A Written Guide to Visual Content (and a Good Lesson on Irony)

Does your content marketing campaign have a visual element to it? These days, it pretty much needs to. But the concept of creating “visual” content intimidates a lot of content marketers, or so I’ve found; even though they’ll readily admit that their campaign needs more visual material, they’ll avoid creating any, sticking with written formats, because they think it’s beyond them, or they think it’s expensive.

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You may be pleased to hear (or read) that I’m going to argue the opposite. Anyone can include more visual content in their content campaign, and it’s not even that hard to do.

What Counts as Visual Content?

Let’s define the terms here. What exactly is visual content? The way I see it, there are three forms you can strive for:

  • Images can be photos, illustrations, or other visual assets. They’re still, stagnant, and can serve any number of functions—consider an Instagram photo versus a doodle versus a full-fledged infographic.
  • Videos, also pretty straightforward, are audio and visual pieces of content, though sometimes you’ll find animations without audio. Animated gifs could technically be counted as either images or videos.
  • Hybrids are pieces of content that don’t clearly fit into one category. They usually take the form of written articles that feature multiple embedded images and videos, but as always, there’s flexibility here.

Each of these forms can manifest in different channels and mediums; for example, you could post an image on Instagram or include an image as a blog post on your website. It’s up to you where and how you want to publish these materials, but they should permeate your strategy with regularity.

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Why Visual Content Is So Important

So far, I’ve told you about how visual content is super important, and I’ve basically lambasted you if you haven’t yet adopted any kind of visual strategy, but I haven’t really told you why it’s so important.

I’m going to hijack some statistics from Hubspot here, so bear with me. Content with embedded or featured images tend to get 94 percent more views than content without; think about that for a second. If someone suggested you use a tactic that could instantly double the amount of views your content gets, wouldn’t you use it? By extension, more than half of all marketers claim that video is the content medium with the highest overall ROI.

Visuals are important today, but what’s even more important is how important they’ll be tomorrow. According to reports by Syndacast, the average user’s consumption of video is growing at an astounding rate; they project that by 2017, 74 percent of all web traffic will be for video. It’s time to get on this bandwagon early!

But Don’t I Need a Designer?

The big holdup for most content marketers is the perceived degree of difficulty in creating visual assets; they believe they need a professional graphic designer or a trained videographer to have any kind of impact in the visual marketing realm. By comparison, any idiot with a keyboard can write up an article (cue Statler and Waldorf inspired laughter from me and Sarah).

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I get why you think this. Hell, I thought it myself for a while. But the reality is, you already have at least a few devices capable of creating amazing visual content with no formal training—your computer, your smartphone, and your own two hands. Seriously.

The Average Joe Approach

I take what I like to call the “average Joe” approach, and you can too. Professionals are professional—and there are a ton of designers and videographers doing some amazing work out there—but think of it in terms of the film industry. You can have a movie with a blockbuster budget end up failing to please audiences or critics, and you can also have a movie with almost no budget (but a ton of heart and soul) perform extraordinarily in both areas.

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These are just some of the strategies you can use, without any training, to produce awesome visual content.

  • First, you can make some doodles. Seriously. You don’t need to be a master artist, nor do you need any sophisticated software. Not that my work is the best, but take a lesson from me—I just use a Sharpie marker and blank pieces of paper to jazz up my content. Doodle whatever you know how to doodle—as long as you’re adding value to your piece, you’re doing good.
  • Most devices have a built-in screencappign feature, but even if you don’t like it, you can opt to use a program like Jing. Take a picture of whatever you want on your screen and share it with your readers as a visual demonstration.
  • Free images. There are tons of free images available on the web—you might as well take advantage of them. Personally, I can recommend PhotoPin from Creative Commons, but realistically there are dozens of different sites dedicated to providing searchable, readily available images for your use.
  • Real-time events. This is by far the biggest category, as there are hundreds of potential applications. Here, you’ll take images and video of events as they unfold before you. For example, you might take a candid picture of your teammates to show off your office culture. You might take a video of an inspiring speaker. You could snap a pic of a tradeshow to give your followers a sense of scale, or show off your latest piece of equipment. The possibilities are limitless here, so give your users a window into your business.

Visual content is super necessary, and it’s only becoming more important as the years continue. You’d be wise to start beefing up your visual content strategy now, while the iron’s hot, even if you don’t have a ton of experience. If you need help getting your content marketing strategy in shape for the future, or hell, if you just want someone to do it for you—contact us at dopplepop!

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