visual content strategy
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The Beginner’s Guide to Creating Visual Content Strategy

Visual Marketing
Visual Marketing

Why do you need a visual content strategy if you already have a content marketing strategy?

According to CMI, only 32% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy and 51% of these marketers say that creating a visual content is a priority that they will focus on the following year.

But you can’t have a great content marketing strategy if you don’t take care of your visual content strategy.

I’m not talking about buying a few stock photos or starting to invest more attention on visual platforms like Instagram or Snapchat. I’m talking about creating a visual content strategy that will help you have a more clear vision on your work and also help you gain better results.

Do you want to know how important is visual content today?

Let me tell you a story about Tom.

Tom Fishburne is a marketer and a cartoonist who launched Marketoonist. He started drawing on the back of business cases when he was just a student at Harvard Business School. Exactly, just a simple student. But then something happened and Tom parodied the world of marketing in a weekly cartoon while he had various marketing roles at companies like Nestle, Method and HotelTonight.

And his cartoons were so interesting and funny that top publications like Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast Company or the New York Times featured them.

And that was the moment when Tom realized that cartoons are an awesome type of shareable visual content. So he launched Marketoonist to help large and small business companies to reach their audiences with this type of visual content.

He worked with brands like GE, Kronos, Google and others.

Why I’m telling this to you? Because I want you to see how people are using visual content to work with big businesses like Google, or to launch their own business, or to see the importance of visual content in the today’s modern marketing ecosystem.

ClearVoice analyzed more than 640,000 blog posts/articles in different categories and they found out that Infographics are the most effective type of content.

Visual content marketing is a must in content marketing and this is why I want you to understand the importance of it.

But before we go deeper into the strategy, let’s look at the definition of it.

What is visual content?

Visual content is everything we see, read, interact with on the internet. In fact, visual content is the visual piece of the world wide web we consume everyday. These type of visual contents can be photos from our friends/ family/ brands, .Gifs, Slideshows, infographics, gifographics, interactive media, videos, ebooks, memes or even visual ads.

If we say it in more simple words, that visual content is content based on images rather than on text.

But what’s the difference between visual content and visual content marketing.

Visual Content Marketing is everything related to visual content but with a marketing purpose. For example, if you work for a beauty company you can launch a weekly infographic with tips and tricks on how to do your makeup for different moments of the day. Your marketing purpose is to make this infographic viral so a lot of your customers and possible customers see it, engage with it, share it and maybe buy from your company.

This is the difference between visual content and a visual content marketing.

Is it enough to have a documented marketing strategy? Or why should we have a visual content strategy too?

Because this visual content strategy will help your content marketing strategy get better results.

The Purpose of Visual Content Strategy

Visual content can help you stand out with your content even if you work in a boring industry. It will help you be noticed and get remarked by the top influencers.

But if strategy is important in every business growth, every content marketing and even social media strategy is also important in visual content.

1. Strong brand identity

How can you get recognized in this overcrowded internet if you don’t have a strong brand identity? Just think about this. How people can recognize your brand on Twitter when you don’t stay close on your brand identity.

For example Jon Loomer is using his personal brand to be recognized on social media.

Jon Loomer twitter

While on Twitter you can upload a profile picture, you can also use a featured image so people can see your content in their feed.

How can you feature your visuals on Twitter without uploading a photo? Using Twitter Cards:

1. You have to choose which type of card do you want to implement for your website. You can use between the following cards:

  • The Summary Card – this card is used by several websites and blogs to give the Twitter user a preview of the content before clicking through to the website.
  • Summary Card with Large Image – it’s similar to Summary Card but it has a larger image.
  • App Card – this is a great way to drive more downloads of your mobile app. It is designed to show a name, description, icon on the app and also allow other description like ratings or prices.
  • Player Card – this is a card that provides audio and video media content.

