Marketers, journalists, and content creators in general feel that this is the “domain of designers,” so we end up skipping visuals altogether in favor of writing. Even though we know that visuals are one of the best ways to communicate with our readers, we are far more comfortable with words than with pictures.
So we stick with what we know, and hope for the best.
Donna Moritz is a master of creating visual content. She is a successful blogger, social media strategist, and visual marketing specialist.
She is not, however, a designer.
“I am teaching them what I know — from the perspective of someone who is not trained in design — so they feel that they can do it, too,” she says.
No creativity, no training: no problem
A seasoned marketing practitioner, Donna has never had problems with creativity. It was, in fact, one of the chief reasons why she fell in love with social media and in turn opened her own social media consultancy in Queensland, Australia to service local small business in 2011.
That was when Socially Sorted was born:
“I started a fledgling blog about social media marketing. It was in the early days of Instagram and Pinterest when tools like Picmonkey had become popular, giving small business owners a way of creating visuals without having a degree in Photoshop. My posts about visual content were shared the most, and I was enjoying writing them the most, too! So, I pivoted my blog to be about visual social media and content strategy.”
With that, Donna began diving into visual marketing in earnest:
“We started creating infographics that did really well for my business and for my clients, driving tens of thousands of shares, traffic, and subscribers. I was hooked on the idea of using visual content to drive traffic, and the blog continued to grow.”
With so many great tools and apps available at the click of a button, Donna thinks that anyone can create visual content that catches attention and drives action — “even if they don’t have a creative bone in their body.”
In particular, she points to pre-made templates that most of these tools have. “[These] remove the need for you to design from scratch, so it makes it super easy for you,” she says.
Piktochart, for example, has a library of over 500 templates for anyone looking to create infographics, posters, or presentations:
Here are Donna’s tools of choice when it comes to creating visual content:
- Canva. “I use Canva daily to create most of my visual content and can’t imagine creating visual content without it now. I love their Canva for Work package — I can now easily resize images for any social platform using their Magic Resize function, among many other cool functions.”
- Piktochart (of course). “I love Piktochart as there are hundreds of ready-made templates. By switching out colors, fonts, icons, and photos, you can create something very custom and unique. All the design “heavy-lifting” has been done for you. When we started creating infographics in 2013, there was not much around in terms of tools, so we used designers. Now, you have so much choice for DIY infographics, so there’s no excuse!”
- Relay. “Relay automagically designs a whole swag of images based on assets you insert such as your logo, website, tagline and photos. It’s a very intuitive tool.”
- Clipping Magic. “An awesome tool for clipping out the backgrounds of images to make them transparent. I use this every week.”
- Mobile apps that create visuals with images and text on the fly. “I recommend Over, Studio, Brandr, WordSwag, and Typorama. All of these tools make it possible to create visual content quickly and easily straight from your smartphone.”
- Short video tools. “Native video works best on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — especially Facebook. Some basic tools I love for creating them are Flipagram, Videohance, Videolicious, and PicPlayPost.“
Focus and consistency
For those who are just starting out using visual content for marketing, Donna suggests just beginning “where you can with what you can.”
“I know many businesses, brands, and public figures who have achieved great traffic and shares through just posting original visual content consistently,” she says.
The key to this is consistency: “They post at the same time every day, sometimes just one image per day! They also consistently share or curate the content of others.”
However, she cautions against getting too trigger-happy across platforms. It is far better to focus on one main platform and get consistent there:
[Tweet “Focus on the platform where you get results when posting visual content. – @SociallySorted”]
“Jumping around like a jackrabbit trying to do visual content everywhere is not practical or effective, especially with so many platforms opening up every week. Focus on the platform where you get results, where you enjoy posting and engaging, and where your audience hangs out!”
It’s all well and good to create basic visuals for your audience. But with the deluge of content out in the wild today, the real problem (as we’ve pointed out before) lies in getting your readers’ attention and enticing them to click or share.
“Throwing up a few memes and quotes will no longer catch attention as our newsfeeds get crowded with more visuals everyday,” she emphasizes. “Those that master the art of visual storytelling in a mix of images, video, livestreaming, and conversation will connect with us and draw us in.”
Donna believes great visual content should ideally do these three things: “catch attention, entice us to take action, and inspire advocacy.”
Here are her tips on how to use visuals to enhance your marketing strategies and “help to skyrocket your results.”
- Use eye-catching colors, branding, or photos. Also, include some sort of branding in the way of a watermark logo, or something similar.
- Add a call-to-action either on the image or in the description (or both). What do you want them to do? It could be to “like” or comment, but the holy grail of visuals is to get people to share and click through to your content.
