Expressions like “content is king” and “the money is in the list” can often be heard in the entrepreneurship and online marketing space. However, by looking at some data, one can almost dare to say that, when it comes to social media, visual content is the real king.
Leveraging the right type of visuals on social media increases the chances of our content being shared and for people to be driven to our business and website.
Using the wrong type of visuals, on the other hand, translates into a waste of time, leads and potential customers.
This post discusses why you, as entrepreneur, have to use visual content to promote your business, blog, podcast and products. I also go over the different types of visuals you can leverage and the tools you can utilize to create amazing traffic-driving images, whether you’re at your office or on the move.
WHY VISUAL CONTENT MATTERS
At the end of 2014, Instagram passed the 300 million users-mark, surpassing Twitter and its 284 million active users. According to Instagram’s official website, its users post and share an average of 70 million photos each day.
And even though visual content is Instagram’s strong suit, it’s not exclusive to the platform. A few months ago, HubSpot published some stats concerning the number of visual content shared on social media.
Every minute, Instagram sees 216,000 photos being posted by its users, while on Pinterest users pin 3,472 images. As for videos, 72 hours of new video and 8,333 videos are uploaded and shared on YouTube and Vine respectively (every minute).
If we keep in mind that 277,000 tweets and 2,460,000 posts are shared on Twitter and Facebook every sixty seconds, the numbers make a strong case as for why entrepreneurs and small business owners should start leveraging visual content to promote their activities and products.
Last summer, the folks over at Buzzsumo shared the results of an analysis of 100 million articles. The purpose of the research was to identify the factors that lead to content becoming viral.
When it comes to virality and visual content, it was observed that:
- on Facebook, articles with one image were shared 64.9 times in average, vs. 28 for those without an image
- posts uploaded on Facebook with a thumbnail were shared 56 times, while those with no thumbnail just 17.7 times
- tweets that featured a thumbnail were shared 20.36 times, those without a thumbnail only 9.67
Looking at the way people process information is also a key component to fully understand the impact visuals have on social media and why visual content is a must for every entrepreneur’s and business-builder’s content marketing strategy.
INFORMATION, COLOR AND CUSTOMER’S BEHAVIOR
The reason why visual content can help your content go viral, and your business get found by potential customers, has to do with the way our brains work.
New York University psychologist Jerome Bruner has discussed studies that look at the correlation between human brain, visuality and learning. The results show that people only remember 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, but about 80% of what they see.
HubSpot has noticed how 93% of human communication is nonverbal and about 90% of all information transmitted to our brains is visual.
Hence, the way we process information influences, at least to some extent, the way we (and our customers) behave and interact on social media.
In his The Complete Guide to Understanding Consumer Psychology, Neil Patel adds that 92.6% of people say the visual dimension is the #1 influencing factor affecting their purchase decision (over factors like taste and smell).
In other words, your decisions in terms of visual content can really attract potential customers or drive them away (forever) in a matter of seconds.
Visual content is not only choosing the images we decide to publish online, though.
Color plays a key role too.
In fact, it has been shown that colors do play a role in brand-recognition and conversion rates. A study that looked at how readers interacted with magazine ads found that people tended to recognize full-color ads 26% more often than black-and-white ads.
The “simple” decision of changing the color of their packaging earned Heinz millions. The company changed the color of their signature ketchup from red to green and sold over 10 million bottles in the first 7 months, resulting in $23 million in sales.
So, which colors should you use? That depends on your industry and the emotion you want to evoke. Marketo has done a breakdown of colors and emotions:
So, depending on what emotion you want to trigger you can opt for different colors and color schemes.
DIFFERENT VISUALS FOR DIFFERENT PURPOSES
Creating visual content that gets shared and drives traffic doesn’t require you to be a psychology or design expert (after all, you’re an entrepreneur, right?). It’s important for you to know, though, that visuals are easily remembered by people, and that using different colors can trigger different emotions – and these can affect conversion rates and customers’ decisions.
When it comes to visual content, a big mistake some business owners make is to simply grab the first image they find on Google and share it on all the various Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. without a strategy.
Grabbing an image, sometimes even a low-resolution one, and share it on social media is not a strategy.
So, you may be wondering, how do you create visual content you can use to strategically promote your business and drive traffic?
Some people get excited about tools and what they do is a quick Google search for some tool that will help them quickly create images. Others, may start browsing places like oDesk and Elance looking for designers to hire.
As we’ll be discussing later on, today there’s such a wide array of tools available, that you can easily learn how to use them yourself and invest the money you’d have spent for designers into something else.
Before looking at the tools, there are two things we should look at: the “life” of visuals on different platforms and the different types of visual content you can create and use to drive traffic and get noticed by potential customers.
