Visual Content Marketing: Are You Profiting From This Powerful Medium?

Danielle Antosz
Last Updated on August 5, 2020
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If you have a great idea, impressive product, or innovative service, that’s just the beginning. The hard part is playing matchmaker between your brand and your target audience.

And it’s getting harder all the time. Small businesses in 2019 are competing in a sea of over one 1 billion websites and blogs.

How do you get noticed? How can you increase awareness, interest, and sales?

Done well, content marketing can be one of the most effective tactics for driving traffic — and leads — to your website. It consistently has one of the highest ROIs of all forms of marketing.

In this article, you’ll learn what content marketing is and how it can propel your business forward. We’ll focus on a specific type of content marketing —  visual content marketing — and how it can be used to grow your business.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is creating and sharing content that is relevant and valuable to your target audience.

How is Content Marketing Used?

Content marketing often is used to address the passions, pain points and problems faced by a business’s target audience. The goal is to produce content that’s helpful and “valuable” to that audience.

What’s valuable? Your audience determines that. This is why it’s important to research and understand your target audience.

“Valuable” content can:

  • Answer a question
  • Solve a problem
  • Inspire
  • Provide a new insight or idea
  • Provide humor or entertainment

An example is Wrike, a company selling software that simplifies and streamlines marketing workflow. As part of their content marketing strategy, they offer free e-books with titles like: How to Build High Performance Content Teams and Optimize Team Performance and Avoid Burnout.

A marketing executive may find out about Wrike’s software by first finding their books via an online search.

You can think of content marketing as lures in the water to attract fish. What kind of bait do your fish like?

high performance marketing book
Above: One of Wrike’s free e-books targeted to marketing team leaders.

Forms of Content

The content that’s shared can take many forms, including videos, blog posts, case studies, white papers, infographics, interactive data visualizations, social media posts — really any type of content you can imagine.

The Impact of Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most effective means of:

  • Increasing brand awareness via effective social media marketing
  • Increasing qualified leads captured on a site
  • Improving SEO and search engine rankings

Maybe you are already looking to include visual content but aren’t sure where to start.

If this sounds like you, keep reading.

What is Visual Content Marketing?

Before we dig into the stats, let’s talk about what visual content marketing is.

Visual content marketing refers to using images, video, graphs, charts, and other valuable visual content to engage your audience and share information. 

How is Visual Content Used?

Visual content may be used on its own, for example as a video or infographic, or used to support written content. For example you might include diagrams, photographs, or screenshots to accompany a text article.

12 Types of Visual Content

This post discusses the most common types of visual content, which might include:

  1. Photographs
  2. Graphs
  3. Flow Charts
  4. Illustrations
  5. Memes
  6. GIFs
  7. Videos
  8. Screenshots
  9. Infographics
  10. Presentation slides
  11. Animations
  12. Data visualizations (also called “data vizes”)

Video: Visual content has been on the rise for the past few years. Amy Balliett, CEO of Killer Infographics, discusses the importance of visual content in this 2018 video on Vimeo.

Visual Content Marketing Statistics

Any decision you make for your business should be based on data, not guesses or gut feelings.

This post shares real statistics that demonstrate why visual content marketing is so crucial to the success of your business.

We will also share tools you can use to get your visual content marketing off the ground.

Content Overload

There’s a staggering amount of content available on the internet and it’s only increasing. This means competition for viewers’ attention — sometimes referred to as “attention currency” — is fierce. And it’s becoming progressively harder to acquire.

Internet Content Statistics

Consider the following stats:

Are we actually consuming all that content?

Not really — or at the very least not as intently as some content creators — and marketers — might think.

Internet Users Scan — They Don’t Read

In a famous 1997 study, user experience expert Jakob Nielsen (of the Nielsen Norman Group) revealed “How Users Read on the Web.” The answer? “They don’t. People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.”

The findings of that groundbreaking report have been repeated in subsequent research over the years. Surfers don’t typically read a page: they scan it, looking for visual markers like headlines, bullet point lists, diagrams, and images.

Above: This interactive data visualization was created with a popular software tool called Tableau. Those who are comfortable working with spreadsheets should find Tableau easy to use.

Additional stats show most internet users are browsing, skimming, or just reading headlines.

Takeaway: You Need More Than Text

So, what do all these stats mean to you, as a business owner? There is an exorbitant amount of content on the internet, and most people don’t engage with most content. People are even less likely to engage with written content, which makes visual content more powerful.

To put it plainly, people don’t actually read word by word on the internet. 

Shocking, I know. 

The good news is, visual content can help turn the tide and encourage your visitors to engage with your content.

How the Human Brain Responds to Visual Content

The human brain is wired to respond more favorably to visual content, and marketers are paying attention to this fact.

