Is your brand telling visual stories? Are you empowering your fans to create and share visual content for you?
Brands who create and curate visual content are seeing wider reach, more shares and traffic to their real or virtual doorstep.
We asked 19 Visual Social Media Experts for the secrets behind their success online using visual content…
Visual Social Media is hot right now.
We rounded up some of the world’s top thought leaders, developers, experts, designers, bloggers, Pinterest and Instagram Influencers and photographers and asked them to reveal their secrets.
The result? One takeaway-packed and awesomely-tip-filled post and one SlideShare deck brimming at the seams with secrets you can use today in your business (be sure to check it out below!).
They responded with insightful and innovative visual social media advice.
This advice has helped to grow personal brands, bestselling books, the world’s top blogs, Start-Up companies that are literally shaping the future of the visual web, and some of the world’s largest Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram communities.
And it all happened organically, using their visual content secrets.
Here is what they said:
#1 Melanie Perkins | Co-Founder & CEO of Canva
In under 12 months Melanie and her co-founder Cliff Obrecht have grown Canva from a Start-Up in Beta to one of the fastest growing companies in the world, making design accessible to everyone with their amazing DIY Design tool that keeps evolving and getting better ….and has amassed over 600,000 users.
Here is what Melanie said:
Be authentic and provide value. Create content that educates your users and helps them to improve their game – they will become loyal followers and genuinely engage with your content. It also helps you to become an expert in your field.
At Canva, we use this strategy throughout all of our social media channels and marketing activities. We frequently receive emails from users who thank us for the content we create, it’s a win-win!
On that note, here’s a quick design tip: Ensure consistency throughout all of your visual content – your fonts, colors, photo filters, image style and the personality you project. It will make your brand is easy to recognise and more memorable.
Be authentic and provide value. Create content that educates your users – @melaniecanva [Tweet This!]
#2 Ben Wong | WordSwag, Developer
I caused a major stir amongst the social media and blogging community after I shared my obsession for Ben’s App WordSwag at Social Media Marketing World in 2014. WordSwag quotes soon filled the #SMMW14 stream. In the same way that WordSwag can make text beautiful, his new tool Videohance makes iPhone video beautiful.
Ben had this to say:
It can be hard to create amazing photographic content all the time!
Visually tasty quotes and messages are a great alternative to photos. They’re a wonderful way to engage and inspire your audience, too.
Visually tasty quotes and messages are a great alternative to photos. They’re a wonderful way to engage and inspire your audience – Ben Wong @WordSwagApp [Tweet This!]
#3 Paul Fleming | Travel & Destination Instagrammer
In the growing pack of Instagram Photographers and Digital Influencers, Paul stands out – he is a videographer who uses his iPhone alone to create the most amazing footage and slow motion videos.
BTW: if you have never seen a wombat run, watch the video below at 2:47. Rare. Cute. Fast.
Specialising in destination photography you can find out more about Paul at his website Love Thy Walrus or be amazed at the footage below:
Paul had this to say about visual content:
Be true to your brand, consistent in voice and share what is relevant to you and your followers.
People are following and engaging with your brand because they feel a connection with you. Personally, I follow particular people or brands because I like their tone, their images appeal to me and align with my ideals.
I keep this in mind when I am creating content to share – does it ‘fit’ with my brand and add value to my work?
Instagram videos often get fewer ‘likes’ than a photo – not surprising, since you are asking for a 15 second commitment for someones attention, for something they don’t really know what they’ll be seeing.
However, being consistent with style and quality, I find that followers want to watch videos I post – and they produce more discussions about the content.
All my IG videos are filmed, edited and posted from an iPhone 5s. The native ‘slow motion’ video capture adds a layer of interest to videos, and editing using iMove on iOS is easy and seamless – it’s all drag, drop and crop!
Low angles and panning along, up, down or through the subject hold peoples gaze longer too.
Be true to your brand, consistent in voice and share what is relevant to you and your followers @LoveThyWalrus [Tweet This!]
#4 Jeff Bullas | Blogger, Author, Social Media Marketing Strategist, Speaker
Jeff Bullas is the man behind JeffBullas.com, one of the world’s leading Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Blogs.
Jeff’s blog features a lot of visual content (including infographics), tools, tips and strategy for “getting found online”. If you want to keep up with the world of visual content, follow Jeff.
Jeff had this to say:
To really scale your visual content marketing use a platform such ShuttleRock.com. This will allow you to crowd source your visual content.
Tweetable: Use a platform such ShuttleRock.com to crowd source your visual content @jeffbullas [Tweet This!]
Want to learn how to create original visual content that drives free traffic to your business? Click the image!
