Instagram is a platform that has become integral to most of us. The backbone of Instagram is that it is a platform for visual sharing, so users can share and find only the best photos and videos. Similarly, Pinterest is a social network that allows its users to visually share and discover new interests by posting images and videos of their own.

The proliferation of visual content as a primary source of media is very apparent. Most platforms are now dedicated to sharing and creating visual content with others as a means of connection! As The old saying goes. “A picture paints a thousand words.”

The Importance of Visual Content

Dating back to prehistoric days, cave drawings were arguably the first recorded form of visual imagery as an attempt at either storytelling or communication.

Presently, visual content is mainly used to create visual cues that complement the information or message you are trying to put forth, making it easier to digest.

Visual content lets your brand adapt to the changing demands of the platform you are using. More importantly, it uniquely resonates with your audience and connects with them on an emotional level, making it easier for a conversion to take place. However, it is also important to remember that everyone has different preferences regarding the format of content when it comes to how they process information.

Visual Content vs. Text

According to PR Daily, visual content got viewed 94% times more than content without it. In fact, there is data to prove that visual imagery has a greater impact and more appeal to the human mind than text.

Source: Rober González, Unsplash

People are inherently visual beings. Normally, audiences only retain 10 to 20% of the information they read or hear about. However, once paired with visual elements, the number goes up to 65%. At any given time, the human brain can only process a limited amount of information, therefore banking on content formats that can be processed faster will take priority in grabbing your audience’s attention.

The Types of Visual Content

     1. Pictures

Pictures are the most basic format of visual content. In fact, whole social platforms are built on the basis of sharing and connecting through them. A picture can tell a thousand words, and that’s why we use them!

How to use it?

Static photos are still the backbone of visual content, ranging from being used as social posts to website headers and more. Images can also be used to break up long chunks of text (for example in blog posts like this one!) to make it easier on the eyes, and also much easier to digest.

Source: NeONBRAND, Unsplash

Images can be used on practically any platform, as long as they are high-quality and relevant to your accompanying copy. An important thing to note, is to not repeat photos and to make sure your file sizes are optimised for web so as to prevent slow loading times.

     2. Videos

90% of consumers state that watching a product video influences their purchasing decisions, while 64% of consumers are more willing to make a purchase. This highlights the importance of videos as a content format.

Videos are typically used as a means of visual storytelling. The drive your audience to feel something as well as having a platform for your brand to share its story.

How to use it?

Videos however are only as effective as how well they connect with their target audience.

Take Google’s 2019 Super Bowl commercial for instance. The video is about connection and barely has any text despite its focus being on its Google Translate function. The video is essentially just inspiring, visually-thrilling imagery that tells their story and supports the message they are trying to put forth.

The video itself has over 1.2million views and 10k likes, with over 600 comments for a 1minute video with no text. The video inspired multiple articles covering the emotions and feelings invoked by the video, many people having watched through it despite it being longer than traditional ads.

The reason this video worked was because it hit all the right points with their target audience—the emotions, story and people were something that deeply connected with their target audience.

     3. Live Videos

Ever since being launched on Instagram in 2016, live videos have become an integral feature especially during this stay-home period. Watching videos in real time brings advantages that no other content format can offer.

More individuals and brands are banking on this new feature because 80% of people would rather watch a live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82% preferred live videos to social posts.

One very obvious benefit of these types of videos is that it allows you to interact with your audience in a two-way conversation instead of the traditional one-way stream of sharing content.

During live videos, users can comment and ask questions that you can answer instantly. Instagram even allows you to let another user join your live video!

Source: Instagram

In fact, Instagram has made their live videos a top priority. In addition to having your live video show up first in your follower’s list of Stories, which is at the top of the landing page, they will also receive a notification when you go live.

How to Use it?

Live videos can be used for a variety of reasons, but most importantly as a tool to connect directly with your audience.

Brands such as Huda Beauty have used live videos to promote their new products and increase the hype surrounding it. The appeal of this content type being someone real talking about and promoting the product, while answering consumer questions about it in real time.

Source: Instagram

Live videos can also be used for event coverage and engage users who were not able to attend, or even show some behind-the-scenes action to reward them for watching. An example of a brand who did this was Chanel streaming their Spring-Summer 2020 Show.

