By Steve Glauberman published February 13, 2013

Effective Content Marketing with Visuals: Your 5-Step Guide

content marketing imagesIt’s been predicted that visual media will become one of this year’s biggest content marketing trends, and it’s easy to see why. Humans are hard-wired to respond to imagery, and there’s value in leveraging this instinct for brands. As Fast Company wrote in a story late last year, “Two years ago, marketers were spreading the maxim that ‘content is king,’ but now, it seems, ‘a picture really is worth a thousand words.’”

By now most brands are tapping into sites like Instagram and Pinterest to engage with clients and customers in a visual context. There are, however, alternatives to this approach — along with supplementary tactics for enhancing it. What follows are five strategies for effective content marketing with visuals to start you on your way.

1. Using multimedia to enhance PR

The days of the all-text press release are quickly coming to an end. As much as consumers are apt to respond to visual media, so too are bloggers and journalists. They know that their readers are likely to spend more time with features that include images and videos, and that the presence of such visual content marketing will guide more consumers to their articles through visual search.

In fact, multimedia material can make a big difference in the extent to which readers engage with your release online. According to a study by PR Newswire that was conducted with the help of Omniture SiteCatalyst, page views can jump from 14 percent for a text-only file to more than 20 percent for a file that’s been visually optimized. Upload a video along with your company announcement, or additional files like Word Docs, PDFs, and audio clips, and you could be looking at an increase in views of 48 to 77 percent.

Additionally, PR Newswire reports that incorporating multimedia can boost release shares from .99 times per hour to 3.5. Businesses that go beyond text and a simple company logo to include richer, more engaging visuals are certain to find it has a significant effect on their impact and reach.

2. Creating custom infographics 

Among the more common visual embellishments of late is the infographic. Its meteoric rise to popularity last year led to the creation of info-rich graphics on every subject from “The Impact of Twitter on Major Brands” to “10 Strange Ways to Stay Healthy.” Businesses can compress entire white papers into these bite-sized, brightly colored pictures, and increase the odds that busy clients will view and share them. Effective content marketing agencies can attract new business by using infographics to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise.

That said, not all infographics are created equal. A good infographic is appealing to the eye, but also highly relevant to your target audience. Its content is both consistent with your brand and distinctive to viewers (fellow CMI contributor Andrianes Pinantoan offers many more tips here). When promoting your infographic, don’t stop at your corporate or agency blog, or even social media. Employ visual directories like Submit Infographics and Reddit’s infographics to ensure that your effort thoroughly makes the rounds.

submit infographics

Submit Infographics

3. Building a brand atmosphere

It used to be that every photo associated with a product or brand was carefully composed in a photo studio before being approved and distributed to the public. Social and consumer-generated media have required businesses to relinquish some control over the way their brands are depicted online, but this trend can be used to work in their favor. Just as consumers have the ability to capture images of products and brands “in the wild,” so too do marketers. The only difference is that we’re still beholden to an established visual style.

Take a look at how Red Bull creates a visual representation of its brand on sites like Pinterest and Instagram. There’s a common thread among these photographs that goes beyond content and composition. Every high-drama shot is also high-contrast, with stark lights and darks and a contemporary feel. Red Bull’s marketers wouldn’t use a vintage or retro-style filter for its shots — it simply isn’t on-brand.

effective content marketing-Red Bull

Red Bull on Instagram

Before you associate an image with your brand online, make sure it’s consistent with your brand’s “atmosphere.” Is the style of the photograph a good fit? Does it mesh well with the other images on the page? Always be aware of your brand’s style guide — especially when it comes to social media.

4. Going retro

We can credit Facebook with launching this trend — or at least with making it easier for brands to employ. The introduction of Timeline gave companies the ability to post a visual history of their origins on a Facebook page, including everything from business milestones like new locations and new services to photos of old product packaging and retro ads.

