The Virtues of Visuals
Social media is becoming increasingly oriented towards images. The success of Pinterest, Instagram, SlideShare, and Tumblr can be directly attributed to this fact. Facebook’s Timeline was clearly designed to serve as an image delivery vehicle. And when we peruse it, we fulfill the expectations of its designers. We instinctively gravitate towards images of our acquaintances’ weddings, pets and food and disregard anything that looks like it could require a substantial commitment of our time.
The idea that visuals are more engaging than text is hardly novel. Nor is it unsubstantiated by data. Simply Measured recently found that photos received twice as many text updates as text updates on the top 10 brand pages on Facebook. In addition, it found that videos are shared an astounding 1,200 percent more than link and text updates – combined.
While social media evangelists have universally demanded that brands incorporate visuals into their social media marketing efforts, there are still a few dawdlers who haven’t caught on. We won’t continue to badger those businesses about the value of visuals. That’s a topic that has been thoroughly explored; but we suspect at least a few brands haven’t implemented a visual-centric social media strategy because they aren’t sure how to begin. We want this post to benefit them. So, without further ado, here are a few tips on bolstering your social media marketing with visuals.
Pick your Platforms
What intimidates a lot of businesses about social media marketing is that it can seem so intimidating. To a lot of brands, “engaging” and “interacting” appear as if they could quickly consume time and energy they don’t have. And so they become paralyzed.
Social media marketing requires selectivity, just like any marketing technique. You can only become overloaded with social media marketing if you attempt to market yourself on every social media platform simultaneously. Most businesses shouldn’t need to do this. Most businesses will only benefit from a presence on select social networks.
As it happens, you can determine what networks are most appropriate for you by looking at the types of images your business can post.
Retailers and landscapers, as well as designers and decorators, would do well to post content on Facebook and Pinterest. Facebook’s enormity makes it a necessary part of any business’s social media marketing strategy. But not every business needs to start feverishly pinning images. For the images listed above, displaying photos on Pinterest—which has an audience that skews decidedly female—makes sound, strategic sense. Conversely, an auto repair shop would benefit less from Pinterest.
Coordinate Visuals and Text
When you incorporate visuals into your social media content, you don’t need to abandon text and links; images aren’t, in themselves, sufficient to tell a story, engage your audience, or provide them with compelling information.
What visuals do is bolster written content and links. They clarify information, alert viewers to the information they are going to see or read in the near future. And they impart that most mysterious and ineffable of qualities; flair.
When posting on your social media channels, simply think of ways to incorporate images into your text updates. It’s okay to test and experiment with different approaches. In fact, it’s advisable. It is essential that you vary your images and the frequency that you post them. On social media—and this goes for all content that you display on social media—you need to keep your audience guessing. Don’t let them take your content for granted or let them get too comfortable with it.
While experimenting, see what types of images and updates are most successful for you. Determine what types of images most successfully generate interest and elicit engagement from your audience. It’s absolutely okay to have the occasional disappointment; not every image will resonate with your audience.
Make Your Visuals Professional
A lot of businesses are already augmenting their social media marketing efforts with visuals. That means that, at any given time, consumers are being bombarded with visual stimuli from legions of businesses. That means your images need to stand apart from those of your competitors.
Avoid any images that have that “stock photo quality,” when you are selecting visual content for your social media content. Viewers won’t engage with content that seems inauthentic; they will sense your lack of involvement in your own content. Jakob Neilsen, a Web designer and usability expert said this about stock images: “Big feel-good images that are purely decorative are mostly ignored online, while stock photos or generic people are also intentionally disregarded. In contrast, when users know that a picture … is real they will engage with the image for extended periods of time.”
While it’s best to avoid the simple, sterile images you can get from any stock photo provider, it’s also best to steer clear of images that are unnecessarily intricate or whose meaning is obscure. Visuals are supposed to relay information quickly. An article in PR Daily made the point that “If you cram too much information into your graphic, you’re defeating its original purpose…infographics are ‘more clickable’ than other multimedia, such as video, which may turn a reader off since it usually requires sound, as well as investing more time to watch….”
Don’t muck up the purpose of visuals by making them inscrutable.
Remember the Basics
Visuals are like any social media marketing content: they exist to help your business and to drive customers to your storefront. For that reason, they need to include calls to action, preferably ones that direct viewers to your website. Infographics, images and slide presentations can all be made to include calls-to-action.
Another basic tip: don’t spoil your audience with large images. These take longer to load and can frustrate viewers. And a frustrated viewer is one who is unlikely to engage with your content and/or visit your website.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that social media marketing is improved when it is augmented with visuals. Consumers have become habituated to seeing their content accompanied with supportive images. You need to acknowledge this and begin to make visuals a part of your social media marketing. As the tips outlined above make clear, it’s not hard to do—and it can lead to substantial rewards.