Why online content marketers should key on visuals

As consumers increasingly want to see before they buy, social media platforms featuring images and videos are gaining favor for commerce and reconnaissance. Is your brand missing out?

This past year, we saw Buzzfeed’s exploding watermelon blow up the internet, becoming the largest Facebook Live stream to date, with over 800,000 live viewers.

On Cinco de Mayo, Snapchatters turned their faces into giant tacos using Taco Bell’s taco face Lens, which later became the top campaign in the app’s history with 224 million views.

Our brains are wired to find visual content especially compelling.

Pictures, videos and other visual media are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Today’s fastest-growing social media channels are primarily visual, so if you want engagement, you’ll want to double down on photos and videos. Here are three reasons why you should build a visual content strategy:

1. Visual content boosts online engagement.

In an age when consumers want shorter load times and faster checkout experiences, visual content allows you to say more with less and keep your audience engaged. For example, tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets than tweets without images.

Here’s an example of how an image enhanced a tweet about a recent interview we ran with singer Elizabeth Lyons. On the right is what the tweet would have looked like without the image:

See how putting a face to the name humanizes the story and helps the reader feel connected?

2. Visual content builds trust and loyalty.

No matter how compelling your product copy or how glowing your product reviews, some details can only be captured in a photo. Consumers want to know it all. Did you know that 44 percent of customers research a product online before they buy it in the store?

For food and beverage companies, before they buy, people want to see what they’ll be ingesting. For e-commerce companies, consumers want a better idea of the quality and size of the product. Travel and hospitality shoppers might require a virtual tour of the hotel before booking a weeklong vacation.

That’s why a lot of brands rely on user-generated content. Candid photos from your community or brand advocates resonate more deeply with consumers than glossy, Photoshopped ads do. Research shows that 93 percent of consumers find user-generated content helpful, and 85 percent trust content generated by others more than they trust content produced by brands.

Madewell uses the hashtag #everydaymadewell to encourage shoppers to share images of their purchases for a chance to be featured on the site’s “Your Pics” tab. For the summer, Madewell changed its call to action, asking people to share how Madewell products fit into their summer plans. Shoppers can surf the gallery for inspiration, perhaps opting to buy the hat, pants and shoes that go with that shirt they were eyeing.

3. Visual content is highly measurable.

It might seem that social media networks focused on visual content—such as Instagram and Snapchat—can be harder to track. On Instagram, you can’t link out anywhere but the bio. On Snapchat, the content disappears.

So, how do you attribute ROI to your efforts? Using a tracking link, brands can easily track the performance of visual content across multiple social media channels.

A picture that’s worth a thousand sales

You don’t need fancy camera equipment or a lot of experience to build a successful visual marketing program. It all starts with knowing your audience; gathering insights on how, where and why they’re engaging; and optimizing your content accordingly.

Once you know what your audience wants to see, you can build a multimedia content strategy that is authentic and connects on an emotional level. All you need is a smartphone.

How is your brand using visual content? Please share in the comments below.

Denise Chan is a content marketing manager at Bitly. A version of this article originally appeared on Waxing Unlyrical.

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