I recently interviewed social media expert and speaker Peg Fitzpatrick – who is the author, along with Guy Kawasaki, of The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users – to discuss social media marketing. During our conversation, she touched on the importance of understanding how each social media platform is a different ecosystem.
The average “life” of a tweet, for instance, is 24 minutes. After less than half an hour, whatever you shared gets lost into the ocean of thousands of tweets posted each minute.
On Facebook, on the other hand, your posts will be around for 1.5 hours, unless people comment and like them. If that happens, the posts get popular and are back in the newsfeed.
So, even though we have seen that using visuals increases shares on both Twitter and Facebook, the “lives” of tweets and posts aren’t that long.
Pinterest is a completely different beast.
Peg explained that a pin can last over 3 months and she said that, in some cases, she still gets activity from her pins several months after she has posted. And Jeff Sieh of Manly Pinterest Tips, whom I spoke with just a few days ago about Pinterest marketing and driving traffic, agrees.
Before we get our hands “dirty” and start creating images to share online, it’s important to keep in mind that the duration of each piece of content on social media changes varies from platform to platform.
Ok, now we know that an image shared on Pinterest will have a different function – in terms of driving traffic – than one shared on Twitter. This means that we should think of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (which is also very dynamic) as sources of short-term traffic and Pinterest as one for long-term traffic.
The other source of long-term traffic is YouTube, for the fact that video still ranks high on Google searches and the rankings of videos on Google don’t change too quickly.
At this point, you may be wondering what type of visual content you should create to drive traffic from social media to your site or specific webpages.
I talked about that on 360 Entrepreneur with award-winning blogger and visual content marketing expert Donna Moritz. During our conversation, she identified three different kinds of visual content.
1. Shareable Images
This is the easiest-to-create and the quickest to share type of visual content. These are quotes, inspirational messages and tips that lead to quick wins. Shareables work very well on dynamic platforms like Twitter and Instagram, where people do share and upload content more frequently that they would on Facebook, YouTube or Pinterest.
2. Step-by-step Images
It’ll take you a little more time to create step-by-steps than shareables, but it’s a kind of visual content you can create even if you aren’t a designer nor a photoshop ninja. Checklists, how tos and snackable (easy-to-consume) infographics fall under this category.
3. Showpiece Images
Showpieces are the most complex and time-consuming piece of visual content to create.
Just think of detailed infographics and Slideshare slide decks. For great infographics, you should definitely check out Neil Patel’s QuickSprout and the Marketo blog, while for Slideshare look for Donna Moritz and Slideshare on Twitter.
Now, this may be the type of visual content that requires you to spend more time creating it, but it’s still something you can do on your own.
One of the best things about shareables, step-by-steps and showpieces is that you can create amazing visuals and drive content with them, even if you’re not a Photoshop wizard. Nowadays, there’s plenty of valuable and easy-to-use resources that do the trick, when it comes to creating compelling visual content without the need to spend thousands of dollars nor several hours.
YOUR VISUAL CONTENT MARKETING TOOLBOX
When it comes to creating visuals, I recommend you create in bunches. Take time to create several images at once.
If you host a podcast or have a blog, check out your editorial calendar (if your site runs on WordPress, you can use the free plugin Editorial Calendar or opt for premium options like CoSchedule) and make a list of the visual content you want to create for each podcast episode and blog post you’re going to publish.
Ideally, you want to carve out a time slot for the visual content creation. I, for instance, dedicate part of my Mondays to the creation of graphics I’ll be using to promote and drive traffic to the podcasts and blog posts of the week.
Keep in mind that, if you’re already familiar with Photoshop, you can certainly take advantage of the skills you already have. If you’re not a Photoshop user, the resources we’re about to look at are perfect for you. No particular design skill required!
In fact, most of these tools are free, easy-to-use and, in terms of functionalities and results, have absolutely nothing to envy Photoshop for.
Canva is the Swiss army knife of visual content creation, a must for every visual content marketer. Dubbed The easiest to use design program in the world by the Webbys, it allows you to easily create amazing visuals. Want to create a brand new Facebook cover, or perhaps you want to refresh the look of your Twitter header?
Canva automatically generates a layout optimized for a specific platform, be it Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Instagram. And you can even use it to create email headers, business cards, podcast artworks and kindle covers, among other things.
Canva is very intuitive and easy-to-use. You can either create something from scratch, use one of Canva’s templates (some are free and some are premium) or do a combination of both.
Regardless of the niche you’re in and the level of your design skills, Canva will deliver big time (a new version called Canva for Work is set to be release soon).
Perfect for: social media images, infographics, step-by-steps.
