The importance of visual content in online marketing

As content continues to explode in the online marketing environment, new trends have emerged. While white papers and text-heavy blog posts still have a use, visual content is really taking off. Not only does it break up large portions of text, visuals provide a different way to to communicate information. Visual communications are also an alternative for those who don't learn as effectively by reading.

Why visual content?
It's simple. We've reached a stage where there is simply too much information to take in. Visual content helps to break through that barrier. Each person reads an equivalent of 174 newspapers worth of data each day (1). That's an insane amount of information, and it makes sense that customers have a hard time reading yet another white paper when they are already dealing with this much data.

Here's a different perspective. We receive five times as much information today as we did in 1986, which is about 34 gigabytes, ending up at more than 100,000 words (2). Those words take a lot of energy to process, and our brains can get overwhelmed by it.

In contrast, visual content is much easier to take in. It takes 1/10 of a second to understand a visual scene. Reading 200 words takes an entire minute. We often use images to convey important information instead of text. When you're driving down the road, you don't have time to read 200 words about the dangers of falling rocks. If you see a sign that depicts this scenario, you take it in more or less immediately.

In the same regard, when you combine text and images, the average rate of understanding is 95 percent, compared to 70 percent when just text is used. When you are trying to convince prospects to buy a product or service, it's vital they understand the information being presented. Since buyers have a lot of things competing for their time, the more quickly and effectively you can present information, the better your chances are.

Visual content increases engagement
Not only does visual content get the point across quickly, it also increases engagement. Including an image increases click-thru rates on a website. Posts with images receive far more engagement than other types of posts, for instance, links and status updates. Eighty-seven percent of brand shares are image posts. The same thing happen on Twitter. Using photos on the platform increases retweets 35 percent.

Now that you understand why it's important to include visuals in your content marketing mix, here are some different types of visual content to use.

Video: Video is an incredibly versatile content marketing tool. It's a useful way to introduce a product, which is why the use of explainer videos has become so popular. Video is a great way to introduce a complicated idea or product in a digestible format. But there are many other types of videos too. Video blogging is also growing in popularity as a way to communicate information quickly through an engaging format. It's also an excellent brand building tool.

Infographic: Between 2010 and 2012, the search volume for infographics increased by 800 percent, and each day, infographic production increases 1 percent (3). It's no surprise why infographics continue to climb in popularity. For example, buyers often want to see hard data when they are committing to buying a product, but how do you present this information in a way that keeps them engaged? Infographics, especially ones that use a metaphor to explain a topic, provide a user-friendly way to transmit data.

Slideshows: Presentations are a smart way to convey in-depth information about a topic. It's especially useful for bottom-of-the-funnel content when prospects are getting close to making a decision. But not everyone has time to watch or listen to a webinar. SlideShare and other visual presentation platforms allow companies to easy share slideshows by embedding them in websites or linking to them. Companies can pack huge quantities of information into visually oriented slideshows, but they remain manageable.

Photography: While images may not communicate data, they tell a story. High-quality photography is especially effective as a means of conveying your brand identity, and it can be incorporated into blogs, social media posts or any other type of Web content. Stock photos might do the job, but hiring a photographer will really set you apart from others. Use photos to break up text and keep your content marketing visually engaging.

Visual content marketing will only grow in importance as the amount of information people are exposed to each day continues to climb. To cut through all of this data and make an impact with your marketing, you need to incorporate some visuals, whether that means video, infographics, slideshows or something else entirely.

1. "Welcome to the information age – 174 newspapers a day"

2. "10 Reasons Why You Should Care About Visual Content Marketing"

3. "Why are Infographics so popular?"

Sheila Kloefkorn (1031 Posts)

With more than 20 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing,, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.