     4. Data Visualisation

Source: Instagram

Numbers can be boring and sometimes confusing if we are presented with too many at once.

Data visualisation in the form of charts or graphs can be used as a tool to explain complex relationships, trends or associate seemingly unrelated concepts or ideas.

Source: Luke Chesser, Unsplash

How to use it?

It should be known that different types of data visualisation have different strengths in representing information.

  • Flow charts or diagrams are graphics that represent a series of steps or processes eg. multi-step processes.
  • Pie charts show percentages of a whole eg. the breakdown of government spending last year
  • Vertical bar graphs are good for showing change over time eg. total spending over each of the last ten years.

So be careful to pick the right kind of data visualisation to aid what you are trying to explain.

     5. Infographics

When the topic of your posts cover complex or information-heavy topics such as history or data-driven insights, infographics are the best visual format to use. In fact, infographics are liked and shared 3 times more than any other type of content.

Infographics that have a balance between aesthetically-pleasing graphics and relevant data, will naturally help increase brand awareness with its user-friendly nature. It can also be repurposed to multiple platforms—from your blog to your social media platforms to your website.

If the infographic has multiple components, they can also be cropped to share snackable visual content on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

How to use it?

Creating an infographic to support your copy means that you now have an original visual that your audience will not have seen elsewhere. These kinds of visuals are reported to have the highest levels of performance and engagement.

The most important thing to note when creating an infographic, is that the research that goes into it is much more important than its aesthetic appeal. Time and energy needs to be invested into sourcing and compounding this data into an aesthetically pleasing, yet information-rich visual.

     6. Interactive Content

At the end of the day, users just want to be engaged with and informed about your brand. The solution to this problem is interactive content. Interactive content could range from polls to Q&As to filters. Interactive content is defined as content that actively seeks the participation of the user.

How to use it?

One of the newer instances of interactive content is shoppable content. Shoppable content is any type of content format that provides a direct purchasing opportunity and allows consumers to add products directly to their cart from what they are viewing.

With shoppable images like these on Instagram, user experience is enhanced by the opportunity to shop without compromising their enjoyment of the content.

Source: Instagram

Another example of interactive content is filters. From the dog filter on Snapchat, to the ‘Which Disney Character are You?’ on Instagram, many brands have embraced this trend and started putting out filters of their own. Take Louis Vuitton’s face filter for instance.

Source: Instagram

These filters are accessible to anyone and create a fun and stylish way for brands to increase their reach and awareness among users. In addition to that, interactive content like this also creates a wealth of user-generated content that brands can repurpose or repost.

Interactive content also makes it easier to collect relevant data from your audience, which allows you to further personalise your marketing efforts and ability to answer their biggest pain points.

     7. Visual tips/How-tos

When you search for instructions for how to do something, are you more likely to click into a chunky paragraph of text, or a step-by-step visual guide? The answer is plainly obvious.

This content format can include anything from ‘life hacks’, to recipes, to visual step-by-step instructions, depending on your brand. These tips or how-tos can also be in the form of videos, images, text or a combination of the above. It’s best to consider the visual format your audience prefers and most engages with when deciding how to present this information.

How to use it?

Tips or how-tos that are supported by visual, bolster their authenticity and appeal to audiences. Take WikiHow for example.

Source: wikiHow

Every WikiHow article is broken down into a simple step-by-step process that is accompanied by pictures that either support it or show how it is done.

Brands who embrace How To and Tips as content pillars, report higher engagement from their audience, as they are directly satisfying a need and allowing their audience to directly engage with and benefit from this content type.

Visual Content is Key

With the brain processing visual information 60,000 times faster than text, visual content is unarguably essential to any brand. When used right, it grabs attention and can tell compelling stories that evoke emotion and foster brand loyalty.

While visuals rule the day, text should not be overlooked as an important fixture to balance and support your visual content. Don’t forget to spice up your visual content by making your captions or accompanying alternative text rich with SEO-friendly keywords. Using the appropriate type of visual content is the key to encouraging engagement from your audience.


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Hero image: Patrick Tomasso, Unsplash