The Quest for Visual Content in 5 Stops

As content marketers fight for “shelf space” online, the debate on what kind of content is more attractive and compelling keeps heating up. Opinions, studies and views seem to converge on one point: Visual Content is the keystone of any content strategy.

This article explores why Visual Content should be crowning your Content Marketing efforts and provides a few tips on how to get on board with this trend. 

1. YOUR BRAIN WAS WIRED TO PROCESS IMAGES — NOT TEXT

The most powerful combination that can be found in nature: Your eyes + your brain.

Yes… your brain processes images faster than text. If you search online, you will get incredible numbers (usually 60.000X faster). Now, no one has facts to back that up (we are still in search of the research that states those numbers). What we do know, is that the brain was built to deal with images. Text came much later as a human invention.

Professor Marcel Just, director of the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University who is conducting a research based on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, gave the following interesting  statement in a recent interview:

Processing print isn’t something the human brain was built for. The printed word is a human artifact. It’s very convenient and it’s worked very well for us for 5,000 years, but it’s an invention of human beings. By contrast Mother Nature has built into our brain our ability to see the visual world and interpret it. Even the spoken language is much more a given biologically than reading written language.

Do we need to elaborate on this one? Include visuals in your content. Your message will be processed faster and more efficiently by your audience (considering they are humans). And based on Professor Just’s comments, you should also consider including audio, as spoken language comes more naturally than text to us Homo Sapiens.

This is important for you asusers who are going through your social media feeds, your blogs, websites, or simply navigating the ocean of content that is available online, will get your message faster with an image than with just sentences.

2. GET NOTICED! YOU ONLY HAVE 13 MILLISECONDS

Visual Content helps you to stand out of the crowd. 

Your brain is not only wired to process images better, it is also capable of identifying one in just 13 Milliseconds. According to an MIT research, the brain can do this even when the image is mixed up in a sequence. Professor Simon Thorpe, director of the Centre de Recherche Cerveau & Cognition at the University of Toulouse comments on the research:

This new paper shows that the meaning of an image can be extracted even when an image is mixed up in a sequence of six or even 12 images presented at 13 milliseconds per image — a rate of about 75 frames a second. Another striking finding was that the effect is also seen when the question concerning the target is only presented after the sequence has been run, meaning that the brain can extract meaning even when there is no way to predict what will be shown.

Bottom Line: In the ocean of content that is the internet, an image could get your content noticed and identified in less than the blink of an eye. So use them and do it abundantly.

3. YOUR VISUAL CONTENT IS READY TO BE YOUR NEXT POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

A 2012 study by ROI Research states that social media users engage more frequently with visual content. The results show that women are more attracted to pictures, while men find video more compelling. 

Visual content has better chances to be identified, processed and shared than plain text. Have your visual content retweeted, liked, plus one’d and let this happen not only on your social channels, but on your blog and website. Make sure you include “tweetable” phrases to accompany your visuals and always make sure your social media sharing buttons are present so your users can share your content directly from your source.

TIP: When using images and videos in your blogs, newsletters and websites, always enter an alternate text (ALT). This will help you with search engine optimization (SEO).

4.  ONE IMAGE SHOULD SPEAK THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF WORDS

Be concise with your visual material. 

Advertisers have been doing this for ages now. Find the right metaphors and make them visual but do it concisely. Synthesize your message into powerful visuals that convey your core message. Then use text to complement the visual information.

There are millions of examples. This Kawasaki Ad is pretty good at doing the job:

Now, not everyone is trained to produce creative images as the one above (takes training and a lot of thinking) but you can research the topics you want to communicate (content curation is  a great way to do it) and use a beautiful Infographic to communicate the results.

A well designed infographic will go a long way: They help illustrate complex issues and they are known to be excellent candidates for re-sharing, meaning that the good ones go viral, helping you with your visibility, reach and engagement. Not to mention they make you look like the expert in your topic.

Infographics can be built around any subject, just make sure you back them up with actual research and facts. Don’t just use any blog and assume that because they look professional, they are telling the truth. Track the source to the original “study” or “research” that backs up your arguments. Include this sources so others can verify the information and use it knowing it came from an expert.

You can see some award-winning examples here and here.

5. DON’T BE TRASHY: RECYCLE! 

Your visual content can and should be recycled. A picture, a video or an infography can be repurposed into a white-paper or visually enrich a more in-depth article.

This can also work the other way around: Use your texts and articles and transform them into compelling pieces of visual content. Here’s a useful guide created by Brainrider on how to do this step by step:

Always Remember: The rule number one for producing content is making it based on research. It needs to be of the highest quality possible. There are two reasons for this:

A. If your content is well researched and fuzz-free, your audience will trust you. That trust is the holy grail for content marketers as your audience will be more likely to share your content when they see you as a reliable source, which translates into more followers. 

B. Content that is poorly researched and basically not useful to anyone, will have the complete opposite effect. It will tarnish your online reputation and will be ignored. Leave the trash in the trash can and away from your content.

 Keep in mind that there is content out there that is already visual by nature. Consider embedding element from sources like Google Maps,  Youtube, Vimeo and even Vines into your stories. Use them to back up your research or to visually deliver a metaphor. Take your content to the next level by including visuals. You will be doing your brand and your content strategy a big favor.

Follow Our Notebook on Visual Content and Its Advantages with Carefully Curated Articles:

References:

  1. “Repurposing content into infographics and slideshows” · rainRider · March 13, 2014 · SlideShare
  2. “Performics Life on Demand 2012 Summary Deck” · performics_us · July 25, 2012 · SlideShare
  3. “Watching the Human Brain Process Information” · Oct. 2, 2014 · Niemanreports.org
  4. “In the blink of an eye” · Anne Trafton, MIT News Office · Jan. 16, 2014 · MIT News