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Show, don't tell: Here's why your brand needs visual content

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Most content marketers dream about getting thousands of page views, generating traffic, and targeted leads with their videos and images. While there are no secrets or magic tricks for a successful visual content strategy, there are certain steps that you can take to make sure your tactics work.

At Uberflip, a successful Toronto tech startup, visuals have become one of the main drivers of the targeted visitors that their blog receives every month. Out of its current 20 most popular posts, at least half are visual in some way (ie. infographics, videos, galleries, slide decks, etc.).

Another success indicator is the fact that their infographics and videos have been picked up repeatedly by well-known media outlets such as Fast Company, PCMag, MarketingProfs, and the Content Marketing Institute, getting thousands more eyeballs on them. This means higer traffic and even more awareness for our brand.

Based on Uberflip's experience, here are some insights into how to successfully align visual content with your overall content marketing strategy, how to work with different formats, choose the right tools, and ensure visibility and exposure by incorporating cost-effective promotional tactics.

Why visual content?
From a cognitive point of view, given the short attention span of online users, it’s important to catch their eye and hook them in a matter of seconds. It’s a fact that images are processed a lot faster than words. When it comes to quick and clear communication, they trump text almost every time and users are more likely to share them. This graphic explains it very well.

The very same type of information is not only presented more efficiently but can also affect users emotionally. For instance, choosing warm colors (red, pink, yellow) over cold ones (blue, brown, gray) might motivate readers to feel a certain way or take different actions. All of this increases the opportunities for users to engage and increase your ROI.

Statistically speaking, it’s no secret that visuals have become widely popular in recent years. YouTube is now the most used search engine after Google, and the majority of companies are already producing visual content.

Getting Started
Mapping content to the various stages of the sales journey and buyer personas is an essential step of successful content marketing. This also applies to visual content. A single infographic or video will likely not lead to success. As with written content, marketers need to make sure that our visuals are categorized by funnel stage and type of audience.

If, for example, an image on Facebook was the hook that introduced them to your company, an infographic can direct them to a tutorial video and ensure a deeper level of engagement. This will again push them further down the marketing funnel and close to converting into customers.

“Snacky” content, like memes, infographics, and Twitpics, will be a valuable hook to snare contacts. But other forms of visually-driven content, like video or webcasts, can deepen engagement and educate the audience on your brand benefits too.

Some content assets can appear in more than one stage of the funnel. This will depend on the topic rather than the format. A webinar could create awareness about a product or service, but it could also serve to educate new customers.

The right format
When considering specific types of visuals, marketers must ask themselves questions like:

  • Beyond words, what stories can we tell using visuals?
  • Who do I want to reach?
  • Why would this idea be better framed as an infographic or a video, rather than a 600-word blog post?
  • Do I have the skills/resources to produce the visual? If not, is it worth outsourcing this?

The format should be relevant and add value to the message. For instance, a 3-page report with market stats on a certain product will surely look more appealing as an infographic or a motion graphics video, as opposed to posting a text-heavy version.

Some of the most popular visual formats for content marketers include infographics, recorded videos, motion graphic videos, visual blog posts, slide decks, galleries, tutorials, and webinars.

Sharing is caring
Brands can't forget the importance of promoting their content. As with any other type of asset, people won’t find visuals by mistake or accident. Marketers can use a mix of paid, owned and earned media (organic) to promote them.

Here's a a guide with very actionable tips on how to promote any type of content.

More than videos and infographics
Lastly, beyond individual visual pieces, a brand's content as a whole should also showcase a style that’s attractive and consistent with the rest of their strategy, from colors, to font types and overall look & feel.

Even text-heavy articles should be re-imagined, incorporating visual breaks, lists, text colors, and other formatting elements. Even when there are no images, audio or video, the intention is always to generate more engagement, to make content easier to digest, and to reinforce its identity.

Visually-led content can help companies get noticed without saying a word. Robert E. Horn, professor at Stanford University, said, 'When words and visual elements are closely entwined, we create something new and we augment our communal intelligence (...) visual language has the potential for increasing human bandwidth—the capacity to take in, comprehend, and more efficiently synthesize large amounts of new information.'

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