PicMonkey is a free alternative to Photoshop, which lets you quickly edit and touch up your images and create collages, all without the need of a sign up process.
Simply go to PicMonkey.com and upload an image from your computer, Facebook, Dropbox or One Drive. You can then do many of the things you can do in Photoshop like resizing your photo, change the canvas color, apply a frame, add overlay, and much, much more.
The only things you need are a laptop, an Internet connection and a touch of creativity!
Perfect for: photo editing.
3. QUOTES COVER
Quotes Cover is perfect if you’re short on time or have zero design skills. You simply add a text and this web-based tool automatically generates a quote using a random font and color. You can change both color and font as you wish, and you can even upload a background image.
Perfect for: shareables, quotes.
Piktochart is probably the easiest tool you can use to create infographics. Choose among a selection of more than 400 fully customizable themes, add information and edit your infographic using Piktochart’s intuitive point-and-click editor.
Perfect for: complex infographics.
When talking about apps for mobile devices, I like to separate them into two distinct categories.
APPS FOR TAKING PICTURES
There are a couple of powerful apps that, once you start using them, will make you forget about your phone’s standard camera app.
Hailed best camera app for iPhone by Lifehacker, Camera+ is my #1 recommendation for taking pictures – any kind of pictures – using your iPhone or iPad. You can touch up exposure and focus, brighten things up with the photo flashlight, use the digital zoom or capturing your best moments using a selection of shooting modes.
In addition, you can also add effects and touch up your old pictures, to make sure you use only the best possible photos. As WIRED said, Camera+ improves on almost every aspect of the built-in camera app.
I have recently started using VSCOcam after hearing nothing but great things about it. The app gives you a series of advanced features like manual focus, shutter speed, exposure compensation to mention a few, all for unprecedented creative control.
VSCOcam, which is available for both iPhone and iPad, also lets you edit and sync your photos across several devices.
APPS FOR CREATING VISUAL CONTENT ON THE GO
1. WORDSWAG AND PICLAB
What if you get a sudden stroke of inspiration or see a quote you’d like to share with your audience, but aren’t in front of your computer? Welcome WordSwag and PicLab!
WordSwag lets you apply cool typography to images. You can use one of the default templates available or simply upload an image from your phone library. It’s perfect for adding text to your photos and quickly creating quotes and shareable to use on Instagram.
I discovered PicLab just a couple of days ago, courtesy of Joel Comm’s session at Internet Prophets Live 2015. I can tell you that it’s quickly becoming my go-to app for creating cool visuals when I’m on the move!
Unlike WordSwag – which costs $3.99 and runs only on iOS – PicLab is completely free (you’ll have to pay to unlock some advanced features or you can also invest in its premium version PicLab HD) and works with both iPhone and Android devices. WordSwag and PicLab do similar things, but nobody said you can’t use both.
Phonto is another great alternative for adding text to images. This free app has started to build some buzz in the online marketing space, so I recommend you give it a try.
Remember how we talked about QuotesCover as an excellent web-based tool for quickly create visual content by using pre-generated fonts and colors? Ok, Notegraphy does all that, but for smartphone and tablet.
Simply type in some text and choose one of the pre-generated templates of fonts and color to create incredibly cool quotes.
APPS FOR VIDEO
All the major platform are putting more and more emphasis on video, and that’s why you should too. Here below is a list of apps you can use to create high-quality traffic-driving videos by simply using your smartphone or tablet.
When it comes to apps for making video on the go, Videohance is right there at the top. By giving users full control over their video’s look, this app leaves no room for amateur-like videos.
Perfect for: adjusting the looks in real time or adding textures to give your video a professional look with a touch of vintage.
Created by the people behind Instagram, Hyperlapse is perfect for shooting polished time lapse videos and smooth out your video for cinematic quality. You have probably seen Hyperlapse in action on some conference’s social media profile – with videos of the conference rooms going from empty to full in just a few seconds.
Perfect for: smoothing out your video for cinematic quality with automatic stabilization.
VidLab does for video what PicLab does for photos. It’s a great app that lets you add words and cool effects to your videos.
If you’re looking to create quick videos to share with Instagram followers, Facebook or Twitter, Videohance, Hyperlapse and VidLab will do the trick. But if you’re planning on making longer videos to use on your blog, YouTube or sales pages and want more advanced features, you should go with MoviePro.
As you have seen, leveraging images and videos increase the chances of your brand standing out in the noisy social media landscape and of people being driven from the various Facebook, Twitter, etc. to your website.
It doesn’t matter the level of design skills you possess or the money you have available, you can start creating and using traffic-driving visual content using the tools we have gone over (most of them are free).
To make it easy for use to remember the names of and to access the tools, you can download this free and handy pdf.