If you’re ambitious, though, you can go beyond Facebook Timeline to tell the story of your company in other visual (and viral) ways. Last year Lego helped consumers visualize the origins of its toys by releasing a computer-animated short film. The 17-minute long movie takes viewers back to Lego’s Danish roots, its original founder, the series of events that led to the brand’s name, and the invention of Lego bricks, and it has generated nearly 4 million views on YouTube to date. Taking a slightly different approach, Sony commissioned a designer to create a typographic mural of the Sony Music Timeline at the company’s headquarters. Photos and videos are hosted at a microsite where consumers can experience the project firsthand.

effective content marketing - Lego

The Lego Story

Consumers are curious by nature. More than that, they love a good story. What better way to deepen their affinity for your brand than by showing them how it came to be what it is today?

5. Employing corporate candids

Most brands discovered long ago that there’s mileage in circulating content befitting of the label “exclusive.” Ads that didn’t quite make the campaign cut, behind-the-scenes images from a product photo shoot — these things make interesting and entertaining additions to brands’ social sites and are very likely to be shared.

While many businesses make a point of including such candid visuals in their campaigns, few take the extra step of providing deeper insight into the corporate environment. Sony’s strategy of posting images of its historical mural online has the added benefit of offering a peek into its inner world, but businesses can do the same simply by publicizing internal news and events.

effective content marketing - Sony

Sony Music Timeline

Is your ad agency sponsoring a charity run? Post video highlights on your YouTube page and corporate blog. Did you recently redecorate your offices? Create a montage of before and after shots on your Facebook and Tumblr pages. Has one of your employees been honored with an industry award? Profile the event on Instagram. Providing a visual of the people, outlook, and physical space that contribute to your business’s success can give your brand authenticity, credibility, and clout.

Will this be the year that visual content marketing goes from having a supporting role to playing a critical part in your campaign? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Looking for more visual content inspiration and ideas? Read CMI’s Ultimate eBook: 100 Content Marketing Examples.

Author: Steve Glauberman

Steve Glauberman founded Enlighten in 1983 as one of the nation's first interactive agencies with a vision for how technology could be coupled with imaginative content and incisive marketing to improve the ways businesses connect with their customers. Under Steve's leadership, Enlighten quickly established a sterling reputation for creating work that was visually stunning, technically powerful, and conceptually groundbreaking. Steve has continued to focus on the strategic development of interactive solutions that deliver efficient yet engaging user experiences - solutions that reflect his own uncommon blend of technical and aesthetic sophistication. A board member of the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA), Steve is a graduate in Computer Science from the University of Michigan. Follow Steve on Twitter @sglauberman.

Other posts by Steve Glauberman

  • Bobby Burns

    Ouch! This is a trend that seems to strike at the heart of a writer’s sense of necessity – that we are needed. But I suspect that it is simply a trend indeed and that, while visuals are – and are going to remain – big, the need for words will never go away. The irony of this post for me was this line: As Fast Company wrote in a story late last year, “Two years ago, marketers were spreading the maxim that ‘content is king,’ but now, it seems, ‘a picture really is worth a thousand words.’” It would be hard to communicate that idea as clearly in an infographic!

    • Jason Thibault

      Good writing will always be needed!

      • Sarah Bauer

        We’ll always need writers to articulate our claims as better, more unique, or more experienced than our competitors; but great visuals sit at the crux of online proof. Visuals bolster our claims, whether we want to illustrate our charming company culture or our commitment to quality. Text and images can work together in seamless fluidity.

        • HeidiCohen

          Bobby, Jason and Sarah–

          It’s important to understand that photographs are easy to take and share from a smartphone. Further, most current model smartphones yield relatively high quality photos. Additionally, images provide social currency. This is the reason that Facebook is the biggest repository of photographs.

          That sai,d text is still important and critical to human communication. Instead of worrying about jobs for content creators, we should be concerned that people still have the basic communications and writing skills. At the end of the day, all marketing is P2P.

          Happy marketing,
          Heidi Cohen

          • http://www.pixelsandclicks.net/ Bhaskar Sarma

            Good writing will always be needed, even with a great image. Case in point is a caption. A great image with a well written caption will create more conversations and engagement than that photo without one

  • eMarket Boost

    There are different types of readers–those that need more information and details and those that peruse. Content should target both with words and graphics!

  • Ron

    You can also use videos from youtube.com

  • Ron

    nice article