality, clearly staged photos that aren’t relevant to what you’re trying to promote. This could make people question your authenticity and disregard your posts.
However, many brands regularly make use of stock photos to supercharge their social content’s effectiveness. For instance, check out this clever use of stock photography from Elite Daily.
If you want to use stock photography, follow these simple guidelines to improve the images and make them fit your unique promotion:
- Use highly relevant images that complement your content (no generic photos)
- Modify the image to fit the context in which it’s used, but don’t feel like you have to photoshop everything all the time
- Use stock photos that your audience can relate to
- Don’t be afraid to crop it; you don’t need to use the entire photo
5. Photos in motion
If you don’t have an eye for taking great photos on your own, then that’s completely fine. Filming videos is a great alternative to still images for company websites.
Take video tours of your facility, spend time with the staff while a camera is rolling, film events and customer engagement, etc. Once you’re done recording, go back through the video with some of your team and watch closely for opportunities to grab a still frame of a great scene or interaction.
It’s a super effective way to get those natural, in-the-moment pictures without having people pose or act differently because they’re about to have their picture taken. Tools like GOM Player are perfect for doing this.
If your fans share more video than images on your product or service, do the same thing with the videos they share. A few videos can generate dozens of new images, and you can use these in your social posts and visual content campaigns.
6. Share your brand’s values
Behind-the-scenes photos are perfect for showcasing the workplace culture at your company and showing how your teams interact. However, those pictures don’t always clearly communicate your brand’s overarching mission or core values.
When you’re planning out an editorial calendar and you need more variety, think about the kind of images you could share that truly demonstrate what your brand is all about – the ones that will more effectively tell your story.
One of the first brands that comes to my mind is TOMs. They are very active on Instagram, and mingled in with the images of feet are pictures from other countries, where they meet with the local children who receive donated shoes. It’s uplifting to see TOMs’ 1-for-1 business model succeed, and TOMs does an awesome job of showing their fans and customers exactly how their purchases drive the company forward and help those in need around the world.
7. Advice and tip graphics
Turning well-known and inspirational quotes into graphics is a popular approach to sharing visual content on social media. These quotations are often shared by people when they strike an emotional chord with the audience, and you can further boost engagement by increasing the value of those images.
Rather than just sharing quotes, create a simple, single frame image with a great tip written in an eye-catching yet easily readable font. These are easy to produce and share, and your fans will appreciate the time you took to share your knowledge, even if it’s just a small nugget of insight.
This is the kind of approach that keeps fans coming back for more.
An emotional reaction is one of the strongest responses you can get from an audience, and memes have the power to create a tremendous emotional connection through laughter and entertainment.
Be sure to only share memes that are highly relevant to your audience and actually amusing, because some brands fall into the trap of trying to cater to a younger audience with memes but ultimately fail after using the wrong meme or promoting a lame joke that doesn’t resonate with followers.
If you want to incorporate memes into your social engagement, take some time to research ones that might be relevant to your audience and industry. Reddit and Imgur are popular sites for memes, and you can always make one using a meme generator if you don’t find anything you could curate from social channels.
A screenshot is a great way to include additional advice and visual instructions to content when you’re sharing tips with your fans over social media. It’s the visual equivalent of citing a reputable source.
If you want to drive people to a call-to-action, or get more engagement on your content, then create a screenshot of that featured image to back up the claims you’re making.
Credibility is critical, and consumers are generally wary of blatant brand advertisements. We’re also on the brink with clickbait content because people are getting tired of sensational headlines. Alleviate their feelings of anxiety and mistrust by posting credible screenshots.
Here’s a great example from Buffer, where they used screenshots to support the headline in the post to drive more click throughs.
10. Visual Instructions
Videos work really well for instructions, but attention spans are short and your fans may not want to click the play button if they’re in a hurry to do something else. Instead, create a quick series of images you can share with your fans that provide instructions for a simple task. Like a tip or advice post, these are easy to digest and highly shareable.
While an instructional video on baking might seem overwhelming, or make a fan feel like they don’t have time to watch it, the above image is simple enough that even the most novice baker could give it a shot and enjoy the process.
Using visuals in content marketing is easy, but creating visuals that really pop and lead to a massive lift in engagement can be challenging at times. You can start out by experimenting with the recommendations I’ve listed in this article, and be sure to test them while monitoring your metrics.
Trust the data to indicate what types of visual content are working, and determine which visuals you should discard from your social post schedule when they don’t perform well with your audience.
Do you use any of these types of visual content in your social media posts? How have they worked out for you?
Share your tips with me in the comments below:
Guest Author: Andrew Raso is the co-founder and director of Online Marketing Gurus, a fast-growing, award-winning search company working with brands including HelloMolly, Baku Swimwear, and Forcast. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewraso1 or on LinkedIn.