Here are a few stats that highlight the growing importance of visual content marketing.


Video: Content strategist Buddy Scalera shares tips on visual content and creating a holistic strategy that works across platforms.

Takeaway: Visual Content Should Be a Priority

Visual content marketing has been gaining popularity in recent years for one reason — it works. People respond more favorably to visual content than they do to written content alone.

Because of this shift, visual content is increasingly becoming a priority for both B2B and B2C marketers.

It should be a priority for your brand, too. 

The Impact of Visual Content: Stats and Tips

There are multiple types of visual content, but images remain the most common type of visual content. Here is how images can affect how your content is consumed and how well it performs.

  • 32% of marketers said images are the single most important type of content for their brand. (Source: Social Media Examiner)
  • Articles with images receive up to 94% more page views than those without. (Source: HubSpot)
  • Including an image every 75 to 100 words in a blog post can double your content’s social shares. (Source: Buzzsumo)
  • The top 100 ranking blog posts include an average of 3.2 images. (Source: Buffer)

Takeaway: Use Visual Content to Create Greater Impact

Images can make a significant impact on the shares, page views, and ranking of your content.

Video Marketing Stats

How does video stack up to images? Video marketing is becoming more and more popular. Here are some stats to prove the value of video in your marketing portfolio.

  • Videos can increase your conversions by 80% (Source: Deposit Photos)
  • 90% of customers say they use videos to help them decide whether or not to make a purchase. (Source: Deposit Photos) This video of the convertible clothing item called the Versalette shows prospective buyers exactly how the piece works and different ways to style it. For consumers on the fence about purchasing, a video like this can push them to purchase.

  • By 2022, video traffic will make up 82% of all internet traffic worldwide. (Source: Cisco)
  • Nearly 2 billion people have watched a Facebook Live video (Source: Endgadget) Facebook lives can be used in a variety of ways by all type of businesses. For example, you could host a Q&A, show off your product, or go behind the scenes at your business. Dearborn Denim, the Chicago-based denim brand we mentioned above used a time-lapse video to show their hemming station in action.

Takeaway: Video Marketing is Important and Can Be Done on a Budget

Video marketing is a crucial part of visual marketing. Video consumption is on a growth curve.

But, you don’t need a big-brand budget to get the most out of video marketing. All you need is a smartphone and a few tools. In the next section, we’ll cover tips on how you can get started.

How to Use Visual Content: An Online Marketing Guide

Now it’s time to put what we’ve learned to use. In this section you’ll learn:

  • What type of images are best
  • How to create images — in seconds — that rival those of graphic designers
  • How to put together video — easily
  • Free tools that will make getting started with visual content fun

Use Images That Add Value to Your Content

Keep in mind that the type of images you use matters. It’s not just a matter of adding lots of images to your posts.

This eye tracking study by Nielsen Norman Group found some images were completely ignored, particularly when they were decorative and unrelated to the content.

Make the effort to find or create images that add value to your content. This may be because they offer additional information (as in graphs, charts, or interactive data visualizations) or enhance a story by portraying the characters in it.


Video: Katie Sherwin, Senior UX Specialist at the Nielsen Norman Group, explains the difference between “decorative” images and images that convey information. 

Examples of Effective Use of Images

Let’s look at a few examples to see how this works in practice.

This post on Volkswagen’s website is a fantastic example of using images to tell a story. The post tells the story of the company restoring a 50-year-old Beetle.

Creating an Emotional Connection

There is plenty of content, but the piece becomes a charming, delightful story partly due to the scrapbook-style photos documenting the car’s journey from beat-up jalopy to a brilliantly restored Beetle.

With the inclusion of visual imagery we capture a sense of what this classic Beetle means to its owner — and many others like her.

annie volkswagen restored

This particular piece used:

  • Still images
  • Montages
  • Slideshows
  • And a video

Sure, it is easy for the big brands, right? What about the smaller brands? Here are a few examples from smaller brands, like yours, who are using images well.

Small Business Examples

Classy Career Girl, a blog dedicated to helping women make their career dreams come true, leveraged images to promote their new physical planner.

The images help break up the text, but also show how the planner looks in real life.

Transit Tees, a Chicago-based apparel brand, uses unique images on Facebook. Instead of using stock photos or even just pictures of their products, they create unique images related to their brand, like this one for Christmas.

The shape of the tree and the ornaments are reminiscent of how Chicago maps display the subway lines.

Create Professional Images the Easy Way: Budget Tools For You

Visual content is huge, but you don’t have to have a huge budget to make it work.

content adds value

This image was created in seconds using Pablo by Buffer — a free tool. You can select from the images Pablo provides, or upload your own. Adding text to an image is easy.

Here are a few tools for creating engaging images for your content.

