In the time it will take you to read this article, there will be over 900,000 tweets on Twitter and 7.5 million posts on Facebook. With that much content generated, how does a business get noticed and stay relevant? The answer: visual elements.
Human beings are wired to react to pictures much more so than text alone. We did, after all, spend tens of thousands of years enjoying the vast and beautiful open expanses of new breathtaking landscapes long before we used letters and numbers to communicate.
This also explains why our attention has shifted so dramatically over the past few years from blogging and text status updates to picture updates, and why social-media sites such as Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat have burst on to the scene and become our favorite social sites. In fact, Instagram will soon surpass Twitter in the number posts per day.
Of course, many companies do and should continue to produce meaningful and engaging content, but to get noticed, adding a visual element to your posts will not only encourage and generate more engagement and sharing, but will also help to further establish your brand.
Creating visuals can be intimidating, especially for the “creatively uninclined.” It does not need to be, however, as long as you put some thought up front and create the foundation for your overall visual branding strategy. Here are four tips and resource to getting started.
1. Colors and patterns
Maintaining a catchy color scheme will not only grab customers' attention but also create a consistent message about your brand. It is best to stick to no more than four colors, all of which speak in some way to your company’s brand and mission. Do not choose haphazardly, as color combinations can send their own message.
Using an online resource, such as Paletton.com, can help you find complimentary blends of colors by experimenting with its color wheel. A site such as DeDraeve.com can take a digital picture and instantly provide you with a matching color scheme. Remember to keep track of the HEX or RBG code as to be sure to use the exact colors in all of your online and print marketing.
After you have selected a color scheme, it is time to consider images for your visuals. You will use these images to add emphasis to a message or as backdrops to content posts.
If you are using your own photos, be sure to use a camera that can create high-quality and high-resolution photos. If you lack the equipment (or the photographer’s eye), a number of sites offer stock photos for sale or lease. I have used and have been happy with Dollar Photo Club, which for a small fee provides access to millions of great stock photos.
You can also find some free selections, such as those found at Death to the Stock Photo. If your budget can support it, Getty Images has an absolutely fantastic selection of amazing photos, for sale or for licensing -- but they are not cheap.
To give your photos a personal touch, consider running them through a "filter," which will give them a unique look and feel. Specific apps, such as Photoshop, can do this for you, but you can avoid the cost and opt instead for the standard filters on apps such as Instagram. To get a little more daring, consider one of my favorites, Pixlr-O-Matic (available online or as an app) for thousands of different filters that are easy to use.
Again, be sure to have a consistent look and feel with each of your images.
Another way to differentiate your content and your brand is to use a specific and consistent layout for your visuals. For instance, including a watermark logo in the same corner of every picture or post will help consumer instantly recognize the content as yours.
One company I like is Canva, which provides a huge assortment of template layouts for almost all major social-media channels. It also has a huge assortment of free designs and photos, and upgrading is rather affordable. Again, with your picture filters and color scheme, consistency is key for building that visual brand identity.
The style of font that you use with your brand (called typography) is as important as colors when trying to create a consistent message. Carelessly slapping Comic Sans on your website and marketing materials can send the wrong impression.
Instead, research your options and determine which fonts go best together. Also, make certain not to choose too exotic a font, as some web browsers will not recognize the font and the effect will be lost. Google Fonts is a great place to find free fonts as well as the "code" needed to integrate it into your website.
At some point, it does seem altogether likely that the Internet will simply explode under the intense pressure of tens of millions of photos being uploaded every day. Of course, I jest.
But the reality is that we will continue to prefer visuals with or in place of our content, simple because we are able to consume and react much faster to visuals than plain text. If you do not believe it, then consider the study that found that presentations with visual aids were 43 percent more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action.
In the end, just be sure to follow these tips and create effective visuals, as visuals that miss the message can do more harm than good.
What do you think? Do you have more advice or resources for your fellow entrepreneurs? Please share in the comments section below.