We’ve all heard the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but the truth is that it may be even more valuable than we thought. According to 3M, humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.
For brands, it’s no wonder then that visual content remains a top priority to engage with audiences. Still, for marketing teams tasked with creating enough content to fulfill all channels and personalize messaging at scale, the challenge can seem overwhelming.
Fortunately, today, a combination of strategy and technology can help you access the best content for your brand while simultaneously producing what’s needed to reach your customers at every relevant touch point.
To get you started, and help you build better marketing experiences with high-quality content, we’ve put together a list of seven components to a successful visual content strategy.
1. Earned Content
User-generated, or earned, content (UGC) is one of the most effective ways to grow your brand’s content library at a low cost. As a pioneer in earned content, we’ve helped the world’s top brands leverage UGC to power their consumer touch points since 2009, and are passionate about the space.
UGC was once a novelty, but has quickly become part of many brands’ broader marketing strategies. Take Apple, for example, who (finally!) signed up for an Instagram account to showcase only content taken by their customers using the iPhone, as an extension of the #ShotOniPhone campaign.
Regardless of the size of your brand, UGC is now a critical content format to incorporate into marketing. While the individual usage of consumer content may vary for each of our clients, we’ve found that it provides utility in a number of ways:
- Gather insights about your product or experience by observing what UGC is being created about your brand or how it’s being portrayed
- Deploy relevant UGC on website product pages to show prospective buyers how your current customers are using or experiencing your brand
- Drive customer loyalty by featuring their best content on your website to increase authenticity and transparency in your marketing
No matter the motivation, the outcome is the same: UGC can easily provide on-brand, high-quality visual content, at scale.
According to Cisco, by 2019, 80% of the world’s internet traffic will be video. Emerging channels, like Instagram Stories and Snapchat, have already picked up on this trend and have, most recently, popularized the short-form, vertical video format. Something that’s been quickly adopted and favored by consumers, alike.
Not only that, but with consumers’ shrinking attention spans and the plethora of channels itching to grab their attention, brands need to be prepared with content that is not only relevant for the channel, but also resonates with the audience.
Whether you are a beauty brand sharing a three-step beauty tutorial or a travel brand featuring a scenic pan over a popular vacation property—video can be a powerful tool to drive engagement, attention, and ultimately action.
In 2017, 71 percent of companies are planning to increase their video marketing budgets. Platforms are following suit and providing more advertising options centered around video. Facebook, for example, recently starting showing ads in the middle of its videos and introduced Watch, its new video platform to compete with YouTube. As short-form video continues to grow, marketers are struggling with creating enough content to fill channels and capture engagement.
Just a few years ago, developing vertically-oriented video or investing resources to create content with a 24-hour shelf life seemed like a waste. Now, as consumer behaviors have changed, brands are playing catch up. We also know that there are many technologies out there to create video, but a lot can be time-consuming or over-budget. For a solution that saves time and is cost-effective, check out Olapic’s Content in Motion, which helps brands turn static images into dynamic and engaging animation that can be deployed across all channels.
Consumers today expect a personal content experience, and have no patience for generic marketing communication. Additionally, we’ve seen a rise in contextual commerce, the idea that retailers can seamlessly implement purchase opportunities into everyday activities and natural environments. Simply put: The ability to buy anything, anytime, anywhere.
Users are constantly scrolling through social feeds, consciously and subconsciously seeking discovery, inspiration, and improved shopping experiences. Knowing this, brands must invest time and resources in providing personalization to prospective buyers to help maintain their attention and shorten the path from discovery to purchase.
The biggest challenge with personalization isn’t always the technology, but a lack of content coverage for certain products. No matter how beautiful an image is, if the asset isn’t relevant to a user, you risk losing their interest altogether.
One way user-generated content assists in the personalization process is through filling in the gaps of content coverage and providing insight into the type of photos that will resonate with your audience. For example, brands with a large product catalog may have enough brand-created images or videos for their products, but may lack the context or personal touch that prospective customers need to click the buy button.