  • Placeit: Create professional-quality social media images, flyers, e-book covers are more. Easy to use. Includes Instagram Stories templates.
  • Canva: An easy to use web-based platform for creating featured images, social photos,  flyers, and more. They offer templates so you can create professional looking images in minutes.
  • BeFunky: Simple to use photo editor, collage maker, and designer. Allows you to edit images you already have by adding elements like text and filters . Or create images from scratch.
  • PicMonkey: Online photo editor and digital designer. Use one of their templates, or create an image from scratch. You can add text, icons, images, and more to create professional looking images.
  • Pablo by Buffer:  Create beautiful images for all the major social media platforms. Use their large stock photo library and overlay text, add filters, and easily adjust the size to fit different platforms.

How To Create Effective Video Content — Easily

Here are tools any size brand can use to create beautiful videos your audience will want to watch.

  • Renderforest is an online tool for creating videos an animations. They have a free version and paid plans start at just $14  month.
  • Splice is a video editing app for iOS. It makes it easy to edit and splice videos, add text, add sound effects, narration, and more.
  • Adobe Premiere Clip is a step up from Splice, and is available on both iOS and Android devices. It allows you to create videos from photos, trim longer videos, apply custom lighting, add music, and more.
  • Sellamations helps brands created doodle animated videos, which have become popular in recent years. If you don’t have the bandwidth or ability to create videos yourself, this is a great option as they take care of all the work for you.
  • Vimeo is a full-service video hosting, distribution, monetization, and marketing program. On higher end plans you can even host live events, chats, and collaborate with your team.

  • Video: This overview of Renderforest will give you a quick idea of what’s possible with this video creation tool.

    If you’re searching for inspiration for your first video, have a look at your existing blog posts. A high-performing blog post could lend itself to a valuable video.


Video: This video from HubSpot discusses how to develop brand videos based on your blog posts.

Get Started With Visual Content Now

  1. Experiment: Start by testing a few types of visual content to see what performs best for your audience. Track views, time on page, and conversions to see how your audience reacts.
  2. Check out these social media tools (some of which are free) for help with automating and tracking the performance of your posts.

You might just find the best performing visual content is not so hard to create after all.

FAQ

Here are some common Q&As on visual content. Have a different question? Feel free to leave it in the comments below and we’ll answer it!

Where can I find free images?

  • There are several popular sources for free images including Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay. These sites have images of environments (workplaces, co-workings spaces, nature, factories, etc.), people, and objects. It’s good practice to give credit to these photographers whether they require it or not. And linking to a highly-trafficked external site like Unsplash can boost your SEO.
  • In the sources listed under the bullet point above, you won’t find images of news events or famous people, like politicians. For those, you can try the personal websites of politicians, but be sure to check to see if the individual is allowing public use of his or her images. For images of the U.S. President, First Lady, or Vice President, check the official White House photo stream on Flickr.
  • You can also do a filtered search on Flickr for images of famous people. In the example below, we did a search for images of entrepreneur Mark Cuban. Note: You may find an image you like that has a Creative Commons license — but beware: there are many different types of Creative Commons licenses, and you must read the actual license in order to find out whether you are free to use the image. For example, some Creative Commons licenses require that you give the photographer credit, in exactly the way he or she requests. Other Creative Commons licenses forbid commercial usage. Still others allow unrestricted use and require no credit.

mark cuban flickr

Can Google images be used without permission?

No, you can never use an image you found on the internet without first finding out the copyright status of that image and complying with the related copyright law. For example, the owner of the image may offer licensing terms that include payment and limited use. Some image owners require that you exchange a faxed contract prior to use.

While it’s possible that you may find public domain images on the internet, it is your responsibility to determine that they are indeed in the public domain. There are may images on Wikipedia and Wikimedia that fit this description.

Failure to follow the law when it comes to copyrighted images can be costly. Today tracking technologies allow owners to track usage of their images. This means you could pluck an image from the internet, add it to a blog post of yours, and receive a pricey bill in the mail along with a demand for removal of the image.

Conclusion

As these statistics demonstrate, visual marketing is a powerful tactic for helping business owners like you grow their businesses, expand their digital reach, and nudge customers to convert.

Whether you are creating images, infographics, or videos, you need to create visual content if you want your business to succeed.

What’s Next? Recommended Reading

Here are two helpful resources that dovetail nicely with your visual content push.

Adobe Spark Review

Adobe Spark enables you to create gorgeous, single-page scrolling websites that tell a story. Ideal for travelogue, journalism, environmentalism, events, or advocacy, this tool is very easy to use. It also comes with a social media image tool and animated video tool.

Landing Pages: Everything You Need to Know Today [Plus 20 Legendary Examples]

The Most Powerful CTAs in History and Why They Worked


Contributing Editors: Bronwynne Powell and Sherrie Gossett

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