The content marketer of today has an overwhelming (and ever-growing) number of skills, roles, and responsibilities that they need to master.
Or risk becoming irrelevant.
It doesn’t matter whether SEO is your jam, or that you feel most comfortable writing long, detailed articles. These days, you have to know it all.
Or at least, have a cursory understanding of how to work most marketing channels.
According to Brian Balfour, as a customer acquisition expert you need to have a firm understanding of the following foundational marketing subjects: Conversion Rate Optimization, A/B Testing, DB Querying, Photoshop and Wireframing, Excel Modelling, Copywriting, and Funnel Marketing.
Are your palms sweating already? I know mine are.
Allow me to add one more thing to the list: Visual Marketing.
To put it simply, every content marketer should know how to employ visuals across all their marketing efforts.
You see, our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Therefore, it becomes significantly easier to visualize the data. With so much content vying for your reader’s attention, you’d best grab it as fast as possible.
Not formally trained in design?
Neither am I. But as you’ll soon see, there are several types of visuals that any content marketer can — and should — create easily.
Let’s dive in.
Are you laughing yet?
Emojis are no longer the playthings of teenagers. Just last year, Oxford Dictionaries picked an emoji as the word of the year. They described emojis as “a nuanced form of expression, and one which can cross language barriers.”
As it turns out, emojis are serious business in the visual communication world. They are capable of relaying emotions in a straightforward and realistic manner when we are unable to do so face-to-face.
In fact, neuroscientists have found that looking at a smiley face online is akin to looking at a happy face in real life.
This means that emojis can help you to relay emotions when used in your content, which is extremely helpful for connecting at an emotional level with your readers.
In addition, the future of communication is likely going to be laden with emojis and emoticons. They are, quite literally, the language of millennials. Their usage more than tripled in 2015 as compared to the previous year:
Another poll found that nearly 50 percent of US Internet users 18 and older now use emojis on social media or in their texts.
Check out Chevrolet’s latest attempt to generate buzz amongst this age group:
As childish as emojis may seem, it’s high time to get on board with the program.
2. (High-quality) Stock images
I know, I used those taboo words. I’m sorry, but hear me out. Stock images aren’t all that bad if they meet two requirements:
- They are high-quality
- They are relevant to the content they’re used in.
This might seem obvious, but the right images can bring your words to life in an instant.
Our brains strive to understand what’s going on in the world around us, and visuals can help that along.
Of course, many marketers get it wrong when they use stock images or icons that are vaguely relevant to the topic at hand, and are low-quality. Instead of helping your readers, you end up doing the opposite and severely confuse them.
Advertising legend Claude Hopkins puts it this way:
…The picture must help sell the goods. It should help more than anything else could do in like space, else use that something else.
So if you’re writing an article about Dave McClure’s Pirate Metrics, it’s cool to use an image like this at the top:
But probably not this:
Infographics are awesome.
Okay, I might be slightly biased, but don’t take it from me. Neil Patel, founder of Quicksprout, Kissmetrics, Crazy Egg, and Hello Bar, also believes that infographics are a great way for brands to provide value to their users:
You really have to create content that educates and informs your audience. There are a number of ways to do this – one easy way is to create infographics. Using valuable data to create a visual story can go a long way.
In fact, Neil was able to generate over 2.5 million visitors to Kissmetrics from just 47 infographics in a little over two years.
That’s an average of more than 53,000 visitors per infographic. Pretty decent, by any standard.
It’s no secret that infographics are excellent at engaging readers, which is why recent years have seen a proliferation of them flooding the market. However, while the best ones rake in the traffic, the rest languish in the dark recesses of the Internet.
For this reason, it’s best that you invest more effort into making your infographic a great one, instead of just throwing some numbers and images together. How your visual elements are chosen and structured holds the key to whether your reader stays or leaves:
There are many different types of infographics that you can create, such as flowcharts or case studies. If you ever feel stuck, here are 24 infographic ideas that will hopefully inspire you.
4. Animated GIFs
When we talk about visuals, the first thing we think about are pictures and photographs. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but they are still, well, still.
Imagine how much more a moving image is worth! Animated GIFs add a dynamic element to your narrative, helping you to explain or demonstrate certain concepts more succinctly than multiple images strung together.
Here’s an example. We were compiling a list of lesser known “hacks” that our users could use in Piktochart to make their infographic creation far more efficient.
However, we struggled with explaining them in as concise a manner as possible.
One of the things we were trying to explain how to do was how a user could duplicate their newly made infographic to quickly repurpose it.
Here’s how the text explanation turned out:
Go to Files, on the top bar, and click on Troubleshooting, and then Download Data. This will download a .txt file that we will use to duplicate the infographic on a new, blank canvas. Once you create a new blank infographic, go to Files and Troubleshooting again, but this time click on Restore Data and upload the .txt file you just downloaded.
It was clear, but hard to visualize and follow. So we whipped up a couple of GIFs to accompany it:
So. Much. Better.
A nice side effect of utilizing gifs is that it helps to massively alleviate content overload. When you have a lot of data, it becomes a lot easier to process the information when you visualize it.
