Social media has made it more important than ever for companies to use a wide variety of imagery and visual techniques to represent their business, products, and services. Visually enhanced content attracts more attention, and it is more likely to be shared on social networks than plain text is.
Some social media channels also are inherently more visual than others. Visual content is essential to engaging their audience and getting your content shared. That is particularly true with Pinterest and Instagram, and to a great extent, Facebook. Facebook has stated that posts that include images get 2.5 times more clicks than those without images.
Even social media channels that had been more text-based are now increasing the importance of visual content. You might chalk it up to the Instagram Effect. Almost entirely visual, Instagram became the fastest growing social network of all time. Taking note of this explosive growth, Twitter and LinkedIn both updated their platforms to offer more visual opportunities for users.
Certain kinds of businesses, such as architecture, graphic design, home builders, interior design, and travel are naturals for visual networks. But what if your company is not a naturally visual business? Can you still enjoy the benefits of the visual opportunities in social media networks?
But to do that, you need to be more creative and imaginative, continually finding for new ways to visualize your brand, products, and the value they deliver.
Here are three good ways to help less “naturally visual” businesses develop visual content for social media.
1. Develop Engaging Memes for Your Business
There are lots of different interpretations of what a meme is—but it is usually a visual with simple text that represents an idea or makes a statement.
It can be as simple as a quotation displayed with compelling typography and graphic enhancements. The quote can be from literature, popular culture, world leaders, etc.
You do need to be careful here. Quotes or sayings that are merely company slogans or boasts are not treated kindly in social media. The quote can be an optimistic saying, something light hearted or ironic that illuminates your company’s values or personality.
The most effective memes, however, use a combination of image and text. For inspiration for creating effective memes, take a look at classic print ads. I know I said that company slogans or typical advertising boasts don’t work well in social media, but I’m not talking about typical ads. The kind of wit, irony and even earnestness you see in the best of old ads and posters would work well as memes.
Think of classic Nike posters, for instance. You often see people of all sorts of abilities and disabilities running with a determined look and the simple line “Just Do It” written somewhere on the ad. The line is not a company boast but rather an exhortation that both embodies the company’s values and spirit, and inspires the viewer.
Or go back even further. Back to the early days of advertising’s creative revolution. The early Volkswagen ads would be great memes today. One classic ad shows a picture of a Volkswagen when it was tiny enough to be called the Bug with this headline: “Think Small.” With its irony and wink at the audience, that ad avoids the kind of boasting you see in lesser ads. It has a lighthearted touch and would make an effective meme in social media (about 50 years ahead of its time). Peruse through a website of classic Doyle Dane Bernbach ads and you’ll find a treasure trove of ideas for memes, full of engagement, wit, and creativity. Usually, the ads consist of a simple image and just a few words. Memes do particularly well on Pinterest and Facebook but can also be used for other social media networks.
2. Graphically Illustrate Concepts
For good reason infographics have become extremely popular. However, infographics can often take a good deal of time and effort to create. Sometimes, all a good infographic takes is some simple graphic creativity to illustrate an abstract concept with drama, nuance, or humor.
One excellent example is a slide show created by Mary Meeker of the venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Meeker’s presentation was about how the Internet has changed our way of life and where the changes are leading us. There is a great deal of data presented, but Meeker also dramatizes her points with some eye-catching graphics.
In a series of slides within the presentation, she shows a “before-and-after” sequence of how typical activities used to be done and how things have changed. Some examples:
- Under the heading note-taking, you see a pad and pencil on one side; on the other side, a screenshot of the Evernote note-taking app.
- Under information flow, a newspaper is on one side; on the other side, a screenshot from Twitter.
- Under communications, you see on one side people waiting in a line next to a street corner phone booth; on the other side, people on their smartphones.
Meeker uses a variation of a tried and true visual framework: before and after. For her trend analysis presentation, the format became: Back Then vs. Now, and the Past vs. The Future. Engaging visuals in this side by side format tell a story quickly and powerfully. It’s not surprising the presentation went viral after it was posted on SlideShare. See if you can adapt this framework for your next presentation.
3. Tell Stories With Images
Few businesses are less visually interesting than law firms. However, Chad Torbin, media relations manager at McDermott Will & Emery LLP, a top law firm in Washington D.C., made good use of Instagram to attract the media to his firm.
As reported by PRnews online, Torbin developed a 30-day Instagram campaign around his firm opening a new office building near Capitol Hill. “We wanted to showcase the neighborhood and the new building,” says Torbin. The campaign was called “30 Days of Capitol Hill,” with photos chronicling the last 15 days in the old building and the first 15 in the new one.
The campaign resulted in substantial media coverage in The Wall Street Journal, ABA Journal, Politico, and more.
Here’s how to adapt this simple but effective technique.
- Think of company processes as small journeys and document them with photos and video.
- Pick a limited timeline for any process in your company: a product launch, developing a prototype, a website makeover, preparing for a conference, etc.
- Document the developments during that time period either with photos or video. This behind-the-scenes peek adds visual intrigue and engagement to even ordinary developments in a company.
Social media has made smart visual content more important than ever, but that doesn’t mean you should just tack on graphics to documents. For best results, incorporate a visual strategy from the beginning of all content creation so art and copy work together from the conceptual stage.