By leveraging your own customers’ UGC to attach to product pages, you are able to provide inspiration, personalization, and most importantly context to increase the likelihood of a purchase. In fact, according to our Consumer Trust Report, 49 percent of consumer respondents were more likely to buy a product when it is endorsed by a real person, and a quarter of consumers replied they’ve bought a product after seeing it featured in relatable UGC.
Brands need to showcase a unique personality in order to connect with their audiences. Just think: Is there something complementary, though not necessarily obvious, that your audience would react positively to? The idea is to show some heart or emotion, while highlighting a subtle or more fun side of your brand without being too product-driven. Figure out what your community loves through observing how certain types of content performs (or what content your customers are creating) and use these insights to build a loyal community without always pursuing the sale too soon.
For example, several of our clients have found that their communities are most engaged with images that contain pets (cats and dogs on furniture for example, or in a fashion post). This makes sense when 62 percent of Americans own pets. And, as we’ve mentioned before, when people see UGC that relates to them they’re more likely to click to explore, or better yet, click buy.
While pets might not fit every brand’s ethos, the same idea could apply to other subjects. Find your personality and lean into it.
Moods, attitudes, cultural events, buying patterns and more change with the seasons. So, why would your customers want to see the same content? Consider switching things up to match the month. There is something to be said for the lack of appropriateness of jumping on every cultural opportunity, but if you keep a pulse on the news you can pick and choose events that may be a natural fit for your brand. That said, it’s important to note that there is a fine line that one must walk to avoid pandering – we’ve all seen how that turns out.
Though, when done correctly, a “time is of the essence,” attitude has had a lot of positive outcomes for brands. Think, Arby’s tweet at Pharell during the Grammy’s or Oreo’s tweet during the Superbowl. While not every brand can be lucky enough to catch an event as high-profile as the aforementioned, there are more subtle ways to create content that plays into months, seasons, or events your audience cares about and it’s important to include these shifts in your content marketing strategy.
6. Employees as Influencers
It’s easy to pigeonhole your employees into their current roles and not see them as a resource for content, but we suggest taking a second look.
Employees of a brand often have behind-the-scenes access to products, experiences, and services before consumers do. This offers an opportunity to encourage the creation of content that could inspire future customers to also create content.
Take for example the AllSaints’ #ItsUpToYou campaign where they encouraged their customers to share stories and images relating to the brand using the #ItsUpToYou hashtag. Although the campaign grew quickly, one of the key ways the brand was able to launch it successfully was through the participation of their own employees who created and seeded content into the UGC gallery as a source of inspiration for customers to do the same.
Employees have access to create great content for brands. And, with the right guidance and incentives they can create UGC that is authentic, relevant, and inspirational for other users. Many brands have already started to tap into this idea, but if you haven’t already, consider turning to employees as a way to kickstart your content creation.
7. Consumer Preferences
Whether it’s hair color, eye color, pets in photos, UGC containing the color blue instead of the color red, or any other variable—the point is: Ask the question! Then, invest in the research. It’s easy to have assumptions through observation, but test and measure your content (even the crazy questions) to learn what assets, and what variables, resonate for your audience. Recently, we conducted internal research in the beauty vertical to find out if hair color affected UGC performance. You can read a more in depth look at this data here, but if you don’t feel like it (spoiler!) we found that brunettes had a higher click through rate than blondes in beauty UGC. Additionally, content with brunettes or blondes both had higher engagement than content with dyed hair.
Click above to see full infographic
Your brand can do what you will with the above information, but the more important point to take away from this research is that seemingly small details or questions can result in answers with a bigger impact than expected.
90 percent of the information transmitted to the brain is visual, making it easier for humans to remember visual content. Whether or not you choose to follow all of our tips above, there is no argument against investing in and improving visual content as a way to reach new and existing customers. With the right data, technology, and scale your brand can create and activate relevant visual content that not only resonates but also impacts your bottom line.