We’re visual beings. So is it really that surprising we expect to be wooed by visuals instead of text on social media?
It’s easy to understand the importance of visuals in our daily communication. After all, 90% of information our brain processes is visual. Building a marketing presence designed around visuals is only natural.
And yet, companies have tried (and failed) to crack the social media marketing code for years. Nine out of 10 businesses have a presence on at least one network. Far fewer are actually successful.
Take a look at their brand presence and you’ll realize that far too often, they try to promote themselves using outdated tactics and — above all — not enough visuals.
The statistics bear that out. One study found that Facebook posts with images receive 2.3 times more engagement than those without. Meanwhile, tweets with images receive 150% more retweets compared to their counterparts.
It’s not a solve-all, but one thing is clear: visual social media marketing is absolutely vital to succeed both today and in the future. Every post you make, every update you share, should have some relevant visual attached.
That seems complicated at first. It definitely requires a well thought-out plan. Knowing where to start, though, is half the game. Consider these 11 tips to make your brand’s social media presence more visual and enhance your success over time.
1. Brand Your Social Media Presence
When your audience first visits your brand page or scrolls past one of your posts on their newsfeed, what do they see? Humans form a first impression in as little as 50 milliseconds, which is not nearly enough time to read any text. Instead, you have to make sure that you get the visual branding of your entire brand presence right.
Branding your social media presence, above all, means building a compelling logo and cover page. Think Pop-Tarts, whose Twitter logo immediately pops (no pun intended) while the cover image makes any breakfast-ready mouth water.
Getting to a similar point means finding the intersection between branding and visual social media. The brand has to be clear from the first millisecond. That’s only possible if the visuals are strong and consistent enough to communicate your brand value at first glance.
2. Improve the Quality of Your Images
Just using visuals is not enough. According to one study, 40% of social media marketers use stock images. Here’s what that means: your competitor may well be using the exact same visuals as you for promotion. If you want to be unique, that’s not an ideal position.
Ideally, it always makes sense to use your own media. Images that are uniquely yours cannot be easily replicated. You can work with a partner like 99designs to get graphics and visuals specifically for your business. If that’s not an option, sources like Canva allow you to easily generate graphics that make even generic stock images more unique.
Triptych of branded images for women’s clothing brand. By vectro.
3. Create Social Media-Specific Videos
Video is, without a doubt, one of the most (if not the most) important visual aspects used in content marketing today. If you include video in your regular content strategy, you’re almost guaranteed to boost engagement among your followers.
That’s because, in addition to their inherent visual appeal, videos have found a unique spot within the social media hierarchy. On platforms like Facebook, they autoplay. Other platforms, like Snapchat, optimize their entire algorithm around it.
As you build videos in this medium, you have to keep a few things in mind:
- Your videos should be effective on mute. After all, 85% of videos on Facebook are watched without sound
- Shorter is better. Regardless of channel, 60 seconds tends to be the cutoff for engagement on social media
- Sizing and dimensions matter. Vertical video, for instance, can actually be surprisingly effective on mobile screens
- Catch the eye and generate attention from the first second to translate autoplay into an active viewer
- Authenticity matters. It might even be more effective than high-gloss, overproduced alternatives
4. Leverage Facebook or Instagram Live
Using video doesn’t just mean recording stuff ahead of time. In fact, you can be just as, if not even more, effective going live. Networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all offer live options for marketers and regular users alike.
Going live gives you the opportunity to show your face. It helps you go behind the scenes of your product or service, making your audience feel more involved in the process. One survey found that 82% of users prefer live video from brands over regular posts.
5. Visualize Your Data
Data and statistics are among your most powerful persuasive tools. They can also be immensely boring. Here’s the good news: they don’t have to be.
Effective data visualization can do wonders for your social media presence. It makes complex topics more approachable and digestible. It also helps you combine two of your most powerful rhetorical tools available in marketing, logic, and emotion.
Visualizing your data on social media can take on a variety of shapes. It might be a simple graphics or chart that highlights just what makes a given piece of data so compelling. Alternatively, a full-fledged infographic can do wonders on more complex topics.
Design by sundayrain.
6. Consider Interactive and Animated Infographics
Speaking of infographics: they can be more than just a piece of clipart thrown in with a statistic. Much more. In the digital realm, you have the unique opportunity to make your content interactive, allowing your audience to immerse themselves in it.
