Instead of 1,000 words, a picture is now worth 1,000 clicks. Well, not literally. But using photos, illustrations and videos on your website and social media accounts can increase customer engagement and brand awareness.
“Visuals are about connecting to people, and making stories accessible," says Joe Cardillo, deputy director of New Mexico Compass, a nonprofit startup dedicated to transparent, open-access journalism. "The story aspect is critical. Human-centered imagery is powerful. If you’re looking at a visual or series of visuals, ask yourself, ‘Do I get the basic story by looking at this regardless of text or in-depth audio?’ That’s how you know if the visual is telling a good story.”
Print ads have long been visually oriented, says Cardillo, who's also a marketing, content and media guru, “so why should we treat the Web any differently?”
A study of Facebook marketing posts done by Taggs, a visual content marketing software company, yielded some interesting results. The company looked at engagement with Facebook posts from major retailers and food chains such as Old Navy, Macy’s, Starbucks and Subway. It found that posts showing only a part of a person, such as a hand holding a product, had higher engagement than posts featuring an entire person or those with no people in them. In fact, posts with images showing a part of the body got 29 percent more likes than those featuring people and 10 percent more than those with no humans in them at all. Those posts without people, though? They got the most shares.
Video Killed the Radio Star
The use of video for content marketing has been nothing less than explosive. Gary Lipkowitz, COO at GoAnimate, a company that offers animated video solutions for businesses, says, "[I've seen] a comprehensive and inexorable migration toward online video, on both the supply and demand sides. According to YouTube, more than 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on the site—that's almost an hour for every person on Earth—and that’s just YouTube.”
According to Invodo, online shoppers who viewed video were 1.6 times more likely to buy than shoppers who did not view video. And, Lipkowitz adds, “the ROI is there as well for marketers.”
And there are a variety of video styles to choose from. Lipkowitz says GoAnimate uses various themes to create videos and stories for its customers. He recommends small businesses look into these three options:
1. Whiteboard animation. This includes thousands of hand-drawn assets like props and backgrounds, plus hundreds of character actions fitting a wide variety of professions and business settings. Whiteboard animation is perfect for complicated or heavy topics that need to be lightened up a bit (think Einstein’s "Theory of Relativity").
2. 2D animated videos. These are very similar to animation shown on TV. They're easy to absorb and help increase the speed of engagement. This style is ideal for storytelling; engaging characters express familiar emotions to help marketers connect with the audience.
3. Animated video infographics. This type of video helps bring data to life. Stats can be powerful but difficult to contextualize—that’s why animated infographics work so well. Not only do they showcase each of the data points, but they make it much easier for viewers to understand the information and absorb it.
Getting Your Point Across
Videos are particularly effective, Lipkowitz says, because they take the "show, don’t tell" ethos and kick it into high gear. According to Lipkowitz, "It’s more like ‘show, explain and captivate,’ all rolled into one.”
There are times, he adds, when we experience a shortcoming of language when explaining amazing or intricate concepts. "But we’re not limited to verbal elevator pitches any more," he says. "It’s worthwhile to create a sharp visual depiction [of what you’re trying to convey]. And, of course, the most engaging way to make a resonant visual presentation is through video.”
Lipkowitz says video is a very effective way to explain your stories and expand your reach. "[Putting an] explainer or brand story video on your homepage enables you to explain your offerings and missions quickly to new shoppers," Lipkowitz says. "Savvy content marketers can publish the same piece on their blogs, YouTube, Facebook, industry portals and beyond. This is a really powerful way to broaden a brand’s reach across the Web.”
Of course, once everyone gets to the same point, visuals won’t be a tactical advantage anymore, Cardillo adds. "One photo in the midst of 50 things that are text only stands out, but that’s not true once you’re looking at 50 photos,” he explains. The key is to remember that humans respond to stories. "Our categorization/cognition relies heavily on specific examples versus standard templates," Cardillo says, "which means we're wired to notice and remember stories.”
His advice for small businesses? “Start with a content strategy to find relevant data, stories and insights from both internal and external [sources]," Cardillo says, "then plan storylines that align with your business. Consider embracing a channel like Twitter to tell stories natively, so instead of just a headline, link and semi-related image, start designing series of tweets that fit an overall story about your business.”
What's all this imagery going to cost you? Lipkowitz says content marketing isn't so hard on your bottom line. “While there are, of course, costs associated with creating articles, infographics and social promotions, they're significantly less than the costs of 'acquiring' customers, which is pretty much code for buying customers through Google or Facebook ads.”
If you want to add videos to your marketing mix, using an agency is your priciest option. You can also source the project out: Lipkowitz suggests trying oDesk, Elance or Craigslist. GoAnimate also offers several pricing plans starting at about $50 a month.
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This article originally appeared on Aug. 27, 2014.