Visuals permeate our existence everywhere, including online. The challenge for most businesses is that they are unsure of how to connect visuals to their own brand message and their own story, and they are not able to create anything that they feel is profound and remarkable. Further, many entrepreneurs and businesses do not know how to effectively create, design and distribute visuals and images across their entire digital ecosystem, particularly their social media channels.
“The use of images, videos, infographics, presentation and other visuals on all online digital channels craft a graphical story around your key brand values and offerings.”
We are “trained”, as humans, to be visually orientated. It is part of how our brains are wired. Without visuals, we are in fact “blind.” Blind to the worlds that we can build and share. Can you imagine living in a universe of only text messages? Plain, simple, one-dimensional. Cave-man scratches on the rocks became elaborate illustrations over time. Pictures are how we live and how we communicate. Without them, everything is incomplete – for you and for your audience. This is timeless marketing, being able to share the visuals that engage, inspire and delight.
Digital branding and online storytelling is no different. You need to create an engaged audience that can identify with your audience, and one who creates the understanding of what we are about, and is willing to “share” what they see with others. It is not a simple or easy task, and there are many factors that conspire against being able to use images and visuals effectively in the online world.
“Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text by the human brain and 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Humans evolved over millennia to respond to visual information long before they developed the ability to read text.”
Telling a visual brand story can be easy for some, like a photographer, but can be perceived as quite challenging, as say for an accountant. It’s a very common problem amongst businesses, despite the growth of the usage of visuals across social media and all web channels. Yet, the solutions are quite simple. No, this is not an art class. This is the business side of creating engaging, entertaining and profound visuals that tell your visual brand story that will create a more engaged and interactive audience for your business, regardless of your business type.
A lot of businesses, entrepreneurs and brands get stuck on what to show and create, and when. Let’s build the picture to leverage visuals and images online, for your business.
The Visual Story Connects Our Brand With Our Audience
Visuals can take us on a journey and they can tell us a story; they must also actually connect with your audience or they will just become passing traffic, and add to the noise and clutter of online.
While images aren’t as big of a referral source in Google as they used to be, having unique images on your site and across your social media channels is extremely valuable. The same image can show up in hundreds of places around the Web, but having unique content around those images is what makes it stand out, and particularly with your audiences.
I’m not opposed to using stock images to illustrate a point, but any time you can create something that’s custom or use unique photography, that will pay off more in the long run. Look at how you can actually reframe these standard images to create something memorable and remarkable for you.
In the process of developing images and visuals for telling your brand story online, these are the most important elements of brand storytelling:
- Design: Unless you are a graphic designer, get the help that you need to make a real, professional statement. Your audience will know the difference.
- Persona: Get to know you're audience. If you try to speak to everyone online, then no one will actually hear you.
- Voice: What is the general “style” that you are conveying? Just like everyone has a certain writing style – you also need to discover and find your own voice, that helps in the telling of your stories.
- Relevance: In order to connect with your audience, you have to deliver relevant ideas and content,
- Personality: What are you about? How do people actually see you and what your message is about?
- Story: Tell a story. It can be short, it can be long, it can be about your customers, your business, your ideas and your ideals. It needs to be a story – from start to finish.
- Share Factor: What do you like to share? Stuff that makes you feel good, and stuff that you think your friends, audience, fans and family would like? There are so many things that motivate people and your audience – find out what this is and how to make it work for them.
- Branding: The most important quality – people must be able to “see” your brand in your images. Yes, your URL, name etc. are quite important, but the look and feel must come to represent “you.”
And of course, most people struggle with what to actually “say.” This can be a challenge at times, but should never slow you down nor stop you. Always plan ahead with topics, otherwise you’ll always be playing a losing game – fighting (and losing) the battle of time versus priority.
Keep a spreadsheet available to help you organise your content ideas and thoughts, or a special page in a journal or workbook to scribble the ideas down. Then, simply compile them and start creating visuals that reflect your core ideas and concerns. The important thing? Take some time upfront to hash these out and get them down on paper. Often times we try to be spontaneous, but often this is the least productive and efficient method of all.
Here are a few ideas to get you started, on visuals that you can use and implement quite easily:
- Quote - from you
- Quotes - from famous people
- Quotes - from famous dead people
- Screen Shots
- Industry Tips
- Infographics of your business/industry
- Visual story of your audience, and what makes you, you
- Word Art
- Powerpoint & Keynote Presentation slides
- Personal photography
- Behind the scenes
- Original design
- Your brand essence
- How Tos
When creating visuals, don’t forget that a lot of images need to be optimized for search, with some common, yet often forgotten practices of SEO. While it is also about images across your entire digital ecosystem, not just social media, it all must be looked at together. Don’t forget that the search engines can’t actually “see” pictures – it is up to you to describe what these images are. Here are some tips:
- Filename: Ensure you save the original image with a keyword rich filename
- Meta Tags: Complete all of the meta tags with full descriptions, call to action, titles etc. While these are not used for search engines, they do provide visual text
- Descriptions: Those fields in Wordpress? Yes, fill them in. Use keyword rich, yet “human” language
- Titles: Complete a keyword rich title
- Captions: While they don’t always “fit” into the layout of a blog post, you can use them when you can and when they don’t detract from the overall layout
- ALT Text: This is the text that appears when an image can’t load quickly – use this to help define what your image is about.
- Image Pages: If possible, each image should exist on its own page on your site. In other words, it should have its own URL.
- Post as a Post: When posting images on social channels, always use a very clear, keyword rich description as best as possible. Not just “raw fish photo.” Be as descriptive as possible.
There is quite a lot more to know when it come to visuals for social media. The main thing? Start with an open mind and start to frame your business around what is visual about you.
Want to learn more about how to use visuals and images effectively for social media? Get more bang for your social media buck? Join me for my upcoming free webinar with SEMrush on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015 when I will address all of your questions on social media videos and getting them to do more work for you.
Here are some of the things that you will learn in this webinar on visuals for social media:
- How to properly rank visuals with effective SEO
- How to create visual themes
- Where to come up with ideas for visuals, besides your lunch
- How to tell a visual story with your brand
- How to create “hooks” to help your audience easily share your brand story
- How to leverage all of your visuals across your entire digital ecosystem
We will dive deep in to the ‘why’ your audience craves visuals about you and your brand story, and how you can help them to actually share your story with little effort. Then, we will explore some specific tools and techniques to not only produce visuals, but also how to get them ranked properly, and specifically for you and your business.