By Michele Linn published April 24, 2014

Use Visual Content to Engage Your Audience: 9 Tips and 25 Examples

cmi look book imageVisual content marketing has grown tremendously in the last year or two, as brand marketers have started to realize that words alone aren’t going to be enough to keep customers and prospects engaged and involved.

To inspire you to add compelling visuals to your next content project, the CMI team has put together a new Visual Content Marketing Look Book, with 25 remarkable, best-in-class examples.  (Note: If you would like to download the PDF, select Save via the SlideShare link.)

So, how can your business capitalize on the latest trends in visual content marketing? Here’s our advice, based on some big brand examples that caught our eyes:

1. Inspire customers with ideas on how to use your products

Consumers often don’t know exactly what they want, and are looking for inspiration and ideas. Smart marketers give them plenty of creative fodder and, in the process, position themselves as a brand that says, “We’re here to help!” For example, Callaway Golf does this through its series of instructional golf tip videos published on its YouTube channel.

calloway office tips example

2. Show, don’t tell

Use stunning photography and graphics to tell amazing stories. An eye-popping recent example came from Volvo, which captured photos of Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits between a pair of Volvo Trucks. The key to making this work as successful visual content marketing was a creative concept that illustrated the product’s advantages in a unique, memorable way.

volvo trucks-split stunt

3. Tap into the creativity and passion of your customers

Entertain prospective customers with user-generated visual content that lets your brand fans tell their own engaging stories. Tourism Australia fans submit 900 photos for consideration per day — and they typically get tens of thousands of likes per Facebook post.

sydney opera house image-australia tourism

4. Humanize your brand

Compelling visual content helps to humanize an otherwise faceless company and give people a reason to interact with it. It can also help give consumers new ways to relate to your business. For example, Lincoln Electric’s compelling video series depicts some surprising ways welding services touch the lives of everyone.

trip made possible-grocery cart image

5. Be helpful

Visual tips, checklists, and “how-to” images perform very well on social media, because they are designed to help or inspire your customers in some way — something that Widen capitalized on by creating a Digital Assets Management Toolkit to nurture its prospects.

widen DAM decision checklist

6. Extend the value and reach of your written content

Identify the written content that has been most popular with your customers and envision ways in which you can adapt it into compelling visuals. This is an excellent way to draw fresh attention to helpful existing content in a format your audience can quickly digest and put to use. Don’t feel like you must explain the entire process or procedure in an image or series of images, either — sometimes it’s enough to “tease” readers with an image that encourages them to click through to your website to learn more — just as GE does with its data visualization blog.

ge-powering-curing-building

7. Don’t rely on stock photography

Create original images that illustrate your brand story and bring it to life. While stock images may save you time, they can’t possibly tell as compelling a story of your brand — and your customers — as custom images can. For example, Oreo asked fans to submit their ideas for cookies and cream, and then rendered ones it liked best for display on the brand’s social channels.

oreo image examples

8. Make it easy for customers to share their experiences

If you’re running an event, a tour, or other in-person experience for your customers, be sure to make it easy for attendees to share their involvement with others — both on- and off-site. For example, you will want to provide free Wi-Fi access for your attendees, recommend relevant hashtags to use on social media, and should make sure to give credit to your customers when you share photos they’ve taken during the event. But even if you aren’t working with a live event, there are plenty of ways to get your fans involved in your visual content creation — like what Pringles did with its Ultimate Party Lineup experience on Facebook.

images-pringles ultimate party lineup

9. Listen to fans, and act quickly on their ideas

If customers tell you they like a particular aspect of the visual content you’re sharing, acknowledge their requests and deliver more of what they’re asking for. Using metrics, you can quickly tell if this new content is popular with your customers or not. This is an excellent way to increase engagement — by paying close attention to the “social” aspect of visual social media! For example, home improvement chain Lowes knows how much its customers rely on the DIY tips it provides on many of its social channels, so when Vine started to take off, the brand leveraged the new channel with its Fix in Six series.

lowes diy tips-images

We hope this Look Book inspires you to consider creative ways in which your brand can incorporate images, video, and other compelling visual content into your content marketing mix.

Special thanks to Chuck Frey, who developed this Look Book and identified trends. Thanks also to Donna Moritz, Stephanie Diamond, and Paul Biedermann for their valuable input on this article.

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Content Development Director of the Content Marketing Institute and a B2B content marketing consultant who has a passion for helping companies use content to connect with their ideal buyers. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B Marketing.

Other posts by Michele Linn

  • http://JamesArtre.com/ James Artre

    “Tap into the creativity and passion of your customers”

    Always a hot button with me. It’s amazing how often great ideas can come from your customer, who are actually happy to participate.

    All it takes is to ask.

    James

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      That’s a great life — and content marketing — lesson. Thanks for the comment, James!

  • http://workado.com/ Justin McGill

    Great advice Michele. Especially like the idea of inspiring your users/customers with ideas on how to use your product.

  • Michael Gerard

    Thanks for the inspiration Michele. No doubt it takes more time and effort to create visual content. . . . but from our own experience here at Curata, we’ve seen much better results when we do make this investment. (Nice Van Damme shot :-) )

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Couldn’t agree more, Michael!

  • http://printfirm.com/ Katherine Tattersfield

    What an excellent resource! Big props on the point about stock photos. I know these images have their place, but I believe an original picture establishes a stronger connection to your brand.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Thanks, Katherine!

  • http://www.widen.com jathey

    Great resource Michele! Visual content is the way of the (marketing) world.

    And, thanks for including the DAM Decision Toolkit from @WidenEnterprise. DAM is a critical component to visual content marketing and a great tie in with all that is “branding”.

  • http://startupvalue.com/ Darius Gaynor

    Great post! Humanizing your brand is very important.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      And there is no better way to humanize than through visuals. Thanks, Darius!

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    For content marketing, having a campaign that utilizes visuals is especially important. Especially when it comes to expanding out to social media, a primary tool for visibility and traffic building. Thanks Michele!

  • http://www.squirrly.co/ Alexandra Petean-Nicola

    The concepts are way more clear when you point them out in the large number of examples. It’s also great that you have put them together and presented each one of them.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      So glad you have found this to be useful, Alexandra.

  • aksahy naik

    concept is really nice. thanks for sharing helpful post. with us all

  • http://www.krishtechnolabs.com/ Krish TechnoLabs

    It is a great thought to have folder of images to use for business. In the event that you don’t have one recently, get a digital camera. You do not have to be a professional to take some great pictures.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Great idea, Krish!

  • Janetta Mhoon-Jones

    Most folks like visuals. Most folks aren’t interested in long, drawn out descriptions. This is great information!