- Drive traffic to a place where you can provide value and encourage people to join your email list. Also known as your “landing content.” Where will they land, and how will you provide more value there? Your landing content could be your website, or simply a place where they will find more value and engage with you on a more personal level, like your blog or another social media platform such as Snapchat, Instagram, or Periscope.
- Make visual content on your blog or website pinnable. There is an army of marketers who go to websites and share their content on Pinterest. If you create great visuals, especially portrait-sized images and infographics, they are more likely to pin your content. This starts a cycle of traffic where others find your content and then come back to your website via that pinned image.
- Get on a visual content “hit list” of content. This is where someone has you on a list of “go-to” people to go to for visual content, as they know you will always have something good to share.
- Again, be consistent. As with all types of content, the more you show up, the more people like and trust you, and start to look for (and share) your content.
Visual content inspiration
There are always those times when ideas just don’t seem to come to you, no matter how hard you rack your brain. It happens — even to the best of us.
When this happens, Donna turns to these sources for inspiration:
For social media:
- Social Media Examiner
- Razor Social
- Boom Social by Kim Garst
- Rebekah Radice
- Peg Fitzpatrick
- More general sites like Entrepreneur
When it comes to design and visual content:
- Canva’s blog
- Dustin Stout’s blog (“He’s a designer who gets how to communicate with non-designers.”)
- Rework (“It will make you think differently.”)
- The Content Code by Mark Schaefer
- Any book by Gary Vaynerchuk
- The One Thing (“It helped me to really focus in on my business; I’m a creative person, so I tend to get a bit sidetracked.”)
- Slideology and Resonate by Nancy Duarte (she also has a fabulous TED Talk)
- Social Media Marketing Podcast by Mike Stelzner (“Lot of interviews about visual content and topics like Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, video and more.”)
- Manly Pinterest Tips Show by Jeff Sieh (“Pinterest with a spin for the guys, though it’s relevant to the ladies, too.”)
- Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast by Amy Porterfield (“She focuses on online marketing tips, but includes a lot of visual content topics and guests.”)
Five brands doing it right
When it comes to visual marketing, Donna has a list of go-to brands that she will use as examples in presentations and in articles “because they consistently do great things with visual marketing.”
Here are her top five:
- Constant Contact. “They know how to create awesome, helpful content for their community, and have great engagement on their visual content across Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and even SlideShare. They involve their entire team in creating visual content via their hashtag #CTCTLife, which results in engaging video, images and even live streaming.”
- Australia. “I know this is my country (and I love it), but the team at Australia.com is a shining example of how to not only create and share visual content, but also in encouraging others to do the same. Their small social media team produces a mighty amount of content by encouraging their fans to share content about Australia under the #seeaustralia hashtag. How they empower fans to share is a great example for any brand to follow.”
- Chocolate Johnny. “John Kapos (aka Johnny) is a small business owner who has embraced social media and completely changed his business with visual content. He’s a 3rd generation chocolatier who posts on Instagram consistently and does live Periscope broadcasts at his chocolate shop and factory. He has built a huge following, just by being his happy self and talking about chocolate! In fact, his use of Instagram and Periscope has scored him sales direct from those platforms, and now even expansion into the US. Follow Johnny to see how you can take fans behind the scenes and make them feel part of your business (even if you don’t have salted caramel to sweeten the deal).”
- Outrigger Resorts. “I ended up in Hawaii last year on a fabulous holiday, largely because of an awesome infographic I chanced upon that showcased the islands of Hawaii. Such a clever marketing strategy from Outrigger! They used the “Hawaii experience” to put their brand at the forefront of places to stay when we were there. It’s a great example of using visual content to drive traffic.”
- Kim Garst. “Kim is the founder of Boom Social with Kim Garst, and she has consistently proven that organic reach is not really dead on Facebook. She posts hundreds of original images, and gets really great engagement.”
Looking at 2016
Like Neil Patel, Donna believes that video will be big in the world of marketing during 2016. In particular, she thinks live streaming will be a huge area of growth:
“I think short, native video will continue to grow at radical rates. It will still be huge on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter in 2016. And with that comes live streaming video via sites like Periscope, Blab, and Facebook which will continue to grow in popularity. We are in for a ride (one that is most likely livestreamed!).”
(We love Blab too. Check out our review of it.)
While more brands will start bringing video to where their audiences are hanging out, Donna predicts that YouTube will become less popular as this trend takes hold.
Beyond that, Donna thinks many companies will start leveraging on visual content to focus more deeply on customer service — especially the customer experience:
“Those brands that ‘get’ how to engage with people and romance their current customers are the ones that will prosper. It’s why brands that are using visual platforms like Periscope and Snapchat are doing well because they are not only doing storytelling exceptionally well with visual content, but also engaging in conversations with their fans.”
What problems do you face in creating great, engaging visual content? Let’s talk about them in the comments below!