There is a rule that is considered one of the most important in the world of online content: never present a block of text. Hard to read, straining on the eyes and unattractive, it is also a quick way to lose the interest of the reader.
Today's online browser expects the ability to skim through an article to see if anything catches their eye. If you just have text, they will probably go looking for another source. If they wanted a big block of text, they would read a book.
I realize this makes the average INTERNET user seem like a child with ADHD, and that description isn't far off. However, it isn't a lack of focus that causes this. It is the sheer amount of information on the web, and the user's need to gather as much as they can with as little time as possible. They have to find the right source, and that means your content will always be in competition with other sites. That is just the way it is.
How do you get around that? By having an image strategy to work with your social media marketing efforts.
Images For Content Enhancement
You should be using images throughout all content to help give context and demonstrate a point. But it also needs to catch the viewers attention and keep them focused through the article. While breaking up text into sub headers is a helpful way to make reading more manageable and skimming possible, photos will better illustrate what the article or page is about.
- Good first impression: Images make your content catchier
- Images make people stay longer on the web page
- Finally, images help your content rank and bring in more traffic from search engines
That being said, there are lots of arguments in favor of images and none against them!
Further reading: Image SEO
Images for Social Media Marketing
You should always have a multi-media marketing strategy at work. Social, content, advertising...they all come into play, and you should be exploiting every tool possible to boost your visibility. Image marketing is one that many people miss, as they use random pictures to accompany content rather than allowing it to work on its own merit. That causes them to miss a real opportunity, one that can adversely impact traffic and fail to catch the attention deserved.
When it comes to sharing through social media profiles, it really pays to have a good main image. Have you ever been on Facebook and seen a link where the headline has nothing to do with the preview image? I have seen my fair share of embarrassing preview images that were totally inappropriate.
Most importantly: Images enhance your social media snippet and make it more sharable and likable.
Tool alert: Social Image Resizer Tool This tool lets you easily resize and optimize images for social media sites.
Image Type to Market
Unlike photos or single images, other mediums can provide a more robust context. Infographics have become especially popular lately, as they are more likely to be shared. There is also a great deal of potential for an infographic going viral. In fact, Anson Alexander conducted a study that found people were thirty times more likely to read and share an infographic than they were a regular article. He also found that websites that use infographics grow in traffic 12% faster than those without.
As for comics and graphs, they have a tendency to be shared because they either amuse or inform.
Another highly shared item is a comic strip, even a single panel one. Social media sites are filled with these regularly posted visuals. There are also additional sites where they can be uploaded, linking to your website and so increasing the likelihood of it driving traffic. Sites like DeviantArt have become popular with self-marketers for this reason, and if you are lucky enough to hit the front page you will see a huge surge of visibility that almost always leads to a Watch for later use. Not to mention the engagement that can be done by reposting on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other sites.
Further reading: How to re-package any piece of content into a viral image
These are almost always used, and yet so often misused. It isn't enough to throw any old stock image up on top of a post. You have to be prepared to make that image really speak to the viewer. It has to catch their attention, be relevant, and yet engaging enough to keep their interest long enough to get them reading the actual content. Of course, very boring stock footage can be used if done correctly.
One example of this is the humor website Cracked, which is known for using innocuous, often completely unrelated photos with captions that manage to integrate the stock image into the article by sheer force of personality. You have to find what works for you.
A cinemagphap is the latest hot thing in image marketing: Basically, it's an enhanced animated gif that forces some picture move forever. It's catchy and poetic!
Further reading: Here's a great guide on marketing with cinemagraphs
Image Marketing Channels
Except for obvious SEO benefits and enhanced social media reach, image marketing opens your brand to image-specific channels:
Flickr has been historically the most efficient way to bring visibility to your images. It has groups and supports Creative Commons search - both work great to be found!
Further reading: Here's a great case study on marketing with Flickr
A social network that has been increasing in popularity at a steady pace since its release, Pinterest is the new poster child of marketers everywhere. There is real potential in being able to focus entirely on images. Each pin creates a high quality link back to your site, using the image you choose from the page.
This makes finding the right image even more crucial. Many times a page won't be pinned by a user because they don't have an image that the sight will catch. Or just because the image used has nothing to do with what they are pinning, making it harder to skim later for pages they want to revisit.
Reddit has been one of the most powerful image marketing channels. The main rule there is to be *real* and give back to the community a lot.
Visuals are an important part of marketing content on the social web. While Pinterest will give you a boost in a niche market, using images for a wider social media strategy is necessary to see real results.
How have you used images in social media marketing? Let us know in the comments.