2. Add the meta tags to your web page.

3. Use this validator tool to test if your website will show on Twitter your card (the only card that requests approval for whitelisting is the Player Card). Here’s an example on how I’ve done it for my own blog:

4. After you used the validator tool, you are ready to show your featured image on Twitter without even uploading any picture.

2. Increase productivity

The moment you create a visual content strategy and you know what type of fonts, what kind of visuals and what kind of size you can use on your distribution channel, it will be more easy for you to get the work done.

3. Consistency

Consistency helps you build brand awareness and also establish credibility.

People will trust you when you show up when you promise them.

Having a visual content strategy will help you be consistent with the type of visuals you use on social media, blogging or email marketing. Some of you might say that this is branding, but you can’t have a brand if you are not consistent with it’s graphic element on your product design, right?

And now that we now the purpose of visual content strategy let’s get deeper with our topic and look at the elements we must understand to plan our strategy.

How to create a visual content strategy?

Visual content strategy is not a stand alone strategy. You also need to have a documented content strategy. Because the visual content strategy is related to a platform or a network.

The visual content strategy should be built on the documented content marketing strategy.

I will talk about the 3 important elements you should consider in your strategy:

  1. Branding
  2. Distribution platform
  3. Type of content

Now let’s start with the most important element:

1. Branding

A brand is anything a product/ service is doing and showing, from symbols, name, sound, emotion and others. Think about Nike and you already have a logo in your mind with their “Just do it” or think about McDonald’s and you have the image of the golden arches in your mind.

But also branding is very important in the visual content strategy.

This is why I always recommend to everyone who is starting a new business and is working on their new brand (logo, name, colors, fonts) to create a small manual that is helping them choose the right color in need, use the logo with the correct whitespace and other information that you should use when you want to display your brand or logo somewhere.

Here’s a simple example on how Instagram created a brand guideline for their identity.

Think about this manual as the Bible of your brand. Stay close to it and make it the most precious book of your company.

For example, let’s look at this brand: HelpScout is a customer and team support service and they are doing a great job with their blog and their visual content.

If you go on their blog, you will see the consistence of illustrations they are using on their featured images (they call it digital illustration and wrote a compelling article on how are they doing it).

What I love about the HelpScout branding is that they are not so aggressive with their visuals, but they are also staying close to their identity and colors. And they are an awesome example on how to use visuals, how to showcase your blog post with visuals and how to use them in social media.

Here is an article on how they approach their brand and how they created a guideline rule so they can use it whenever they will need it.

For example, let’s look at this article on “How to Work a 40-Hour Week”.

If you go on their blog post, you will see the colors and graphic elements they used in their featured image:

Helpscout branding blog

You will also see this web card image when they shared on Twitter

And also when they shared with their Facebook community:

So they are staying close to their brand but they are alsodoing a great design match between the blog post and the social media distribution.

When you create your visual content strategy you should consider creating a document and be very specific on what you can use in terms of branding: What kind of colors should you use? What kind of visuals will you have? How many fonts will you use?I recommend to stick to max. 2 – 3 types of fonts.

2. Type of visual content

It doesn’t matter the type of content unless you have an answer for one simple question. Wait! What? Exactly. The type of content doesn’t matter. Always, but always start with this simple question – What I want people to do after they see this visual?

Maybe some random answers will be – “Click on the link” or “Consume the content” but that’s not the real answer.

For example, if you design an infographic you want people to read the infographic and also share it to be a viral content so other bloggers and publications to feature it on their website and you can get a few backlinks.

Yes, this is a real answer of visual content you want to create. Be real and transparent with yourself when you are answering this question. Why? Because it will help you create the right type of visual content.

Now think about your audience and see what kind of content they like to consume.

Maybe they are more into videos and they like educative ones, where they can learn how to have a better life or how to use your product to be more effective in their daily jobs.

Look at what Moz is doing with Whiteboard Friday. They are uploading a weekly video where they share with their community educational step-by-steps on how to do in certain situations. Their community love this kind of videos and they are sharing it as crazy every Friday.

