In just a few years, social media has become coveted real estate for brands. It’s a crowded space where consumers spend an inordinate amount of time. Getting heard among the noise can be challenging, and brands looking to differentiate themselves not only need a compelling message, but also — and more importantly — visual content that resonates.
More than a random stock image, employing visual social media — and doing it well — is a deliberative, thoughtful process. Here are four tips to help you more effectively improve your social strategy with visual marketing.
1. Make it a Thoughtful Process
As stated above, choosing the perfect image is a careful, deliberative process. Explore how you want your audience to feel when looking at your imagery and think through the factors involved in creating a visual campaign that resonates with your audience. Some questions to ask when collecting images:
- Who is my target audience?
- What is the message that I am trying to get across to them through the image?
- How can this image help them experience this feeling?
- What are their needs?
As a brand, if you push something out to the consumer that’s not aligned with who you claim to be, they feel it. And they’re quick to recognize the separation between what was depicted and what was delivered. Keep it thoughtful and planned.
2. Forge a Consistent Visual Identity Across Platforms
When most people think of visual social media, Pinterest and Instagram come to mind. These social platforms paved the way for an important movement toward rich social-media images, but it’s important to extend your visual campaign beyond the basics to forge a consistent identity across platforms. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others are also aligning to the idea of visual as a leading force. Video is on the rise, and brands have started using images to create short, engaging video clips as content for use on social channels. Keep your visual story consistent across platforms, and you’ll bolster your brand’s visual social identity.
3. Use Imagery — Not as a Supporting Asset but as the Message Itself
Great brands understand that the image is the message, particularly with how social platforms distribute visual content and how people consume it. Imagery is no longer a supporting asset but core messaging. Consider Apple’s visual campaign for the iPhone 6. The campaign focused on a series of images — photographs taken by an iPhone. The point of the campaign was to showcase the quality of the picture and nothing more. In this case, a single image was stronger than a brand name or pointing directly to the new features the phone provides.
4. Tie Visuals to Core Values and Mission
Influential brands use visual social media to personalize their companies. Visuals can provide a glimpse into company culture and personality, showcasing not only who you are as a brand, but also the persona of loyal fans and customers. Tying visual content to core values — and the sentiment that coincides with those values — makes it easy to tell your brand story. The key is to know your audience well and be clear about what you stand for and how you want to be perceived.
As the power of imagery becomes clear, smart brands are starting to shift their focuses by incorporating visual social content into larger marketing strategies. Becoming more visual is not without challenges, and it’s important to recognize the value of careful planning and a deliberative process. Executing a coordinated and consistent visual strategy is possible, but it requires staying true to who you are by selecting imagery that’s tied to core values.
Be sure to create a consistent visual identity across social platforms. Build a repository of images that adhere to a stylebook or set of guidelines that maps out how best to convey who you are and what you have to offer. Finally, avoid a disconnect by aligning visual messaging with the wants, needs, and expectations of your audience.