Content variety is a top-5 challenge for B2B and B2C marketers, according to the Content Marketing Institute*. One way marketers address that is creating more visual content. In fact, the CMI annual survey found that 51 percent of B2B marketers and 55 percent of B2C brands made increasing visual content marketing a priority for 2016.

The question, as always, is how? Especially if you’re crunched for time and talent.

Designer Juanita Wrenn and I came up with 4 ways to make visual content creation faster and easier whether you’re a small business or a big brand.

4 tips for visual content marketing

Visual content marketing doesn't have to be hard. Create assets quickly with any of these options:

1. Casual Photos

We’ve been digging how brands big and small use “candids” to engage on social platforms. Highly styled and edited photos still have their place, but you can do a lot for your brand and your audience with a smartphone. Beauty shots are enviable, but with every phone also a camera, we’re all more accepting of less-than-perfect images in the right context and for the right purpose. Studies from Nielsen and the W20 Group show that customers consider employees trusted sources (more so even than the company CEO). So take some photos of them on the job, and ask them to submit their own photos of the workplace or the product/service in action. Their authentic images, instead of slickly produced glamour shots, increase trust and instill loyalty. Tip: Use a single image or create a collage.

Mystery Brewing Company office manager Brittany Judy fills the company’s social feeds with pictures of the brewers brewing and even the “mash”.

Mystery Brewing Company canning line

Capt. Gordon Churchill, a saltwater flyfishing guide, posts nature photos and snaps of happy anglers and their catches, offering social proof that he’s a great guide.

Capt. Gordon's happy customer

Beautiful Sky photo from Capt. Gordon



2.Basic Videos

Google research found that “I want to do” micro-moments are key engagement opportunities, making how-to and demonstration footage highly relevant. That’s probably why 82 percent of B2C and 79 percent of B2B marketers use the tactic, according to the CMI. Again, highly produced content is terrific when you have the time and budget for it, but short and simple videos of key processes, fixes and tips can resonate. The same Google study found that 1 in 3 Millennials bought a product after watching a how-to video, so this is a must-have content form if you’re marketing to the under-35 crowd. As with the photos, encourage employees and customers to share their Vines or other short videos to build your library. Tip: While we worry a lot about the image quality, the truth is, it’s the sound that kills most videos. Do your best to keep voice-overs clear and audible.

BC Strong Club members from Carolina Friends School and Chapel Hill High School produced an iPhone video full of tips for teens about preventing fires at home as part of their work in support of the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center.

Visual content marketing video example

Ben & Jerry’s uses a super-basic video to show how to make your hot chocolate even more delicious.

Ben & Jerry's hot chocolate video

3. User-Generated Content

In the same vein, encourage customers and fans to share photos, Vines and pins of your product or service in the real world. Ask them to tag you or use a specific hashtag for a photo contest or theme and use the best ones on your own accounts. This is a terrific way to source images (with proper credit, of course), engage loyal customers in sharing the love and give these VIPs more exposure for their work. According to the CMI, 78 percent of B2C companies used this kind of content in 2015. Tip: Check with your attorney for visual content IP issues.

REI challengrd followers to take and share photos on a range of themes, and the results are always beautiful.

Beautiful outdoor photo

Lowe’s often shares photos taken by customers of projects or even of store displays, like this one, which reminds us all where we can get our outdoor furniture!

Springtime chairs at Lowe's4. Word Art

Words do count as visual content when presented in a creative way! Conveying quotes and feel-good language, or directives and titles, in beautiful (but readable) typefaces with or without photos conveys messages in an efficient yet beautiful way. These make great social content or thumbnails to accompany meatier editorial. They also can work as background images for Facebook and Linkedin profiles. Tip: Choose fonts and colors that complement your branding and logo so you build equity.

Cheerwine posts great word art sharing #CheerWisdom, announcing #FanFriday and supporting more hashtag campaigns.

Awesome Cheerwine word art

Democracy NC's Jen Jones creates loads of word pictures to convey important information effectively across platforms.

Democracy NC: Check your voter registration

Visual Content Creation

If this sounds too good to be true, remember, we’re not talking about filling your annual report or product catalog with these DIY images. We’re just suggesting that it’s perfectly OK to use these images for social sharing or informal websites like your community or blog.

Too many of us overthink visual content. But just as conversational writing is appealing in the right context, less formal visuals are attractive in the right setting. So instead of thinking about how hard it’s going to be to create more visual content, think about how and where you can use less produced assets to effectively tell your story.

Remember, your audience’s comfort with cell phone images produced on the fly is pretty high at this point. When they’re consuming your visuals on social, web-based and mobile platforms, they’re less focused on high-quality and more intent on entertainment or information.

* All CMI data from the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends (North America) or 2016 B2C Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends (North America)

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