There are a lot of visual contents you can create. Starting from videos (documentary, weekly series, short stories on Instagram or Snapchat, video ads, step-by-step guides, how to do’s and others), photos, graphic elements, data visualization, memes, funny .gifs, infographics,gifographics, slideshows, icons, motion graphics, ebooks, whitepapers and others.

You see how many types of content you can create? The previous ones are the first that came into my mind, but there can be much more. And I bet that if you start planning your visual content strategy, you already know what to create.

3. Distribution Platform

Now that we know about the brading and what type of content we want to create we need to focus on distribution platforms.

The importance of distribution platform is all about where and how you will use your visuals. For example, if you want to promote a blog post on Pinterest, what kind of visual elements you will use there?

When I’m talking about distribution platform I look at everything related to blog, social media channels, email newsletters, forums and others.

Think about the best channel you want to use to distribute your content and then look at the visuals you have created so they can stick to the platform.

What I really want to say is that if you want to share content on Pinterest, you will use an horizontal type of visual because this social media platform has build in its identity to use that kind of content. And the Pinterest users are in love with infographics and other horizontal type of content.

Dollar Shave Club visual content strategy

I bet that you already heard about the Dollar Shave Club (DSC), right? But if you don’t, let me tell you something about them. They have everything you want from a cool brand: a great story to tell, an awesome video to launch, topics related to the audience and lots and lots of awesome visuals.

And when I say visual I mean their video too:) that gained more than 23M views on YouTube.

But if you will go on their Instagram Page you will see how consistent are with their brand and their topics they are talking about on their blog too.

It is funny and that kind of Instagram page that a DSC fan will follow.

Also, their visual content on their blog is sticking to the brand identity, not only the visual part, but also the brand behavior.

Dollar Shave Club Instagram Strategy

You can read articles about Necking Guide, Can You Use Hair Removal Cream for Manscaping? or studies like this 50% of men use moisturizer.

DSC knows their audience, understand their needs and they figure out how to use visuals and content to create a big community that will buy their product. But if you want to see how they used content marketing tricks to get viral, I recommend you to read this article from QuickSprout.

 

Last but not least, I want to outline the 3 points that you need to consider every time you create your visual content strategy.

These are the point that will help you answer your boss’ question if he will ask you “What’s the reason of this strategy?”:

a. Determine the objective – What is the objective of your visual content strategy? What do you want to achieve? Do you want to have a better brand awareness? Do you want to increase your consumer loyalty? For example, when you create a weekly infographic you can choose to increase your web traffic, more social media shares, get hiqh quality back links or grow your brand awareness.

b. How do you measure – Yes, measuring is important. If you work on creating a weekly cartoon, you need to understand how you can measure the success of it. You can create a bit.ly link to your blog post and promote it on social media, talk directly to influencers or send it over to publishers. Use bit.ly to measure how many people click on your visual.

Another great way to measure your visual impact is by using Bannersnack Analytics. Just upload your visual and use the embed code on your website. You can measure the impressions, clicks and CTR, check out the demographic situation and also from which devices you got the most clicks.

c. Execution plan – maybe this is one of the hardest thing to do but it’s one of the most relevant. How will you execute the visual content? Who will create those visual contents? Here it’s not about ideas and creativity, here is about execution and you need a plan for this.

 

Conclusion

According to a study by MIT,the brain can process a visual in 13 milliseconds. So yes, visual content is easy to consume and understand and this is what makes it so important for the content marketing strategy.

Don’t forget, you can’t create a visual content strategy if you don’t have a documented content marketing strategy, because it won’t work alone.

Are there any tricks you have to share when it comes to creating an visual content strategy? Please let me know in the comments below!

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Robert Katai

Visual Marketer and Content Strategist

"Content isn’t king. Usefulness is. Robert does this in the online marketing and social media space with ease."

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