4 Ways to Make the Most of Visual Content & Engage Audiences
Give people something to see — and connect with — emotionally
In today’s busy, buzzing world of all things online, very few communication people need convincing that their content should show as much as telling a story.
They’re on their phones searching and scrolling with the best of us. They know the average person is more likely to retain what they see versus what they read.
Instead, the challenge is coming up with visual content that’s fresh, interesting and most importantly, relevant to audiences who are bombarded around the clock with Tik Toks, GIFs, videos and infographics.
Sometimes communications folks don’t have a full-time videographer, designer or even social media manager, and instead are asked to wear all the hats themselves.
If this sounds like you, have no fear. I’ve been in your shoes (and worn all those hats). With a little tenacity, I came up with a few go-to visual content strategies that made my life easier while juggling a lot of different projects throughout my career. Here are a few of my favourite strategies for creating engaging visual content that’s memorable and relatable.
Bring press releases to life with some visual context
There’s no escaping it — most companies and organizations need to issue press releases and media statements announcing something important. Some people will be diehard fans of doing this forever, even though it’s hard to know if press releases really accomplish as much as they once did.
The good news? If you give your readers something of value to look at and think about, people are more likely to care about whatever news you’re sharing (especially busy journalists you hope will write about you).
Quote graphics: Say it out loud
The easiest way to make something on the fly that is intellectually stimulating, when you have no time to get it done? Find a good quote from the press release that really hits home with why the news is significant.
Attribute the quote to whoever said it. Throw it on a simple, clean Canva graphic, perhaps even with the headshot of the person who shared it or with the official photo you used to illustrate your press release.
You can also do this with interesting sentences from the press release that aren’t necessarily things someone said, but part of the key messaging. Quote graphics are also are a great way to live-tweet excerpts of a speech.
NOTE: Canva makes this unbelievably simple: you can pick the template for the social media platform you want so your graphic will automatically be sized for optimal viewing and engagement.
A few key pointers on quote graphics:
- Remember someone will likely be reading this on a phone: Make sure you’re using no more than one to three lines of text, and that the text is big enough to read on a tiny screen.
- Canva can help you tighten the leading and spacing between letters if you need to. Also, it’s totally okay to use an ellipsis to condense the quote and keep it short and sweet. This isn’t a book report, but a brief glimpse of information.
- Don’t overcrowd the graphic with anything other than the quote and maybe one other visual element, like a relevant photo or your company’s logo.
- If you’re making a joint announcement with some other organization, tag them in the graphic and mention them in the text so they are still acknowledged without the additional clutter of a bunch of logos from different places.
- Hold back on throwing a hashtag on there. Don’t overstate whatever you’re trying to say by dumbing it down with a bolded hashtag in the graphic.
- Instead, put the hashtag in the text of the actual post or tweet instead (but not on Facebook, because people don’t really care about hashtags there).
- Without a hashtag, your quote graphic is evergreen, meaning you might be able to use it again for other purposes, not just limit it to the current announcement or campaign.
- When you are uploading and sharing the quote graphic on social media, tag relevant accounts directly in the graphic. For example, the person who said the quote and is hopefully alive and kicking on Twitter, the organization who is your partner on the initiative.
- On Facebook, when you share the image, you can tag a fellow organization or place and say, “ — with [NAME OF FACEBOOK PAGE YOU TAGGED HERE].” Tagging accounts directly in the graphic itself frees up much-needed space for other text in your tweet or post so it’s a cleaner read and easier for viewers to get through.
See where it says “Tag people”? That’s where you can add up to 10 accounts on Twitter to the image itself. Note that some accounts won’t let you tag them and use this strategically, so you’re not driving people crazy. Screenshot by author.
If you have a few days to get ready for a media announcement, creating an infographic or some other sort of data visualization to accompany your press release is a great way to create something of value for reporters and editors.
This may make it more appealing for them to want to cover your news because you’ve just saved them time by giving them some visual content to use in whatever they pull together on their media outlets.
Give your Twitter account a billboard
Twitter is designed to be a non-stop waterfall of information where people are looking for something to anchor them for a moment. That’s why it’s smart to make the most of the real estate at the top of your Twitter feed, where you have the option to “pin” tweets.
Reserve pinned tweets for launching new campaigns, announcing events, or kicking off new programs or products: something like a bold graphic promoting an event, a brief video of a senior executive making a statement about a new initiative.
A behind-the-scenes tour of a new building or exhibition, a GIF that is a clever flash of visual insight into something you’re promoting (Twitter has a built-in GIF tool to help you find one). When this visual content is pinned at the top of your feed, it becomes the first thing people see when they visit your profile.
You can also get creative with pinned tweets using more artful videos, if it makes sense for your brand. I once filmed a short clip of birds flying around a bird feeder and pinned it for a while at the top of my feed.
It felt like a fun way to play with the literal idea of birds’ “tweets” and my account being a lively place of activity on Twitter.
Create conversations with Instagram Live
If your organization or firm has an Instagram account, by now, you’ve probably gotten the hang of sharing posts there, maybe even creating Instagram Stories.
Have you taken full advantage of Instagram Live yet? Lately, I’ve been really impressed with how people are actively reaching out to someone they know who can contribute to a conversation about a topic and inviting them to be a guest on Instagram Live.
I think everyone is starved for one-on-one conversation, particularly during the pandemic when we’re seeking out human connection and conversation online. Instagram Live is a great way to create these experiences.
Matthew Kobach does some terrific ones that focus on current issues in social media and digital engagement. He comes up with a timely, important topic to discuss, contacts an expert who can add knowledge and promotes them with these fantastic sketches in his feed:
This was a post promoting an Instagram Live Matthew did with DonYé Taylor, CEO of Digital Footprint. It focused on diversity in marketing. Watch the whole thing here on Instagram. Screenshot by author.
Create a basic photo feature you share around one simple idea
Back in the early 2000s, I was working at Frostburg State University, a small residential university up in the mountains of Western Maryland.
They didn’t have much in the way of social media yet at that time, and I was building things from the ground up. I was also writing speeches, press releases and feature stories every day, so the idea of doing something super easy that would encourage social media communities to join in and share comments was key.
I decided to share a daily photo of somewhere on campus with the simple caption, “Good morning, Frostburg.” I’d often take it on my way to work. It was this tiny, quiet moment of observing the world in passing that really resonated with people.
Screenshot by author. Original post here.
Alumni who missed Frostburg especially appreciated the feature as it gave them a glimpse of their alma mater and evoked nostalgia. For everyone else, it was a pleasant conversational way to start another busy day.
In short …
Audiences want to see something that makes information real to them and helps them form an emotional connection to it. They’d like to laugh a little bit, maybe feel a spot of brightness during an otherwise lacklustre day.
If you’re short on time, this can feel like a lot to deliver, but truthfully, the best content is spontaneous and creative and doesn’t require a huge budget.
Use these tips to infuse your feeds with stronger visual content and take a look at how your audiences respond. See if it opens their eyes to something new in how they relate to your brand.
This article was originally published on medium.