As marketers and business professionals, we’re always trying to find a way to engage our readers and customers. Except, engaging people means many things. It could be sending out a yearly thank you card to your customers or hosting a customer appreciation day. But what if we told you there were simpler ways to engage your customers?
Look no further than your marketing efforts. Sure, you blog a few times each month and update the company social media pages. But how many of those blogs and updates include visuals? You know, a behind-the-scenes photo of a product in production or short video from coworkers talking about upcoming events. Visuals are all around us, and we know what they are, but how well do we actually use them?
What Are Visuals?
Whether you take the photos used for your company yourself or use a stock service such as Shutterstock, images engage people. They break up a sea of letters and words into manageable chunks of text. Then when you throw in our shortened attention spans – ahem, we’re all guilty – and images are an inner tube in that sea. Marketer and entrepreneur Jeff Bullas found including an image with an article increases the number of page views by 94 percent. Ninety-four percent. Think of how many of more pairs of eyes could become a lead for your business. Our guess is more than one.
It doesn’t matter if you produce a video with the top of the line equipment in a studio or taken on your smartphone. Video gets engagement which leads to conversions. According to Hyperfine Media, one-third of all online activity is spent watching the video. How many times each day do you watch someone’s shared video on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? If you’re a regular to YouTube, you already know you’ve lost count of viral videos you’ve consumed through the hours.
These colorful and engaging visuals tie everything about content marketing into one piece. Data and statistics, pieces of relevant text, and related graphics or illustrations seamed together into one digestible visual. Sounds engaging, right? Infographics are easy to share on social media, meaning more reach for your company and brand. Add in their ability to condense information down and infographics are great for limited attention spans.
The word has been around since 1976, years before the college crowd hit the share button between classes. Originally, it meant “an element of a culture or system of behavior considered to be passed from one person to another by imitation.” Now a meme is a photo with a humorous quote or caption attached to it that has gone viral. Companies can create their own memes as visuals, giving customers and viewers a snapshot of company culture. Keep in mind that the memes should follow your brand and company image each time.
You’ve written a longform piece that covers several areas your customers care about. Except going into depth on each topic would double or triple the piece. Since we’ve already established people have shorter attention spans, how would you still provide them with the information?
Enter presentations, the same style you saw in school and still do at conferences. The word presentation is synonymous with PowerPoint. Presentations allow for a complex topic to break down, slide by slide, with other visuals mixed in to keep your viewers engaged. But how do you then get the presentation to your customers? Enter SlideShare which lets a user upload PowerPoint, PDFs, Keynote or OpenDocument files. There the presentation is hosted through their website or embed elsewhere, such as through your website.
Screenshots are more versatile than snapping one to share with your friends of a raging online review. If you have a product or claim about a service, a quick screenshot can back up statistics that go along with it. For example, the author of this post used screenshots to create a ‘how-to’ guide in a previous job for using InDesign. Though she had been using the program for several years, the two co-workers who would split weekly design duties at the small newspaper were new to it and Macs. Screenshots gave a visual element to the line after line of written ‘click here for this command then click this part of the box that will pop up.’ Word on the street is the guide fell apart within a few months from constant use and reference.
How Do Visuals Impact Purchase Decisions?
You and your customers share one big trait: you’re both consumers. Everyone buys groceries, clothing, and other personal items. Whether you realize it or not, visuals play a role throughout each step of the purchase decision process.
To start, they provide details. Visuals can sort through the nitty gritty details that would take several minutes to explain either verbal or written. Think of it as show and tell, giving an example to the reader to reinforce the message. They also increase information retention than written material sans any type of visual. Only 10 percent of information is recalled after three days with information or words only. Retention jumps to 65 percent after three days when a relevant image is used.
Science Behind Higher Engagement Rates
We aren’t neuroscientists and we don’t play them on TV, but science tells us why content with visuals earn higher engagement rates. To put it simply, our brains process visuals 60,000x more quickly than text. Processing efficiency deals with how interpret what we see. Text has to be decoded to have meaning, from the individual letters to the context of sentences strung together. Images need less decoding. This decoding need decreases more when related images are used and improve the overall experience.
Expressive potential explains, simplifies, and expands on concepts that are otherwise difficult to put into words. This is when a visual that immediately and succinctly summarizes whatever topic you’d been trying to understand through text or speech. Think of it as the lightbulb moment when everything makes sense.
Why do they work?
The reason visuals, regardless of form, work is because of color. Humans are visual beings, taking in information and interpreting it the best we can. From capturing attention to enhancing productivity and improving communication, color plays an enormous role in our daily lives.
Think about these stats from Xerox:
- Reader attention spans and recall increases by 82%
- Important or vital information, such as safety notices, will stand out and be remembered when in color
- People are 55% more likely to pick up a full-color piece of mail
- A single or dominant color grabs someone’s attention, making them at least glance at the material
- Search time, such as looking through a contract or other lengthy document, falls as much as 80% when color is used
- A quick blast of contrasting color for pertinent text can help people answer their own questions without placing a call to a customer service number.
- Learning and retention increases by 78% with color
- Think of the training materials you put together for your staff. Using color for key points and areas will help recall the material than the worn out black and white sea of text.
How to Use Visuals for the Most Impact
Be creative, but consistent. We’ve all seen how quickly a GIF will appear on all our social media feeds, so why not create one or two for your company? It’s a chance to share your company personality, but also take advantage of our love of short videos. Even if you’re not ready to jump into creating the next viral GIF, make sure all the visuals you do create align with your brand. Timeliness is also key. Take advantage of an upcoming holiday and build a theme around that or any promotion or sale your company may have.
In the same vein as creativity, people react with emotion to everything they see, whether they realize it or not. Appeal to those emotions by telling a story with your content and visuals. If a customer has told you of a problem they have, and you have a solution, share it with everyone. Create a short video demonstrating the solution or a short video to be included with a blog post that details a specific part of the solution. Use your creativity and understanding of your customers to appeal to emotion and help them solve a problem.