Building your brand is now more complicated than ever before. You have practically endless options for promoting your business. There’s blogging, pay-per-click advertising, social media, videos, SEO and traditional offline advertising, to name just a few of your options. Deciding which platforms and strategies to focus on requires a great deal of research, brand monitoring and testing. There are, however, some general principles that can help guide you. One of the most important principles is the need to go beyond text to build your brand.
The Declining Status of Text
The early days of the internet were ruled by text. Anyone who was around in the 80s and 90s might remember the old days of bulletin boards and Listserv. These were text-only platforms where people could send messages back and forth. In those days, it would have been far too slow to send images or videos, at least on a massive scale. If you recall the first popular messaging platforms, such as America Online and Prodigy, these, too, were all about sending text-based messages to your friends.
It was only when social media got started that a shift began to happen. The first major social network, MySpace, was still mainly a vehicle for communicating via text. However, users began to brand themselves using photos, graphics and special effects. At this point, the visual appearance of users’ pages began to be at least as important as what they wrote.
As technology advanced, the importance of visual elements has increased exponentially. Now that it’s possible to upload, download and view images and videos quickly, the entire nature of the internet has changed. YouTube is now one of the top websites in the world. According to YouTube’s blog, they have around 4 billion views per day. Of course, YouTube is only the largest of the video sharing platforms. Millions more videos are shared on Facebook, Vimeo, Google and other sites.
Mobile, New Social Media and Shortening Attention Spans
At the same time that images and videos are increasing in popularity, the public’s attention span is diminishing. As people get accustomed to communicating using fewer words on Twitter and in text messages, patience for text is declining. There’s also the simple fact that there’s more and more information to sift through, giving people less time to devote to any single item.
Mobile phones have also contributed to the increasing importance of images and videos as opposed to pure text. Ironically, the very popularity of text messaging is contributing to people’s lack of patience with longer blocks of text found in traditional articles and blogs. As people get used to sharing photos, videos and memes via mobile phone, these elements are becoming ever more powerful for branding as well as for social purposes.
While Facebook is becoming ever more visual, with more and more people sharing videos, photos and memes, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many of the fastest growing social media sites, such as Pinterest, Instagram and SnapChat, are visually oriented. Younger people are especially flocking to video-based platforms.
It’s not just photos and videos that are gaining traction. Slideshows, memes and infographics, which both mix text and images, are now among the most widely shared items on sites such as Facebook. Infographics are especially useful for businesses that want to convey information in a visually interesting format.
How to Benefit from the Visual Revolution
The incredible growth of visual media on the internet has had a profound effect on both how people socialize and on branding and marketing. If you want to connect with your customers, you have to communicate with them in a way that they’ll be receptive to. Today that means including plenty of visual elements in your marketing materials. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
- When creating blog posts, include a mixture of text and visual elements. You might add an image or video to make the page more appealing.
- If you want to educate your reader, consider using infographics. These draw readers in and make complex information easier to digest.
- On your social media pages, alternate between text, images, videos and other formats. This allows you to reach different types of viewers.
- Use images appropriately. Some brands make the mistake of picking images almost randomly to attract attention. Your images and other visual elements should be a good match for your brand and message. Think about not only what the image portrays but the mood it creates. Do you want your viewers to be amused, fascinated, informed or curious?
- Make images easy to share. You want to encourage your readers and followers to share your images. Use social sharing icons for sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
- Be careful about rights and attribution. You don’t want to get into trouble for violating someone’s copyright. One solution is to create your own images. You can also get images that come with a Creative Commons license. Even these, however, may require you to attribute credit to the creator.
- Optimize your images and videos. To get the most leverage from images, make sure you properly optimize them. Make sure you fill out the descriptions for your images. You should also name your images using relevant keywords. Videos should also be optimized using relevant titles and by filling out the description fields when you upload them to YouTube and other sites. These tactics make your images and videos more SEO friendly.
- Spice up your emails with images. Emails are more enticing when they contain interesting images. Email services such as MailChimp, AWeber, Constant Contact and others make it easy to do this.
Don’t Limit Yourself to Text
It’s no longer enough to fill your blog posts, emails and social media pages with text. To capture today’s audience, you need to mix things up and include plenty of photos, videos, memes, infographics and slideshows to make your content more appealing. You don’t necessarily have to use all of these items. Choose the ones that work best with your brand and message. What is important is that you find a way to make your content visually interesting.