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Visual Content – 3 Missteps Derailing Your Content Marketing Strategy

Think back to your first books — those dense board books you gnawed the corners off of. There were probably no words. But you were being exposed very early to the most prominent and effective way of engaging the human mind: visuals.
Most people remember content they read better when it is accompanied by imagery. In fact, 65 percent of people are visual learners. The advancement of technology over the last 50 years has enabled scientists to prove the human mind is more likely to convert visual stimulation through images to working memory. And the use of color engages even more areas of the brain. It’s no wonder why pictures have been used to relay messages for as long as history can recount.
Earliest text was actually pictographic. Illustrations have accompanied text since the advent of the written word. In the 15th century, text was carved into the images of block book pages. And clear on through the 18th century, entire stories were often recalled from associated images.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that writers and publishers developed the perception that images would ruin the reader’s ability to engage with the text. It was during this period of time pictures were relegated to children’s books and kitschy advertisements. By the 1900s, adult literature and journalistic media devolved to black and white streams of words.
The emergence of the internet and digital publishing revived the popularity of complementing text with visual elements. Yet, this resurgence also revealed those 20th century critics were not entirely amiss with their claims against its effectiveness. There is definitely a right and a wrong way to engage your readers through visual stimulation.
Take a look at these visual faux pas to see if you need to revamp your content marketing strategy:
The Absence of Imagery
By now you’ve noticed major media outlets incorporate images with their content. In fact, you probably only frequent the blogs and news sites that include engaging graphics with their posts. There are a few reasons for this tendency to gravitate to resources that visually stimulate you.
The most prominent is, we perceive information the fastest through imagery. It’s easier to filter through content based on your initial response to the featured images than it is to take the time to process each title. The demands of our fast-paced lives afford us little time to read over topics we’re not interested or invested in.
As a matter of fact, this preference for digesting current events, trends, even the lives of friends and family in graphic snippets is the reason social sites that function primarily on the premise of visual content, such as Instagram, have been the fastest growing media in recent years.
The bottom line is, images that are colorful, engaging, and relevant are more likely to convince readers to click into your content. If you’re not using images to hook your readers, or are not being deliberate with your visual messaging, you are missing a critical opportunity to reach your audience.
A Disconnected Doodle
Posting graphics that either do not speak to your audience or do not accurately relay your message are, arguably, worse than neglecting to use visual content at all. Unfortunately, there is a very fine line between visuals that will provoke curiosity and those that will blatantly detract from the content — or even turn readers off. It’s your responsibility to know and understand your audience in order to choose the appropriate images that will enhance your content. Are you pitching content to an outlet with readers that love scientific research? This is a great place to work in some eye-catching charts and graphs. Do you have tips for working mothers? Find some images that speak to the value of work-life balance and clearly show the subjects’ faces. If you have groundbreaking job seeker tips for millennials, draw them in with pictures of real people in real-life situations, rather than defaulting to stock images of models they cannot relate to. Always choose visual content the reader can connect with.
Quick tips to ensure your visuals don’t detract:
Visual content colors (this includes stock images you select and graphs you create) should align with your brand and fit with the overall tone of the medium/outlet they are published to. Balance is crucial.
Copy added to visual content should be easily legible and match the theme of your brand while evoking the correct emotions. Consider how the fonts in graphics appear next to the font of the copy.
Less is sometimes more. Your content may only require a featured image to pull readers in or it may need supporting visuals to show evidence of your original research results. Assess each piece of content separately and incorporate visuals on an as-needed basis.
From Underwhelmed to Sensory Overload
A media adaptation of the old adage, “You have the memory of a goldfish” has wandered the web since 2015 when research by Microsoft claimed to prove humans have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. Microsoft’s research revealed you can lose your audience in as little as eight seconds.

While nay-sayers go on to debate the validity of those results, I want to call attention to the real problem you may be creating for your content: bubbles. In other words, there are enough ads and popups already fighting for your readers’ attention. You do not need to add to the distractions.

If you clutter your post with too much visual stimulation, the flow of your content could be diced up just enough to lose your reader entirely. The last thing you want to do is distract them before they even get to the meat of your message. Not unlike a pint of your favorite Ben & Jerry’s, there can be too much of a good thing.
Do some research to see how successful contributors or your favorite bloggers are engaging their readers with visual content. Search for a free online course or webinars to hone your visual content marketing skills.
You definitely want to include a fetching featured image. A few supporting graphics or even a captivating infographic will really drive your message home. But keep it clean, keep it simple, keep it relevant, and keep it honest.
There are plenty of free images available on the public domain and through sponsored sites. If you’re unsure of the user rights, don’t use it. And if there is a credible source to credit, cite it accordingly. The use of images is no different than copyright infringement of your unique content.
How are you using visuals to draw in your readers or what image faux pas have you seen made? Talk to us about visual content marketing on LinkedIn!
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About Crystal DeTemple McNeel

I'm the editorial and visual director at Ride the Sail Marketing. I've always enjoyed the challenge and thrill associated with the command of words on human emotions. When I'm not editing, designing, or drafting for RSM and our amazing clients, I'm nurturing the love of reading and writing in my personal tribe of tiny humans, or making music. Thanks for visiting our blog!