By Katrina Olson
Visual content is becoming increasingly important for reaching and engaging people in social media. Marketers harnessing the power of visuals are increasing blog traffic, converting visitors to leads and acquiring more customers.
Almost every social network has seen an increase in video, photos, memes, charts and infographics.
- In 2014, use of video content increased by 8% to 58%, while infographic usage increased by 9% to 52%, according to Demand Gen Report’s 2014 Content Preferences Survey of B2B buyers.
- Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets, according to a recent study by software application designer Buffer. In late 2013, Twitter enabled users to add inline photos and Vine videos in tweets, available simply by updating the app. (Note: the graphic at right was created using https://infogr.am.)
- In Social Media Examiner’s 2014 Social Media Industry Report, 82 percent of businesses that responded cited images as crucial elements of social media content optimization, ranking images as “important” or “very important.”
Of course, you want to post, share or tweet relevant images to strategically targeted audiences, or you’ll be creating content that only your mom will see.
Why is visual content so important?
Video adapts your messages to our increasingly short attention spans. Visual content instantly engages viewers and creates impressions that last longer than words. Why?
1. Visual content is instantly and easily sharable on social media. And it’s more likely to be shared if it’s attractive, entertaining or easy to digest.
2. Visuals can communicate messages very quickly. For example, rather than explaining how a new product, tool or app works, you can demonstrate it in a short video.
3. Visuals can persuasively show instead of tell, allowing viewers to decide for themselves without feeling pressured.
4. Visuals communicate quickly, breaking through the online clutter.
How to find visuals
If you have the budget and need high-end, professional images or photos, hire a photographer, illustrator or graphic designer to create custom graphics. But if custom graphics are not in the cards, you have many other options.
1. Buy stock photography and images.
Online sources like istockphoto.com, shutterstock.com, and gettyimages.com (plus tons more) sell royalty-free images, illustrations, videos and music clips at prices lower than custom visual content.
2. Use open (and free) content.
Creative Commons (creativecommons.org) is a nonprofit organization that offers free creative content to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing and remixing through a variety of licenses for commercial and noncommercial use. It’s network consists of affiliates in over 70 jurisdictions around the world.
3. Take/find and edit your own photos.
Enhance and edit your own photos with online image editors like Pixlr, BeFunky and Fotor. Most offer filters, frames, effects, text, borders, collages, cropping and more. Find more tools here and here.
I found the free photo below at www.pptbackgrounds.net and added the type, border and effects in pixlr.com (using the basic Pixlr Express option).
4. Create your own infographics.
Infographics can present complex information in an engaging and informative way. Use them to explain a process, explain how something works, present survey data, make comparisons or present otherwise uninteresting facts.
Infographics are especially useful for building brand awareness or educating customers about an issue. Find 10 easy tools for creating infographics here.
5. Tell your story in video.
You don’t need to hire a film crew and production company, or even buy fancy video editing software (unless you want to). If you’ve never created a video, start small with easy-to-use, web-based programs like Animoto or Wideo. Both provide templates for creating simple videos with animation for announcements, training, recruiting or even holiday greetings.
Once you’ve mastered the animated video, use your own footage and pictures with a “starter” video editor like iMovie for Mac or Windows Movie Maker. Both provide simple templates for making movies using still photos, graphics and your own images. Next thing you know, you’ll be frustrated with how little you can do with these “beginner” programs.
Now you’re ready for more sophisticated editing software like Adobe Premiere, Apple Final Cut Pro, CyberLink PowerDirector (PC) or Corel VideoStudio Pro. These range in price from about $80 to $300.
No matter what you’re trying to find, use or create, there’s probably an easy way to do it. A simple Google search will yield hundreds (if not thousands) of results. Or you can just ask your kids. They’re probably already using them on their phones.
Olson is a veteran marketing and public relations consultant. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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