By Heidi Cohen published April 17, 2012

7 Ways to Use Photographs to Support Content Marketing

Photography is the content marketing darling of 2012. It’s the subtext of the recent headlines regarding Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and Pinterest’s meteoric growth this quarter. In large part, this is attributable to the fact that photographs provide an easy way for people to create and contribute content on social media, helping to reduce the high proportion of lurkers.

Before examining how you can use photographs to expand your content marketing offering, let’s look at the usage of each of the hottest new photography sites.

Pinterest has experienced exceptional growth, passing both Tumblr and Flickr in February 2012 with 23.7 million unique U.S. visitors (according to Nielsen).

Visits to Instagram’s website have steadily increased over the past 24 weeks and reached 3.8 million last week, according to Hitwise. The site has roughly 30 million users. Instagram’s app for Android phones reached over 1 million downloads the first day it was available. (Note: Instagram’s numbers are often tracked differently from websites since they tend to be mobile based.)  Further, many Instagram users share their photos across a number of social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous (now part of Twitter), and Foursquare accounts.

Tumblr was last year’s breakthrough social media site no one had heard of, since most of its users were under 25 according to comScore. According to Tumblr CEO David Karp, the site has 50 million blogs and about 4.5 billion impressions a week.

7 ways to use photographs in your content marketing mix

Photographs are worth more than a thousand words for content marketers. They’re eye-candy that draws readers in. Here are seven ways to incorporate photographs into your content marketing mix and some questions to help you create an effective photography offering:

1. Make your products into stars. Go beyond basic product shots used on websites and in catalogs. Display your products in the context of how they’re used in real life. Entice viewers to want to have them.

  • Questions to answer: How can we show off our products? How can we make our offering more visually appealing?

2. Tell your organization’s story. Use photographs to give prospects, customers, and the public a sense of your firm’s history and physical location.

  • Questions to answer: Does your organization have photographs showing your founders or interesting history about your firm or its location? How can these stories be used to make our brand, products, and company more memorable?

3. Enhance your brand. For many organizations, this means going beyond your traditional brand guidelines. It requires thinking about a 360-degree brand that social media requires.

  • Questions to answer: How will your brand appear in photographs? What type of backgrounds will you have? How will your employees dress? What type of photographs will you use?

4. Show a human face. Quite literally, photographs show who’s behind your brand and your organization.

  • Questions to answer: When using photographs in your content marketing, who will represent your brand? Is it a senior executive, a customer-facing employee, or a brand spokesman? How will they dress (business attire or t-shirts with your firm’s logo)? Think Best Buy employees in their blue shirts, or Progressive Insurance’s Flo and her white outfit.

5. Educate viewers to use your product. Photographs show customers how to use your products in lieu of videos or as a supplement to other instructions. Think beauty products or cooking, where customers can see the interim process.

  • Questions to answer: Who will represent your brand? What location will be used? Will customers appear in the photographs? Do you have release forms?

6. Broadcast the news. Show your product is part of, or participates in, current trending topics, such as the Romney campaign’s Etch-A-Sketch moment.

  • Questions to answer: Is this news positive or negative for our firm? Who do we want to represent our organization as our spokesperson in this situation? Do they have the appropriate PR training, clothes, and products?

7. Invite customers and the public to share product and brand related photos. Photographs make great user-generated content since it’s relatively low risk for contributors to create and submit them. All they need to do is to hold up their smartphones.

  • Questions to answer: What guidelines are needed for these photographs? Does the customer have the rights to the photograph?

Humans are visual beings, which explains one of the reasons why we’re attracted to photographs. As a marketer, ensure photography (or images in general) is an integral part of your content offering. Photos help achieve your marketing objectives and extend readers’ engagement with your content.

Do you have any other recommendations for how photographs can be integrated into your content marketing? If so, let us know what they are.

Image credit

Author: Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is an actionable marketing expert. As president of Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi works with online media companies and e-tailers to increase profitability with innovative marketing programs based on solid analytics. During the course of 20 years, Heidi has obtained deep experience in direct and digital marketing across a broad array of products including soft goods, financial services, entertainment, media entities and crafts-oriented goods. Heidi shares her actionable marketing insights on her blog. Find Heidi Cohen online at Twitter @heidicohen, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Other posts by Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Images can really add something to your content that makes it “pop”.  If you don’t include images in your blog posts, etc. there really is an element that is missing.  Images get noticed much more than text.  Including images of your employees and business helps prospects feel that they “know” you, which improves trust.  

  • Stephen_Dow

    I agree Nick – even though I’ve been slow to admit it. For me I believe it will always remain difficult to choose a balance between the amount, positioning and type of imagery used. I’m currently using more simple infographics to reinforce local content regions of the site.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnthonyBianciella Anthony Bianciella

    Quality images make a big difference. Like bad sound in a video, bad images can have a negative impact on a brand, product, person, etc. As tempting as it is to take your own photos, don’t do it. Hiring a pro isn’t as expensive as you might think and having great images can really make a big difference in how your product is perceived. 

    Great post and refreshing to read tips that encourage the use of photos in marketing.

  • Dualdflipflop

    Or in the case of Heidi here, she used one of the thousands of Creative Commons images from sites like Flickr.

  • imagewerks

    thank you! I am reposting this to my blog & crediting you. This is everything I coach my clients with. The credo for photos should be this:
    1. do they tell a story & actually describe what’s in the content
    2. are they quality images? did someone just take one from their cellphone & it’s out of focus?
    3. is it “branded” to the organization appropriately?

    I could go on, but bravo for putting this out there!

  • Paul McKeon

    Good article. Another suggestion: marketers should stop relying soley on the obligatory stock photo. Readers/visitors/viewers are inured to them.

  • John_Wysocki

    ‘Humans are visual beings, which explains one of the reasons why we’re attracted
    to photographs.’  

    Er… no. Almost all animals are ‘visual beings,’ in that they require sight
    to make sense of the world. But can animals understand what they’re looking at
    when they see a photograph? Probably not because, unlike human beings, they have
    not been trained to interpret 2-D images as reality. We’re attracted to
    photographs because we’ve been trained to understand and appreciate them (as
    with everything we see), not because we’re human beings.

  • http://www.thewordfactory.com/ Margot Carmichael Lester

    Thanks for a helpful post. A great photo can help bring a reader in, or bring clarity to complicated content. But it takes some effort to choose photos that really improve the content. As Mr. McKeon notes, it’s too easy to choose the first stock photo that seems remotely appropriate. A little more time invested in choosing photos can make a big difference. Another pet photo peeve is candids from events that show people eating or with unflattering expressions on their faces. That’s just lazy!