A poorly designed infographic can actually reflect badly on your brand. Animating it can be the key to turning the switch to a genuinely valuable visual marketing tool. GE’s World in Motion is a classic and a stunning example of how data can be presented in a way that makes us want to keep looking and to click.
Creating an animated infographic is not simple. It requires some basic design skills, along with either extensive coding ability or a paid tool like Displayr. The results, though, can be stunning. They effortlessly engage your audience, immersing them in detailed information without even realizing it.
7. Create Visual Instructions and How-Tos
Especially for more complex products and services, How-Tos are likely already part of your content strategy. They help answer common audience questions and increase their knowledge. The same tactic is also commonly used for more general tutorials related to your industry.
Here’s the problem: when based just on text, they’re not very attractive. In fact, few members of your target audience might actually go through them. That’s because, according to research, people who follow directions that rely on illustrations learn 323% more than those following plain text.
You can use that to your advantage. A quick, animated explainer video can do wonders in getting your audience to understand a common blind spot or answer a question.
If you don’t have video capabilities, you don’t even have to go that far. In fact, a simple infographic that breaks it down into visual steps can do the trick.
Click here to view a YouTube explainer video.
8. Build a Branded Frame Image Template
For some marketers, the above seven tips may be a bit overwhelming. And we have to admit: it seems a bit like you have to spend significant time on each visual piece of content you’re sharing on social media. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case.
In fact, for at least some of your content, you can leverage templates to your advantage. One option: build a branded image frame that you can simply plug pictures and graphics into. The frame communicates your brand, so you can easily add quicker types of content (like an inspiring quote that lines up with your mission and values) for a slow day on social media.
As an added benefit, you might even want to consider sharing the frame with your audience. Your more loyal followers may run with it and share their own images. In exchange, you get free brand exposure that expands your reach and maximizes the power of your visuals.
Branded Frame quote template from 99designs.
9. Repurpose Your Content in Visual Ways
Stop thinking about a blog post as a blog post or a whitepaper as long-form content. They’re all opportunities to curate and repurpose content that sustains your social media presence. All you have to do is pull out interesting info nuggets, and find interesting ways to share those nuggets.
You can repurpose your content into any kind of visual already discussed above. It might make sense as a simple static visual, an infographic, an animated visual, or even a video. Which works best depends entirely on the type of content.
Plenty of online tools like Canva and Displayr exist to help you create graphics and animations. Video tends to be a bit more complex. The video production services of 99designs are designed to help marketers who don’t have the capability to create their own videos. Either way, the ability to repurpose content into various types of social media visuals can be an immense boost to your presence.
Original infographic on heat soluble threads via Olivier Darbonville.
10. Create Your Own Memes
You know memes. They range from silly to offensive to straight-up hilarious. You might even use them personally or with your co-workers. Have you thought about extending that usage into your professional social media presence?
Internet users are uniquely compelled to share memes on social media. It’s why The Dress went viral within a matter of hours and the This Is Fine dog is still relevant today. I even saw a cheezburger reference on Twitter the other day.
You can tap into that same enthusiasm, but you have to walk a fine line. Share the wrong meme, and you can actually alienate your audience. With the right one, though, you’ll get instant engagement. Plenty of free meme generators can help you get started.
Customized meme created by Drydenwire.
11. Build Thumbnails for Every Video
By default, networks like YouTube and Facebook pull a random image from your video as you post it. Depending on what pops up, that means someone looking at it may not be very compelled to actually play it. Fortunately, the remedy is simple.
Make it a rule to build thumbnails for your Facebook and YouTube videos. Then, as you upload and post them, choose the custom thumbnail option. It’s an easy way to make sure that the videos seem as compelling as they actually are to an audience still on the fence about viewing them.
Are You Ready to Become a Truly Visual Social Media Marketer?
Visual marketing doesn’t have to be difficult. The above tips range from simple to complex, but even implementing some of them can drastically improve the social media presence of any brand.
The key to success is thinking about visuals first: strive for an exclusively visual presence to make sure your audience will always have something nice to look at.
Of course, that nice has to connect to both your brand values and your unique selling proposition. With the right visuals, you can communicate both much more quickly and effectively. It’s the best way to turn yourself into a truly visual social media marketer, ready to woo audiences and blow away your competition.
About the Author
Camille Franc is a Marketing Manager at 99designs. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs make their journey successful and enjoyable. This, combined with his 6 years’ experience in digital marketing, drives his passion for helping business owners to grow. When he’s not championing the 99designs brand, you’ll find him practicing meditation or playing violin in the city of Berlin.