It’s ironic that I’m up here giving a presentation on the power of pictures, because I make my living telling stories with words. But sometimes, all the language in the world can’t stand up next to that one perfect image. With just a glance, pictures can tell stories that thousands of words couldn’t tell as compellingly. After all, even books have covers. These images immediately put us in the right frame of mind to better understand what we’re about to read.
Traditionally, these kinds of iconic images have been reserved for print media, leaving the Internet to be a far more text-based medium. These ads set the stage and tell us, without a single word, everything we need to know. We know True Blood is about sex and blood and vampires. We know iPods are about music and personal expression. And we know Air Jordans are about sports and victory. We know all that without even really knowing what the product is. And this kind of iconic branding is new to the Internet. When the Internet began way back in the dark ages, it was all just text on a screen. But as connection speeds have increased and computers are able to handle high-quality images, the Internet is rapidly evolving into a more visual medium. Don’t believe us? Let’s look at seven years of Facebook.
From data collected from across 12,000 brands, photos were by far the most interacted content, both in terms of likes and comments. Why is this so important? Edgerank. That magical, mythical algorithm that determines your Facebook destiny. While it’s a complex equation taking into account hundreds of factors, the bottom line is that the more people interact with your Facebook content, the more often they'll see your content. So when you share that great link to register for your seminar, read your blog post, buy your product, call now, they're more likely to see it. Great pictures earn you the privilege of telling people more. Pictures are bait. It's up to you to set the hook and make the sale once you've got their attention. So where should you start fishing?
And Facebook isn't the only social media network with an increasingly visual focus. Every one of the hottest networks of the moment has a strong emphasis on images, from Tumblr's pop-culture .gif craze to Instagram's hipster filters to Pinterest's lush boards. These networks are dominating more and more of the social landscape. You can't participate in any of these networks without images. Period. NEED: Graph Tumblr: 61 million Pinterest: 12 million Instagram: 80 million Pinterest users are 10% more likely to buy and spend 50% more than non-Pinterest users. It currently drives about 40% of social media ecommerce purchases.
Granted, all of these networks are more business-to-consumer, with a special emphasis on people under 35 and women. But what if you're a business-to-business company? Can you just ignore visuals? Not by a long shot. That's where Google+ comes in. While I'll always argue it's less a social network and more an SEO tool, this shows up smack dab in the middle of my search engine results, based on pictures tagged by those in my circles.
And even if your friends aren't talking about what you're searching for, Google still indexes pictures, both via its image search, as well as directly in he SERPs. A great image can be more enticing than a great description, depending on what you're looking for. Use those images to anchor your blog posts and drive traffic directly where you need it.
To give you an example of how this can work for your B2B, let's look at the marketing org chart. A blog by that title is the single most popular blog post of all time on the Roundpeg blog. It steadily churns out traffic week after week. And by and large, that traffic is a result of people searching for image s. When you search for “marketing organization chart,” which is a fairly well-searched term, two of the four images that appear at the top of the post are from our blog. And It's not just that our images rank well, it's that the images help to explain the concept of a marketing organization chart better than words alone could. They help to explain blog posts, give you something to pull through when linking on social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, and are critically important. There are people in this audience who will be able to explain in great detail how to SEO these images properly for search; for now, I'll just say to make sure you take the time to properly title images and add descriptions and leave the detail work for those folks. But we're all in agreement that when you combine the importance of visual-centric social networks with the importance of images in search, you can't ignore a visual content strategy. Do we all agree? Great. Then let's talk about how you get these images.
The first obstacle most people have to overcome as they start creating a visual content strategy is this immediate, reflexive belief that “oh, my business isn't interesting. There's nothing that I can take a picture of, nothing I can show people.” Maybe you work in a more service-oriented industry—God knows it's not exactly interesting taking pictures of people working on computers—or maybe you just think your industry isn't very sexy. How many pictures can you put up of that little widget your company makes? Sure, maybe companies that sell food and clothes and fun things can have visual content strategies, but not us. Knock it off. Seriously, just knock it off. Every industry is visual. Every industry has stories to be told. You just have to be open to seeing them and be willing to get a little creative.
According to a study conducted in New Zealand, ads and other marketing materials which incorporated faces—specifically of employees and owners—made prospects look at the business more favorably, more approachable, more professional, and more likely to buy. Interestingly, they were also viewed as more expensive. But the point is, people respond to faces. It’s part of how we’re hardwired. Include pictures in your social media efforts, whether that’s your employees or your customers.