With animated GIFs, you can cut out huge chunks of otherwise unnecessary explainer text. Win-win situation.
Some also believe that GIFs trump static images at emotional engagement simply because they are more intuitive — our thoughts and recollections tend to be animated rather than still.
Here’s how fashion model and avid GIF-er Elle Muliarchyk puts it:
Think of how we recollect memories: close your eyes and think of something from your past. You don’t see a frozen still image — you see GIFs! Even when we dream at night we see fragments of events that collectively create some kind of narrative which we assemble into a story when we wake up.
5. Short videos
Now that we’ve established that moving images are awesome, let’s take it to the next level. The advantage of short videos is that it adds on one more sensory input — audio. And audio and visuals tend to strengthen one another.
Cognitive psychologist David Poeppel uses the example of taking a blindfold off when in a bar. Everything suddenly sounds much clearer:
It’s because the visual information helps you process the auditory information. It’s an extra cue […] You perform better when you have multi-sensory information.
For this reason, short videos — such as those on Vine — can facilitate comprehension of your content, as long as the audio and visuals aren’t competing with each, says David.
In fact, Vine is the perfect platform for creating these short videos because it’s capped at six seconds. Six-seconds, according to Twitter spokesperson Carolyn Penner, is the ideal length for both production and consumption.
Dunkin’ Donuts’ Super Bowl Vine is one of the finest examples of using a six-second video to create brand attention in a snap (literally):
When used correctly, memes are an efficient medium through which a brand can ride on cultural trends. They are easy to identify with, making readers like they are “in” on the joke, making it a brand marketer’s dream come true.
Here’s a clever example by Virgin Media way back in 2012:
That baby is fondly known as The Success Kid, making it the perfect meme for the message that Virgin wanted to get across (i.e. our HD channels rock).
Naturally, try to steer clear of any memes that might be remotely offensive, or this could turn into a public relations nightmare for you.
7. Twitter/Facebook embeds
The primary benefit of embedding social media content, such as Twitter and Facebook posts, is clear: it allows you to spread your reach beyond the platform itself.
This way, people who encounter your posts can re-share them without needing to login to the respective platforms.
Beyond that, it also gives you an opportunity to gather social proof, like glowing recommendations and testimonials, and display them wherever you please.
Now, not only will your followers know that you’re awesome — everyone who comes across your website or blog will, too.
Here’s how to grab your Twitter and Facebook embed code in a matter of seconds:
I’m not referring to those black-and-white PowerPoint slides with huge chunks of text that your teachers loved to use back in the day.
No, sir — I’m talking about those sleek and beautiful SlideShare presentations that you and millions of readers around the world can’t seem to get enough of. The best ones captivate their readers with stunning visuals, and pack tons of useful content.
The best part is, you don’t have to create a presentation from scratch either. All you need to do is find your best-performing content — this could be a blog post or ebook — and repurpose it into slides. Easy as pie.
Have a look at this SlideShare presentation, for instance:
This topic was actually an entire chapter right out of our ebook, Infographics: The Untapped Potential. We decided to refresh it and put it up on SlideShare to attract more readers. The result: it received over 32,000 views across two weeks.
And we got a fair share of ebook downloads as well, too. Not too shabby!
Screenshots are the ultimate form of proof. If you have a screenshot of it, that means it must be true. And that makes them very powerful.
Sure, they’re not sexy, but they are extremely reliable for backing up your claims.
For example, if you’re writing an article titled How I Grew My Blog To 100,000 Visitors, the first thing your reader will want to see is proof that you did actually hit 100,000 visitors.
Head to Google Analytics, take a screenshot, and your readers will be satisfied. Bonus points if you can annotate your screenshot to direct your reader to the relevant numbers and charts.
Screenshots are also great at demonstrating concepts or processes, though probably not as good as animated GIFs. Still, they can certainly work in a pinch, and sometimes that’s all we marketers have.
If you’re pressed for time, use Awesome Screenshot. You can thank me later.
The final and all-important visual type that your business head will happily approve.
It’s all well and good to produce stellar content, but if it doesn’t lead to sales, it’ll be hard to justify it to your bosses.
Of course, not all your call-to-actions have to be about purchasing something.
You can use them to influence your readers to do a number of things, such as following your brand on Twitter or subscribing to your email newsletter.
Be sure to make your call-to-action as compelling as possible (it’s not called a call-to-action for nothing).
Give it a color that makes it stand out from the rest — but is aligned with your brand color scheme — and place it in the most logical location.
For example, on the Piktochart blog, we place our call-to-action box at the bottom of our articles, with the goal of getting readers to subscribe to our blog newsletter:
The shade of red that we use for the “Subscribe” button is consistent with the other call-to-actions we place elsewhere on our website, too.
If you are not sure why your visitors are not clicking your call-to-action, check out this monster list of 37 proven ways to create stronger copy.
With so much noise out in the wild, visual content is one of the best tools to help you break through the noise and get noticed.
What types of visuals do you employ to grab your reader’s attention? How did it work out for you?