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    June 18, 2012 // 2:00 PM

    How to Breathe New Life Into Your Marketing With Visual Content

    Written by Allyson Galle

    visual contentintroductory3

    Visual content is awesome. It grabs your audience's attention, it's quick to consume, it's shareable, and for those for whom writing is a bigger nightmare than those dreams where you're late for school and don't have any pants on, visual content is a nice alternative to keep your content creation machine chugging.

    Most people don't have any trouble coming up with ways to integrate visual content into, say, their social strategy (or maybe they do, which is why we're covering it in this post for good measure). But you should be thinking about the role visual content plays in all of your marketing channels -- from social media, to organic search, to your email marketing. Ready to learn how to integrate visual content in your marketing channels? Let's get started!

    Integrating Visual Content Into Your Social Media Marketing

    Alright, we're going to ease you into this visual content integration stuff by starting with social media -- I mean there are social networks that were built exclusively around visual content (I'm looking at you, Pinterest)! So this should come pretty naturally to you.

    Pinterest

    So let's start with Pinterest, the social sharing platform through which one can share images by pinning them to a pinboard that others can then share, or 'repin,' to help get that visual content spreading. If you're a business who creates visually stimulating products or offers services that yield something beautiful, I bet this seems pretty intuitive to you -- hairdressers pin pictures of amazing hair 'dos, clothing resellers pin pictures of hip ensembles, etc.

    But what about B2B organizations? Or companies that do something kinda, well, boring? Take a cue from companies like GE and even us here at HubSpot. GE uses Pinterest to tell a visual story of their history, pinning pictures of how their products have evolved through the years and even getting users involved, running a #GEInspiredMe campaign that drives user-generated content. And HubSpot? That company that sells marketing software (yawn)? We pin a mix of marketing-related content -- data visualizations, infographics, and ebook covers -- along with pins that represent our brand in an out-of-the-box way, like you might find on our boards "Fun Orange Things," and "Things With Spots."

    b2b pinterest examples

    So no matter your organization, you can find a way to leverage Pinterest for your business -- just be sure to include links on all of your pins that lead back to a product or landing page of some sort so all of that Pinterest traffic can actually turn into leads and transactions on your website!

    Facebook

    When it comes to Facebook, this year's Timeline update for business pages proved that Facebook intends to take its product in a more visual direction. Marketers have an opportunity to show their visual content chops right away with the new (much larger) cover photo -- and if you're looking for some inspiration, we've rounded up the best Facebook Timeline cover photos out there.

    But the new layout provided more opportunity for visual content creators than just an expanded cover photo. With the ability to 'Star' and 'Pin' content, you can actually expand posts of visual content so it takes up more space on your page Timeline.

    facebook highlighted posts

    And according to an internal Facebook study, that's something you might want to do; page posts that include a photo album or picture can generate 2X more engagement than other post types. And more engagement means Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm will feature you more prominently in your fans' news feeds, further expanding your Facebook reach. So get creative! Post memes, cartoons, infographics -- even pull from your Pinterest account -- to keep your Facebook page chock full of the visual content your fans love.

    Twitter

    If you're trying to find an opportunity to integrate visual content into your Twitter marketing, you may be thinking ... post twitpics! Well yes, you certainly can (and should!) upload pictures to your tweets, but the thing is, they don't display in streams unless a user actually clicks through to view the picture. So the biggest bang for your Twitter buck is using the customizable elements on your Twitter page to make your Twitter presence more visually-driven.

    In addition to letting you upload a super cool user picture, Twitter allows for the customization of your page's background. For those followers who make it to your page, you can greet them with an aesthetically pleasing, branded, and even lead-generating background image. In fact, we've compiled our favorite examples of backgrounds on Twitter to help you get your creative juices flowing. And if you're not sure how to customize your Twitter background, well, we've got a post for that, too!

    Still, given that most tweets are simply read out of individual users' feeds, it's important to focus on integrating visual content into your tweets themselves. This technique goes hand-in-hand with another extremely visual social network ...

    Instagram

    Instagram is a mobile application for iPhone and Android that offers easy editing and social sharing of camera phone photographs. Since tweets are comprised entirely of text, linking to Instagram photos provides some refreshing visual content to break up the monotony. Check out the screenshot below of the HubSpot Unicorn's Instagram feed, which tells more of a story about the HubSpot brand than words ever could.

    HubSpot Unicorn Instagram

    And since Instagram was recently acquired by Facebook, don't forget to apply those cool sepia-toned filters to some of your Facebook images, too. Think about it -- you're on the road filming a case study, you snap a picture of you and one of your favorite customers with the Instagram app, and upload the photo to your Timeline with a quote from your customer that shows how awesome she thinks your company is. Not some bad, on the fly visual content, eh?

    YouTube

    Of course, we can't complete our discussion of visual social networks until we talk YouTube. Yes, visual content includes video, too! YouTube let's you create a mix of educational, how-to type content, entertaining content, and even slightly promotional content that addresses what your leads need at any stage of the sales cycle. We do it all the time -- we have YouTube videos on our HubSpot channel that teach you about marketing, silly music videos that make you laugh, and case study videos that highlight our customers' successes with HubSpot software.

