If you’ve been in the marketing world for long, you know how important a strong brand identity is towards marketing success. And if you’ve been in social media for long, you know how important visuals are for visibility. Even as video surges as a marketing medium, there will always be a place for other formats in content and social media marketing. Visuals that pop are crucial.
Why are visuals important? Have you heard the statistic that says the brain processes images 66,000 times faster than text? That, my friends, is an urban legend. Try to track down the original source of that statistic. You won’t be able to find it. (And if you can find it, please let the Internet know.) Yet, there is some actual science that says the brain can process in as little as 13 milliseconds.
So put that little nugget of information in the context of a busy Twitter or LinkedIn feed. You know, where the Tweets or updates come so fast and furious you can’t keep up. What’s going to stand out more, a simple text Tweet, or one with an eye-catching image? Or, better, a branded eye-catching image. Those social media visuals are a golden opportunity to spread your branding. And that increases your brand recognition.
For example, let’s look at Erik Qualman’s LinkedIn posts. Every single header image has his green circle branding with a black and white image. Now look at his profile photo. Black and white with green glasses. From now until forever, I’ll recognize Qualman’s work on social media.
No Strategy is an Island
A visual strategy should never stand alone. It needs to fit with your social media and content marketing strategies. Like puzzle pieces, none are quite complete without the others. If you asked specific questions when you created your social and content marketing strategies, ask them again. The answers should differ only in the how, but not the what. You need to do the same things with your visuals as you do for your social and content strategies. You just need to do them in a way that makes sense for the visual format.
Your visual strategy should also fit in with your SEO strategy. I don’t mean only for on-page SEO. That’s certainly important, but not what I’m talking about here. I mean Google Images and, if relevant for your business, Pinterest. (I would argue that every business should be using Pinterest, since it’s search engine. But I digress.) Whatever keywords you have planned for the page where an image would be included, verify that they would also work on these two platforms.
Many articles address authenticity in part by recommending to stay away from stock images. The cheesy stock images, yep, I’ll agree with that. But, not all stock photography is created equal. You have stock photography sites that sell beautiful images from that real photographers. Stocksy.com is a great example of this. You have Librestock, which aggregates all the free (Creative Commons Zero licensed) stock photo sites. And, there are also ways you can alter a stock image to make it less stock-y. So, don’t take “stay away from stock photography” as a hard and fast rule. If you can make stock photos feel more real/authentic, go for it.
The other half of this equation is promotional photos. While some might be necessary, find a way to turn it on its head. Depending on your brand, you can turn to your social fan base to find user-generated content (UGC) of customers using your products. That’s authentic. And, people tend to believe other people (even through imagery) rather than brands.
Is organic UGC is tough to come by for your company? Showing an actual customer using your product/service could work. Behind the scenes photos of your product or service – your employees, your product being developed, etc. – are more authentic than bad stock or promotional photographs.
The other half of authenticity is the ability to emotionally connect with your audience. Sometimes a meme will do it, if you’re trying to make your customers laugh and it fits with your brand voice/personality. If it doesn’t fit, find another way to connect with them.
Stay On Brand
I can sum up the why you need to stay on brand in one sentence. Your brand builds trust.
No matter what you decide to do as far as type of visual content, you must stay on brand. That means much more than colors and fonts. It goes far beyond just branding. You need to ensure that your audience will recognize your images at a glance. Yes, including your logo in the image helps, but so does your brand voice. Any authority or thought leadership you’ve already built up is wrapped up with your brand. If your audience is a fan of your company, and they’re interested in your topic, there’s a good chance they’ll click through because they already trust you. I can name a few people/brands in my industry whose images I recognize at a glance. Yes, if I’m interested in the topic, I click right through to read further. Peg Fitzpatrick, Donna Moritz of Socially Sorted, and Social Media Examiner are some examples. These sources have been instrumental to me over the years. I’ve grown to trust them so much that I click through as soon as I see their image on a topic I like – no matter where I see it. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram – doesn’t matter, I’ll click the link to read. And, usually, I’ll share it on my own social channels plus pin it to my Pinterest account. (Peg says, “Pin It for Later” and I tend to follow her calls to action.) That helps move me down their respective marketing funnels – which is the point.
Over to You
Having a strong visual strategy needs to be a component of your marketing plans. It’s an integral part of your brand that helps bring recognition. Down the line, it helps build your customers’ trust. And that moves them through the customer journey. What success have you had in implementing a visual strategy at your firm? Tell us about it in the comments.