Your Essential Guide To Visual Social Media Marketing
Algorithms and the way content is prioritized by social platforms have massively altered the social media landscape.
Consequently, businesses need to work extra hard to grab customer attention as people scroll through their frenetic social feeds.
How can businesses make the most of those precious scrolling decisions?
Answer: do more with less.
The secret to nailing modern social media is to embrace powerful visual content.
A striking image or intriguing video hooks customers faster than exquisitely-crafted copy — here’s how to get visual with your social strategy.
How can I be great at visual social media?
Visual content is your way of grabbing your customers’ attention and putting your brand front and center. Here are just a few ways you can do just that.
Don’t tell stories — show them
Storytelling is at the heart of every successful marketing campaign today. Just look at any Christmas video ads on television and shared on social at this festive time of year as an example.
While there are a plethora of standard video ads offering the best products at the lowest prices, the ones that stand out are those with a story. Let’s look at this ad from Macy’s as an example:
The Macy’s Parade is an iconic part of Thanksgiving, and this ad harks back to its rich history and the role Macy’s plays in it. It’s simple, emotive, and narrative-led — and yet there’s not a product or saving in sight.
But what’s so effective about this ad — indeed, Christmas ads as whole — is that they’re shareable. They regularly receive high engagement on social, not because they’re pushing products or great discounts, but because they share a story.
Takeaway tip: video marketing is much more successful when it’s memorable, and stories are best for this. Create narrative-driven content that your audience will want to share based on its own merit.
Create visual synchronicity on social media and beyond
Social media, while powerful, is not a standalone platform.
Consequently, it’s important that your marketing strategies form an interweaving network, rather than multiple disparate channels.
An effective social media strategy is a multichannel one, spanning your email marketing, content marketing, your website, and so on.
For example, your email marketing should work in harmony with your social through integrated subscriber lists, social lead generation, and content cascading. And your blog content should be created with social in mind, easily shareable and mobile-optimized.
But perhaps the most crucial element of this which is often neglected by lesser brands is its visual synchronicity.
With social media’s popularity with consumers soaring, you’ll naturally see high traffic originating from your social platforms for your business. It’s therefore important that you create a seamless experience between the channels, and visual is the way to achieve that.
Adhere to a strict visual aesthetic in your social platforms that is mirrored throughout your marketing.
The types of images you use, your theme colors, your cover photos, and so on should all contribute towards a coherent visual aesthetic that spans the rest of your online marketing.
For example, look at Spotify’s Facebook post and email marketing below:
Notice how the font is replicated across both pieces of marketing, an important but underestimated aspect of visual marketing. On top of that, both Spotify’s Facebook post and its email has a subtle color gradient that washes across the image. The colors and context differ, but these elements all provide consistent branding across each different channel.
Takeaway tip: create visual harmony between your social media platforms and your other marketing channels. Using the same building blocks (font, gradients, styles, etc) across each channel creates a social media design and marketing strategy that shines.
A picture is worth a thousand words
While I’m championing visual social marketing, I don’t mean to detract from the value of copy. Powerful, well-written copy can convey complex ideas and strong emotions, and is the lifeblood of any marketing campaign.
But images can convey multitudes without ever uttering a word. They can communicate luxury, exclusivity, originality, even coolness. A fine example can be found in streetwear brand Dickies’ Instagram, below:
Immaculate flatlays and snaps of product variations are interspersed between images of cooly insouciant models in intimate, artfully-lit surroundings. Dickies’ Instagram silently screams cool in every photo.
Takeaway tip: photo platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest are ideal for an impactful visual strategy that engages followers. Be discerning with the images that you choose. They should look good in a top-down grid view, fitting seamlessly together with a coherent visual style.
Create live video for a candid customer experience
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the wild popularity of social video.Every social platform worth its salt is rolling out its own video platform or format. Between Pinterest’s Video Pins and Instagram’s recent rollout of IGTV, we’ve never had so many options for social video.
While we’ve been able to share videos on Facebook and Twitter for years, it is the rise of live and vertical video that has set marketers ablaze in recent years.
The raw, candid nature of live video strikes a chord with customers like no other format — a staggering 80% of consumers would prefer to watch a branded live video than read a blog post.
Live streaming of unedited footage might seem anathema to precious brands and their PR teams, but it works.
Takeaway tip: create live videos straight from your mobile that give your followers an intimate glimpse behind the veil. Live events, product unveilings, influencer Q&As, even just your office culture make for live video gold that your audience will love.
User generated content is great
Cash-strapped and time-poor? Save yourself both and get your followers to provide you with some user-generated content (UGC).
Originality is everything in visual social marketing, and included user-generated content is an easy win for brands.
Its benefits are manifold. Not only does it provide you with some 100% original content to fill your social feed (and your editorial calendar), but it builds your brand’s community.
A great example of this is Apple’s #ShotOniPhone campaign.
Apple’s iPhone users are encouraged to submit their most stunning photos taken with their iPhone, with the best ones being used in huge billboard campaigns. Not only does the hashtag campaign address a customer issue (users had previously complained about the iPhone camera), but it enhances a community through sharing beauty.
Reaching out to your customers to provide visual content shows that you value their lives and opinions. Sharing their content with your followers gives them exposure too, giving them added incentive to contribute.
Takeaway tip: create a competition or promotion with a branded hashtag and get your followers to submit photos or videos to win. Pick only the best and feature them on your social feeds, tagging the users for that personal touch.
Social media is a crowded space, but it’s not impossible to get your brand heard. Follow the tips above and implement a powerful visual social media marketing strategy that cuts through the noise and immediately grabs your customers.