    The beautiful thing about YouTube videos is that, in addition to being easily shareable over just about any other social network you can think of, they're also easily embeddable into other channels (hello, blog content)! In fact, let's get into how visual content can be integrated into your blog right now.

    Integrating Visual Content Into Your Blog and Offer Content

    Your blog and offer content are likely two of the biggest lead generators you have working for you. And since both will frequently find their way into your other channels -- email marketing, paid media, organic search -- taking them visual is key to making them even more intriguing than they already are.

    When it comes to your blog, the easiest thing you can do is ensure that every single post has at least one relevant image. That first image is critical, because if you're sharing your blog content on social media (you are sharing your blog content on social media, right?), that image will be automatically pulled into the update. And if you read the previous section of this post, you know how important visual content is for driving social engagement!

    HubSpot Facebook Link Screenshot

    But you know what? The more the merrier -- images (relevant images, of course) break up the monotony of text, and make it more likely your reader will reach the end of your blog post without feeling bombarded by a cacophony of characters. And if that's where your call-to-action resides, it's even more important to keep your reader's attention until the end. In fact, you can even create entire blog posts around visual content. We do this at HubSpot all the time, featuring infographics, compilations of marketing charts and graphs, and even inbound marketing cartoons as blog posts. In fact, we even indicate that the content within the blog post is visual by using brackets at the end of the post titles, like [Infographic] or [Cartoon] because we know our audience's affinity for visual blog content. I think you'll find periodically incorporating this type of content into your blog will be a welcome break from the text content your readers used to consuming.

    If you're creating blog content, you should be creating offer content to go along with it -- you know, that content that lives behind the landing pages your blog visitors convert on? You may be used to creating offers that are more text-based, like ebooks or whitepapers. But these documents don't have to be (nay, shouldn't be!) pages and pages of copy. Use visuals to break up this content and make it more visually palatable for the reader. Take a look at one page from an ebook of ours, An Introduction to Lead Nurturing:

    lead nurturing ebook

    This page only has 150 words on it -- but that's a conscious decision. Because to help illustrate the point being made on the page, a data visualization is incorporated that not only makes the page easier to read, but helps support the claims being made in the copy.

    You can also incorporate visual content into your offer content even more deliberately by creating offers that are entirely visually-based. As an example, we recently released an ebook, 55 Brands Rocking Social Media With Visual Content, that is comprised almost entirely of visuals. So although this offer is an ebook, it has actually transformed the ebook into a piece of visual content itself! Alternately, you can simply leverage offer content formats that are inherently visual by nature, like videos, slide shares, and data compilations.

    Integrating Visual Content Into Your Email Marketing

    Much like a blog post, including a relevant image within your email helps break up the monotony of text -- but visual content can play a more central role in your email marketing strategy than just eye candy.

    The biggest opportunity to leverage visual content in your email marketing is with a visual call-to-action. Your emails should be succinct, doing everything they can do point the reader towards your call-to-action so that email send can generate clicks and conversions; and the fact is, text links within an email only go so far. We've written an entire post that shows you how to create a visually compelling call-to-action, using bright, contrasting colors and fully embracing the bigger is better mentality -- take a look for the nitty gritty details you need to make your email marketing CTAs pop.

    But you can take visual content one step further by actually telling a story through visuals -- not copy -- in your emails. Take a look at how UncommonGoods did just that, highlighing for-sale products as they told a story about how those products might play into a customer's life.

    uncommongoods email marketing

    We've compiled the best visual content out there to help inspire your visual content and email marketing integration -- just read our post, "Feast Your Eyes on These 9 Examples of Beautiful

    Finally, you can even give your video content some extra promotion by featuring it in your email campaigns. While you shouldn't embed emails directly within an email message (not all email clients have the ability to play videos within emails), you can take a screenshot of your video, superimpose the triangular "play" button we all know and love from online video content, and simply link your video to the page on your website on which that video lives!

    Integrating Visual Content Into Your SEO Strategy

    If you're interested at all in SEO, you're interested in how your content ranks in Google. Well, how your visual content ranks is just as important as how your text-based content ranks! The problem is, search engines don't read images too well. Hmph.

    Don't worry! There's recourse for visual content creators! Google's crawlers look for certain attributes of your visual content to be able to "read" it and index it in organic search, accordingly. What you have to do is give Google's crawlers the right information about your image so that can be done. We've written a guide to help you optimize images for Google search that you can read in it's entirety, but here are the highlights:

    • The only image file types you should use are BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG.
    • Your image file names should use words that describe the content of the image.
    • Use image alt text to describe the image.
    • Provide context for the image in the page's surrounding text, if possible.
    • Submit an image sitemap.
    • Use descriptive anchor text when linking to images.

    When you follow these steps for, say, an infographic on unicorn feeding habits, you can ensure your infographic is not only indexed in search, but is considered as a result in the SERPs for queries about unicorn feeding habits! And remember, the competition isn't quite as stiff when users are searching in the "Images" part of Google (as opposed to "Web"), so you could be getting even more love from searches of that nature when your visual content is well-optimized.

    How do you leverage visual content in your marketing channels?

    Image credit: duh.denise

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