#5 Caz Makepeace | Co-Founder of yTravel Blog
While Caz and Craig Makepeace built one of the world’s most popular travel blogs they were also quietly building something else – a following of more than 4 million users on Pinterest. Caz knows how to use visual content to drive traffic.
Caz had this to say about using visual content to drive traffic:
The images that we find work best on Pinterest are those that tell the reader exactly what they are going to get if they click through from the image to our site.
We choose a beautiful and vibrant travel image that is related to the topic.
We make sure that it is 600 x 900 pix – portrait images always stand out better. And then we overlay text on top that highlights the topic, for example:
You have to make sure that your visual media suits the platform you are using. Portrait sized images like this would not work well on Facebook:
So, know your platform and design accordingly:
You have to make sure that your visual media suits the platform you are using. So, know your platform and design accordingly @YTravelBlog [Tweet This]
#6 Ian Cleary | Razor Social
But if you look beyond the tech, Ian has a secret.
He knows how to use visual content to drive more traffic to his blog. I had the privilege to work with Ian on a highly successful infographic project, and I asked him to share his savvy skills for promoting visual content with you:
This is what Ian had to say:
Create great visual content on your website but also make sure it’s optimized so it gets shared. [Tweet This]
It is becoming increasingly important to not only consider search engine optimization but also consider social media optimization.
This is optimization of your content to ensure you pass on relevant information to social networks when the content is shared.
For example, on Twitter you can set up ‘Twitter cards’ which means your imagery will be displayed as part of the tweet when they are shared with content on your site – which will lead to a better click through rate.
This is what a Tweet looks like with a Twitter card:
#7 Lauren Bath | Professional Instagrammer
I met Lauren last year when we were speaking at the same conference. Since then she has grown her following in Instagram from 250k to 360k followers. Why?
She is a sensational photographer and a leading digital influencer (and a super nice person). It’s not surprising Lauren is sought after by the world’s top tourism organisations to capture content that reflects the beauty of their region.
Want to know Lauren’s secret? She is entirely self-taught, after following a passion for photography and discovering instagram.
This is what Lauren revealed:
My best visual content tip for social media is to post your BEST work.
When using social media I put my best foot forward with every post by selecting the most visually appealing scene, shot as well as I can and edited in the best way possible. I want every post to be strong.
Too many people post many variations of the same scene or they don’t make a small attempt at editing or the images are obviously noisy or unfocused.
Your social media is like an online, live portfolio and you never know who could be watching [Tweet This]
Check out Lauren’s Instagram account for more inspiration – and amazing examples of sunsets and sunrises, cute animals, bright, bold colours and amazing landscapes with lots of leading lines!
#8 Apu Gupta | Curalate, CEO/co-founder
I had the fortune to interview Apu Gupta a year ago for this article and I can safely say he is one of the thought leaders of the visual web.
His visual analytics company Curalate is the choice of platform for many leading brands including Gap and Sephora, analysing over 200,000,000 images per day.
I truly believe that if you want to know whats what on the visual web – Apu is the man to talk to. He thinks in pictures and understands the art of visual storytelling and brand advocacy more than anyone I know.
Here is Apu’s advice:
Your story can be significantly more powerful if you’re not the only one telling it. Curate your fans’ imagery about your brand with your own to tell stories that combine multiple perspectives with authenticity. @ApuGupta [Tweet This]
#9 Sue B. Zimmerman | Instagram Expert
Sue B. Zimmerman is better known as the #Instagal or #TheInstagramExpert and she eats, breathes and sleeps all things Instagram. Full of personality, if there is something happening with Instagram for Business (or Fun) she knows about it.
This is what Sue B. had to share:
Create a Visual First Impression. First impressions are everything; and that includes online impressions too!
When someone discovers you online it’s so important that your profile (on any platform) represents your brand and is memorable.
Often I see boring profiles with wordy descriptions. I like to stand out!
On Instagram, my platform of choice where I get the most results, a few key words and emojis makes for an eye-catching and clear introduction.
For iPhone users the Emoji keyboard can be installed by going to “General” then “Keyboard” in your settings.
Even when restricted to just 150 characters you can display a bio that leaves a well depicted impression.
Be creative and playful, after all, that’s what visual storytelling is all about. [Tweet This]
#10 Joshua Parkinson | Post Planner
Josh has built up his company Post Planner to be not only a valued tool for curating visual content on Facebook (I love it) but his Post Planner Blog is one of the Top 10 Social Media Blogs in the world according to Social Media Examiner.
Listen to Josh – he’s a smart guy. This is what he had to say:
My best tip is to stop just going on a hunch when creating and posting visual content.
Try to base more of your decisions on data. Remember: your goal with visual content is to get shares — which translate into more distribution for your brand.
