Does the chocolate image wake up your sweet tooth? I could tell you that the candies are locally made in Portland with melt-in-your-mouth sea salt and quality chocolate, how they have perfect flavor profiles and are the ideal size for a guilt-free treat. But the image probably inspires you faster.
If you saw this photo on a chocolate company’s blog, you might pin the image to Pinterest or share it with you friends on Facebook. If I’m the chocolate company owner, I’ve just used shareable content to empower you to help me market my brand through the most powerful form of marketing, your word-of-mouth recommendations.
This is the potency of visual communication. Adam Vincenzini describes the image-powered web as “the notion that Internet users prefer the most efficient and engaging methods of communication.” Images equal efficiency. Fast Company calls visual marketing “the breakout trend for 2012,” noting a 2012 ROI Research study that found “forty-four percent of respondents are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures than any other media.” Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are leading channels for visual storytelling.
Here are my 13 tips to help you become a Content Confectioner — a creator of crave-able, sharable brand assets.
1. Start with Your Goals
What are your marketing and brand goals, values and key messages? Think about what those things look like. How you can show and share them with your stakeholders?
2. Be a Reporter
Reporters seek and share stories. Do this for your brand. Shift your perspective to look for the significance of the everyday — teams, routines, the work and production environment. How does the everyday drive toward your brand promise? If you make this perspective shift, you’ll always have a story to share.
3. Get the Tools
You’re not obligated to add a $2,000 DSLR line item to your budget. I swear by my iPhone camera. It’s portable and takes high-quality images with flash and focus options. You can send images easily to Facebook, Instagram or email. The right tool is one you can obtain and use often. Do your homework. Test the options. And go for it.
4. Eyes Wide Open, Camera Ready
The aforementioned iPhone has more than 4,000 photos on it (yes, they’re backed up). Keep a camera with you and err on the side of taking more images than you’ll use to create an image bank for your brand. This practice supports quicker content creation. It also increases your odds of capturing million-dollar moments and images. Think of it as gathering lots of ingredients for limitless recipes.
In the same way that the best online community managers encourage and foster two-way communication through responsiveness and conversation, you want your images to look and feel genuine. Keep your brand messaging clear, but not overbearing or sales-y.
How can you provide value to your fans? Recipes, guides, tips, inspiring quotes? Approaching content creation from this perspective guards against gimmicks and increases the chances of your content being shared online.
7. Get More Real Estate
Log in to Facebook and look at your Newsfeed. Notice how images take up about four times more space than status updates or linked articles? It’s a battle for eyeballs. Optimize your brand for success by using images whenever possible.
8. Pair Visuals with Links
Use the preference for images to your advantage. For example, instead of posting a link to your blog post directly to Facebook, post the photo from your blog instead. Include a link to your post in the photo caption.
9. Salt + Pepper, Peanut Butter + Jelly, Images + Words
Visuals are getting a lot of love, but don’t forget the power of well-chosen, descriptive words. Be creative. Play. How can you expand on the story your visuals tell? Hint: Challenge yourself to use as few words as possible. Brevity = impact.
10. You Don’t Have To Do It All
Empower your internal team to help you collect stories. Ask them for photos and ideas. Ask your fans, too. User-generated content is a testimonial. And asking shows your fans you’re thinking of them.
12. Influence Images
Brands can influence user content. For example, if you want to show how your brand supports an active lifestyle, ask fans for photos of themselves and your product on outdoor adventures. If you have live events, stage an area for photos that shows your brand look and feel. Get creative. Salesforce does a great job.
13. Invite Everyone
Cross-promote your online channels. Invite your Facebook fans to see your brand’s Pinterest recipe collection. Invite your email newsletter subscribers to join you on Facebook (please do join us there). It’s all more powerful if it’s working together.
Food Lover’s Tip: Foodies, rejoice! SmartBlog on Food and Beverage reports that “food pins trump all other categories at a whopping 57 percent.” Are you on Pinterest?
SEO Lover’s Tip: SmartBlog on Food and Beverage notes “the affair between Google and Pinterest is especially steamy.” Pinning = good for Search Engine Optimization.
Chocolate Lover’s Tip: You can find the sea salt caramels noted in this story at CFM client Alameda Floral, downtown Portland in PacWest Center.