2017: The Year of Visual Content

Content Marketing · Digital Marketing

Visual content is nothing new in the marketing world. Marketers have dubbed each of the past few years the “year of content marketing.” It happened in 2015, 2016, and now we’re saying the same thing in 2017. So what makes this year different? It’s simple: more companies are taking advantage of new visual formats, leveraging them in new ways and enjoying a lot of success doing it.

What Makes Visual Content So Great?

90% of information that comes to the brain is visual, so it makes sense that visual content would have more “sticking” power with audiences than text-only content. And marketers are taking notice. According to Search Engine Journal, in 2016, 53% of marketers said they published visual content between 91 and 100 percent of the time. That’s an increase of 130% from 2015, when the number was 40.5%. Despite this, 71% of marketers spend less than five hours a week making visuals, meaning many visuals are borrowed from other sources. Brands aren’t investing the time to make their own. 

90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Source: Kissmetrics.

When Making Your Own Visual Content Pays Off

Making your own visuals doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. There are some great free tools available, such as Canva, to create infographics, and Infogr.am to create graphs. Here are some of the many visual content types you can create and how they can further your brand this year

1. Bespoke Photography

Stock photos are the most popular form of visual content, according to Search Engine Journal. But this type of visual content isn’t always effective. Boring, stale photographs used without brand guidelines don’t do anything to differentiate your brand from the rest of your online competition. Instead, invest in photography that’s created just for you. These days. high-quality photos can be taken from any smartphone. 

Alternatively, there are an endless amount of quality photos on photo-sharing sites such as Flickr and Morgue file that can be acquired for free using creative commons licenses. Try placing them in your otherwise word-heavy content such as articles and blogs. This will make your content easier to consume and more interesting; leaving you to sit back and watch your time on page soar. 

2. Memes

If you have any idea of social media, then you have no doubt seen a meme. Memes are images that are accompanied by humorous captions and this carefree type of content often goes viral. You may think that sharing memes is only acceptable with your close friends or personal social media followers, but marketers can get in on the meme trend in creative ways, like when Virgin Media used the “success kid” to market its products to consumers. 

Virgin Media used the “success kid” to market its products to consumers.

Creating your own meme is an easy way to set yourself apart from your competitors and build a community around your brand. First, however, you must decide if memes are the right fit for your audience and industry. If your brand is attractive to younger audiences, the answer is most likely yes! 

3. Pre-Recorded Videos

Videos are very useful for highlighting customer pain points and showcasing the solutions you can provide. Videos can be an expensive form of content to create, as they’re often outsourced to external agencies for production, but great videos pay off. One study showed that including a video on a landing page increased conversions by 86%. Today, it’s acceptable for brands to create lower-quality videos for use on their social channels or blogs. (Posts with videos receive nearly 300% more inbound links according to Moz). Product/service videos and how-tos, however, should be of the highest calibre possible. 

A Note on Mobile Videos

The amount of videos viewed on mobile increases each year. According to Business Insider, about 50 million people in the U.S. now watch video on their mobile phones, and fifteen percent of all online video hours globally are viewed on tablets and smartphones. Ensure that any videos (and images) you host on your website are optimized for mobile for best results. 

15% of all online video hours globally are viewed on tablets and smartphones.

4. Live Videos

Videos have been around for some time but live video is exploding in popularity this year. Live videos work well for almost any business - B2C, B2B and sole proprietors. They shrink the distance between the company and the viewer, while humanizing your brand. Live video is a relatively new way to market to consumers, so they don’t feel as though they are being “sold to.” This type of response is exactly what marketers want from a successful campaign. 

Live video is the gateway to upcoming technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), which are both quickly growing in popularity. To embrace such new formats, marketers should already be familiar with live video and have it in place. Facebook Live and Periscope are the most popular live video platforms in 2017. Think about live video the same way you think about other social media metrics; focus on growing your number of followers first. 

Dunkin' Donuts uses live videos to give tours of its various locations and take fans behind the scenes

The best live videos are those celebrating employees and customers. The camera doesn’t always have to be on you. Dunkin’ Donuts is one fantastic example of this. Dunkin uses live videos to give tours of its various locations and take fans behind the scenes during new employee training. With live video, customers can get access to people and locations they would never see otherwise. It’s how they fully experience a brand. 

5. Infographics

Experts’ thoughts on infographics are varied. While 48% of B2C marketers say that infographics are critical to their marketing success and many others are still using infographics in their marketing campaigns, some marketers now believe infographics have passed their peak. Rand Fishkin, marketer and founder of Moz.com says that because infographics can easily become too cluttered and overwhelming, most are no longer effective as visual assets. Infographics have soared in popularity over the past few years; everyone is creating them now. But many brands are doing it badly. The effectiveness of infographics lies in their simplicity, so if you do find that infographics work for your brand, keep them simple for maximum effectiveness. This infographic from Hubspot is an example of an infographic done well. It incorporates pop culture with a trending topic (content marketing), for an engaging customer experience. 

6. Presentations

Presentations are no longer something you only experience in meeting rooms. Online sites such as SlideShare allow users to share their presentations with a larger audience, no matter what type of device they’re using. A great SlideShare presentation focuses on great headlines and attractive design and color, drawing the viewer in with interesting information and slides that are easy to digest. Presentations typically include a lot of data, so it’s crucial to remain consistent on design (colors, fonts, etc.). Like any content marketing format, include streamlined copy and cite reputable sources. Note that presentations don't have to be done in PowerPoint, free tools like Skitch are effective tools for creating graphics and text on images.

7. Stats

Many long pieces of content can be summed up in one sentence. Stats allow you to boil your content down into its most important idea and encourage brand recognition. Sprout Social does a great job of finding stats across the web and making them into visual content.

Sprout ​Social does a great job of finding stats across the web and making them into visual content.

8. Quotes

Who doesn’t love a good quote? Marketers have been quoting experts, comedians and authors throughout the ages, and visual content makes this form more appealing than ever before. Below is an example from Joe Chernov. Marketo is another example. The company inspires with its graphics, referred to as Moments of Marketing Genius. 

Highly visual content marketing yields results.

9. Charts

Charts are what many marketers imagine when they hear the term “visual content.” Charts are effective in physical format if you’re presenting in an office, and they work just as well online. Charts help people visualize data by providing contextual clues to better understand the information the presenter is conveying.

 As Rand Fishkin notes:

(Charts and graphs) get picked up and used all the time by sources that want to quote the numbers and even by sources that originated the numbers that are looking for visual ways to represent them.” This frequency of sharing goes back to our discussion of ‘the swipe factor,’ meaning the more your charts and graphs are circulated, the more likely people are to seek out the original source – you.

Here’s an example from Buffer that quickly provides information about the benefits of sharing images on Twitter: 

An example from Buffer that quickly provides information about the benefits of sharing images on Twitter.

Take Advantage of Visual Content

With new types of visual content like live video rocking the social media world, 2017 is the time to take advantage of this content marketing format. For best results, use original graphics and images whenever possible. Stay away from stock images whenever possible - or ensure that they don’t *look* like stock photos whenever you can. Additionally, use presentations videos and memes (if appropriate for your audience) whenever possible. Producing visual content on a regular basis gives your brand a visual identity that sticks in the mind of viewers, keeping you top of mind when it’s time to make a purchase.

To sum it all up, visual content taps into the visceral psyche of your audience, inspiring them to learn more about your brand.

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