So instead of just guessing about which content MIGHT get shares, do some research and find visual content that has ALREADY gotten shares — content that has already proven itself. [Tweet This]
Then replicate, repurpose and improve that content with your own branding.
For example, if you see an image with a quote that has huge share numbers, take the quote and add it to your own unique image.
You can use an app like Canva to do this. And if you don’t want to spend time surfing Facebook looking for viral photos, just use the Viral Photos tool inside Post Planner.
Aaron Lee shows how to do both (Canva + Post Planner) in this post.
#11 Cynthia Sanchez | Oh so Pinteresting!
Cynthia is my go-to-gal for Pinterest and is widely considered a leading Pinterest Expert.
If you want the latest on what is happening over at Pinterest, ask Cynthia at Oh So Pinteresting or listen to her podcast (she’s super nice too!).
Cynthia had this advice:
My best visual social media tip is to ask yourself 2 questions when creating images:
If I were to see this image in a crowded stream/ feed would I understand the image’s message?
And, would I want to click on it or share it? [Tweet This]
When your fans and followers see your images on social networks they don’t have the benefit of seeing the whole picture of your business’s website or the blog post where that image is from.
Without that added information, your image can easily be misinterpreted or simply overlooked.
For example, the images below are perfect for a time management and organization business to use in a blog post. Which one do you think would do better on social media to bring more readers to their blog and ultimately more business?
The second image lets people know right away what’s in it for them.
If I click on this image I could learn 3 ways to get more work done in less time, who wouldn’t want to know that?
Since I’m a good friend, I’ll be sure to pin, post or tweet this so my friends can see these great tips too.
The first image could be easily be interpreted to be something about restoring old clocks or how to set an alarm or where to buy this clock or…. It requires people to take the extra step of reading the post or pin’s description and on a mobile device, that can be tough.
Make it easy for them by adding a simple text overlay to your image.
#12 Rebekah Radice | Digital Marketing Strategist – RebekahRadice.com
Rebekah is one smart, sassy and well respected digital marketing strategist with a huge following on her blog and Google+.
Rebekah “gets” visual content, creates awesome original visual content, and she knows how to build community.
Rebekah had this to say:
Investing in the development of custom graphics can build awareness, credibility and visibility. [Tweet This]
Make each graphic a visual identifier, streamlining your look and feel. This produces a consistent message no matter where consumers connect with your business or brand.
Below are a few rules I follow when designing graphics:
- Brevity is Key: Keep your text short, succinct and to the point. Eliminate any unnecessary or weakening words. This includes industry speak and jargon.
- Add a Call to Action: Whether you’re creating a graphic that includes a quote from your latest blog post or a how-to tip, don’t forget to add a call to action. You never want your fans or followers to question what action you want them to take next.
- Your graphics should be in line with your brand identity: From color palette to fonts, ensure that each graphic complements your brand personality and unique style.
This image incorporates all of the above. It’s clear, concise and consistent with my brand image:
#13 Loretta Grande | Picmonkey.com
Picmonkey is a super fun photo editing tool that is super easy and fun to use. It’s a great tool to have in your visual content arsenal!
The thing that I love about Picmonkey is the quirkiness and personality that is weaved throughout the whole team, as well as in the PicMonkey designs, graphics and the tool itself. Fun!
Loretta Grande, Designer at PicMonkey helped us out by revealing one of her “insider” tips:
Visual content gives you an opportunity to flex your voice and your sense of humor.
When appropriate, opt for images that inspire sharing and delight — whether they be funny, unexpected, or even a little off color. [Tweet This]
In the end these are the images people remember and tell friends about.
#14 Jesse Desjardins | Head of Social Media, Tourism Australia
If you don’t know who Jesse is, you will definitely have seen one of his team’s photos flying around the world.
As Head of Social Media at Tourism Australia he considers the fans worldwide, locals, and visitors to Australia to be his team, and he knows how to inspire brand advocacy and visual content sharing better than anyone I know.
A SlideShare influencer in his own right (You Suck at Powerpoint and the World’s Biggest Social Media Team are two of his creations) Jesse uses visual content to weave engaging and powerful stories. Here is Jesse’s most shared SlideShare presentation:
Jesse has some advice for you:
Don’t make it about you, make it about your audience.
Storytelling to your fan base is great, but giving your audience a story to tell is even better and makes your stories spread further. [Tweet This]
Give them something that will made them look good. At Tourism Australia our Facebook posts are always highly visual with a very short caption.fThey are purposely designed for our audience to share and expand on our stories.
#15 Kim Garst | CEO of Boom Social
Kim Garst is quite possibly one of the most successful social media strategists around (and a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Influencer) – she truly walks the talk having not only a massive following on every platform, but an engaged following.
