Why community managers should think like art directors

With the rise of Pinterest and Instagram, it’s clear people love images. Here’s how to use them to bring social media engagement to a whole new level.

By now, we’ve all heard the news: Social media is all about visual storytelling.

Facebook’s Timeline changed the way people share visuals on the social network.

Infographics have taken over the Web. (OK, that might be a little extreme, but it seems like I can’t go two clicks without seeing one.)

Pinterest recently blew up, and continues to drive significant traffic to company websites.

Instagram continues to climb the social media charts as one of the hottest apps in terms of company usage.

This means community managers must have a keen eye for design and photography.

Sound familiar? I’ll tell you what it reminds me of: an art director.

This is a bit odd for us old PR folks. Art direction? That’s for the designers. We don’t do that.

Guess again—we do now. At least, we will if we want to survive—and thrive—in the social media world.

What am I talking about? Consider the following scenarios:

1. Oreo on Facebook

Oreo has taken art direction to its status updates. It plays on newsworthy events, and designs around them. Oreo designs an image that works with an event, and then creates a headline that goes with that image.

It sounds like an advertisement, doesn’t it? And that’s exactly what it is-advertising copywriting/art direction 101. And it’s taking over Facebook.

2. Sharpie on Instagram

Sharpie simply draws photos with its pens. It’s simple, but brilliant. And it involves creative art direction.

The social folks at Sharpie may not be doing the drawing, but they certainly work with designers who draw the pictures and write the headlines to accompany them. That’s building an ad.

3. Major League Baseball on Facebook

Major League Baseball (MLB) is taking advantage of one of its biggest assets: the fantastic photography it grabs at every ball game.

Pair that photography with some quippy headlines, and you have instant Facebook content that engages.

It sounds simple, but someone at MLB sifts through hundreds of photos each day (I assume) to find these nuggets, then pairs them with brilliant headlines. Again, this is advertising copywriting, and it’s making its way into social media.

Since this clearly seems like a trend, what can you do to start thinking like an art director, or gather visual assets that will work across multiple platforms?

Here are a few quick tips:

  • Get smarter about photography. Take a class at a local university. Or better yet, stop by a local camera store to see if it has a class. If you don’t have a natural eye for photography (and not many do), try to develop one. It will be a huge advantage for you.
  • Find someone to take your photos if you can’t. Research local photographers and find one with a style that matches your brand. Then, work with him or her to capture compelling images that will work for Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and your blog. It will be worth the investment.
  • Mine existing resources. What do you have in your internal archives? You may have historical photos, or a stash of photos that the marketing team often uses. Or, your CEO might have some images from prior years that no one has seen. Look hard and gather every existing photo and image you can find before you look externally or on your own.

The visual nature of social communication is here to stay. What are you doing to keep up?

Arik Hanson is principal of ACH Communications. He blogs at Communications Conversations, where a version of this article originally appeared. (Image via)

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