We all know a picture is said to be worth a thousand words. But to a marketer, a picture can be worth so much more.
As people are sharing more than 500 million photos a day, businesses can’t afford to ignore visual content marketing. Luckily, there are many different ways to integrate visual elements into your content marketing strategy, from creating a presence on visual marketing-specific sites to revising your existing strategy on familiar networks to include more visual elements.
With both these approaches in mind, consider the following ideas and inspirations:
Photos have been said to elicit positive emotions, which makes sharing images a great way for businesses to connect with audiences in a more personal way.
With 150 million active users, Instagram has grown to be one of the top photo sharing social media networks, making it an obvious choice for visual content marketing initiatives. Brands can utilize Instagram to engage with audiences by following some of these best practices:
- Showing instead of telling: In addition to telling visitors about product releases on your website and blog, consider showing your audience new products and services on Instagram. The platform provides an excellent opportunity to illustrate your product or service in action, either through a photo or short video. For example, you can help your audience make a buying decision by showcasing ways your existing customers have put your products or services into play. You can also deliver “sneak peek” or clue-type photos and videos to tease out details of an upcoming product release.
- Take viewers behind the scenes: Instagram can also be used to provide your audience with a “backstage” look at your business and its inner workings. For example, try posting a video of your product as it’s being manufactured; or you can share photos of your employees as they interact in the office. The possibilities are virtually limitless, and each image you share gives your potential customers a view of your business — and its benefits — that can’t be found elsewhere.
- Humanize your brand: On a related note, people like to connect with other people, so sharing photos of your staff on Instagram can also go a long way toward humanizing your brand. Consider bringing your audience into the fold by sharing photos of a different employee once a week, and using the caption area to describe what role he or she plays in your business. You can also take photos and videos of staff having fun at company retreats, meetings, or other events to illustrate the positive influence your company has on their lives outside of the office.
- Make smart use of captions, hashtags, and comments: When posting on Instagram, be sure to include a caption for your photos and videos. And don’t forget to add relevant hashtags whenever possible — this will help tie your visual content into other relevant conversations happening on social media. Research which hashtags are popular among your target audience, or create your own and encourage your audience to use it, too. Additionally, since Instagram users will be able to post their comments on your images, make it a point to respond to their messages — and trigger a notification by including the commenter’s username using the @ symbol.
Example: General Electric
General Electric (GE) has mastered the practice of using Instagram, building a following of 164,000 people through its visual content marketing efforts on the platform. Though GE’s business may not be considered an “exciting” one, the company has proven that it’s certainly not lacking a creative spark when it comes to sharing visual content. For example, GE often posts “behind the scenes” shots of elaborate equipment and visual illustrations of its methods (along with detailed descriptions), as well as inspirational photos and pictures of staff. Its images have garnered thousands of “likes” and comments — not bad for a business without an obvious “artistic” component.
Pinterest allows users to create collections of photos based on their personal interests, with a link to the original photo source, by “pinning” photos onto “boards.” Because of the linking factor, posting visual content on Pinterest can be a great way to drive referral traffic to your website. In fact, Pinterest drives more referral traffic to publishers’ sites than Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit combined.
Start to build your brand on Pinterest by following these best practices:
- Use quality photos: As the key to being successful on Pinterest is getting pinned as many times as possible, in order to reach new visitors, having high-quality, interesting, and inspiring photos is essential. Avoid using stock photos at all costs — other brands (both inside and outside of your industry) could use the same photo, which might confuse users. Also, as the images are what attract users to a pin, do not watermark or add unnecessary text or logos over the photos, which can turn users off.
- Being organized: Pinterest users organize pins by category, so your brand should do so as well. When creating different boards, stay on theme and be specific. For example, don’t just post all of your blog posts under a “blog post” board — get more granular and descriptive. Create separate boards for specific topics, and organize blog posts and other content you link to using the same categorization scheme.
- Optimizing for Pinterest sharing: If you want to build a presence on Pinterest, your website must be optimized for Pinterest sharing. Be sure Pinterest is included with the other social sharing options you offer. Consider going a step further by using a “pin it” button on your photos themselves, so users can easily pin the photos of their choosing.
Example: L.L. Bean
Many people believe that the only women’s brands that share pictures of clothing and cupcakes can build a following on Pinterest. This is definitely not the case, and L.L. Bean has proven that by earning more than 5 million followers through consistent, organized, and inspiring posts. L.L. Bean’s boards are not centered on product offerings, but instead are focused on what its target audience members enjoy doing with its products.
On Facebook, images receive 120 percent more engagement than text posts. As a result, sharing images (without links) is crucial for driving “likes,” comments, and shares.
Brands can share photos on Facebook just as they would on Instagram and Pinterest. However, there are some factors to consider that are exclusive to Facebook, such as:
- Facebook Timeline: Facebook’s timeline setup provides unique opportunities for businesses by allowing milestones and history to be showcased on brand pages. Instead of making a text announcement, share a photo when you achieve a milestone such as a certain number of customers or products sold. That image post will then be front and center when users scroll through your timeline.
- Encourage conversation: You can add a bit of text to the images you post on Facebook, so instead of simply providing a description, ask your audience a question that’s relevant to the image. For example, some brands have had success asking customers to share their own image captions, while others have encouraged their followers to have ongoing dialogues on their Facebook pages. Also, last year Facebook announced the rollout of conversation threads, making it easier to respond to a specific comment and interact one-on-one with users.
- Post shareworthy content: The share is often said to be the holy grail of Facebook engagement metrics. When users share one of your posts, people they are friends with, who may or may not already “like” your company, will be able to see the update. As images get shared more than text does, it’s imperative to work visual content into your Facebook publishing schedule on a regular basis.
Example: American Express
With more than 5 million “likes,” American Express is one company that certainly capitalizes on the fact that images drive more engagement than text. It includes an image or video in the majority of its posts, and has also found other engaging ways to leverage visual content marketing using Facebook’s timeline feature — such as posting messages — with accompanying photos — on company milestones that go back as far as 1890 (the year the company was founded).
As visual content can prompt upbeat feelings, drive traffic, and boost engagement, photos and video have become crucial in online storytelling — the foundation of content marketing. As the amount of visual content being shared on sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook continues to grow each day, incorporating visual elements into your content marketing strategy is not only encouraged, it is becoming essential for success.
What visual content marketing tips do you have?
Looking for more inspiration on delivering compelling visual content? Read CMI’s Content Marketing Playbook: 24 Epic Ideas for Connecting with Your Customers.