Kim’s reach and engagement stats on Facebook are thousands of times higher than average….and that’s no fluke and is largely due to her use of visual content! She still finds the time to engage and be human!
Here are a few of Kim’s secrets:
When it comes to getting people to share on Facebook, I have one over-riding core strategy…relatable content.
I always try to create content that people can relate to or that they can find useful in some way; whether it is inspiration, humor or even business or social media tips. [Tweet This]
One of my favorite visual content creation tools is Canva but here are two others that I use as well…
This app provides tons of options to enhance your images, like frames, masks, filters and fonts. Edit your images by changing the colors or shadows, or create memes or image quotes using Rhonna’s built-in backgrounds.
This one is great if you have a creative streak! It allows you to do a lot of design effects using layers and nifty pre-designed elements. Highly recommend this one!
Want a simple yet professional-looking image for a blog post? Or maybe an inspirational image quote to share on social media? LiveLuvCreate is a free online tool that allows you to quickly create an image, overlay text, and choose from a variety of borders, effects and filters.
This tool offers free, high-quality graphics you can use right out of the box; alternatively, you can upload your own photos from your computer or Facebook profile.
#16 Peg Fitzpatrick | Head of Social Strategy at Canva
In 2014 Canva appointed the dream team of Guy Kawasaki (Chief Evangelist) and Peg Fitzpatrick (Head of Social Strategy) to expand their marketing team.
Peg is one of the most switched on social media strategists in the world, and is a perfect fit for Canva as she is super savvy when it comes to visual content.
Here is Peg’s tip:
Pin all your blog posts on Pinterest with a 735 x 1102 graphic and share with what I call the now and later technique. Use the call to action “read this now, and pin it for later” with a link to the blog post and another to your Pinterest pin.
This gives you traffic now and traffic later as Pinterest pins have the longest shelf life of any social media post. [Tweet This]
Being consistent with pinning your posts and sharing the link to your Pinterest pin garners more web traffic and more Pinterest repins so it’s a win/win!
Want to learn more? Check out Master the Art of Pinterest Images
#17 Jessica Gioglio | Author, the Power of Visual Storytelling
Jessica is a Social Media Strategist & Co-Author of The Power of Visual Storytelling: with Ekaterina Walter. Sought after as a speaker on visual storytelling and visual social media, Jessica was the perfect person to reveal a few “secrets about visual content.
Jessica shared 7 Elements of Visual Storytelling:
- The magic is in the mix – there are more visual mediums than ever before to bring your company’s story to life. Test different mediums to see what resonates the most with your target audience.
- Personalize, don’t spray! Today’s social media leaders are embracing the special features, capabilities, and audience demographics of each platform to foster different types of engagement and storytelling.
- Be useful – focus on curating visual content in line with audience questions and interests to spark engagement and add value.
- Be human – visual marketing performs better when the content has a human element.
- Curate visuals in a way that tells a story. Stories are memorable, relatable, inspire emotion and prompt action, all things that we want our visual content to do.
- Be shareworthy in everything you do. Inspire others with visual and video content that prompts sharing and you’re tapping into a powerful word-of-mouth endorsement.
- Keep your visual content timely and relevant. Consumer attention is the new commodity and visuals inspired by timely events and consumer interests drive more engagement than text alone.
Curate visuals in a way that tells a story. Stories are memorable, relatable, inspire emotion! @SavvyBostonian [Tweet This]
#18 Dustin W. Stout | Dustn.tv
Dustin is one of those guys that makes everything beautiful to look at – a designer and social media strategist, his award winning blog is absolutely “where social media and creativity collide”.
Here is what Dustin had to say:
Understand how visuals play on each network. What looks (and plays) well on Pinterest are tall images whereas on Instagram you’re only allowed square images.
My advice is to create 3 templates for your social content– Landscape (horizontal orientation), Portrait (vertical orientation), and square. Then when you create a piece of content, format it in all three versions and share on the appropriate networks. [Tweet This]
#19 Donna Moritz | Socially Sorted
- Watch the SlideShare below for a beautiful visual summary of this post, and this:
- We want to share original, fresh visual content like we want to share a hot piece of gossip. Be in the minority that creates original images to be shared by the majority, and you’ll get reach and engagement on any social platform.
Be in the minority that creates original images to be shared by the majority @SociallySorted [Tweet This]
Love these tips? Don’t miss the SlideShare:
Latest posts by Donna Moritz (see all)
- Canva on iPad – Beautiful Visual Design at Your Fingertips - October 15, 2014
- Awesome Mobile Apps for Creating Video like a Hollywood Pro - October 5, 2014
- 5 Brands Shaking up Visual Content Strategy with Hyperlapse - September 23, 2014