With visual content being so hot right now, an effective visual content strategy is becoming more important as a critical component of your marketing.
We talked to the experts and brands who are getting big results with visual social media. In this post they reveal their magic tricks for executing a successful visual content strategy.
How do you craft the right visual content let alone manage the juggle of sharing it to multiple platforms for your audience?
When you see a brand do it well, it can seem like they have magic tricks up their sleeves, to make it all look so easy!
Almost like an illusion – we see the end result of a brand using visual content well – we are drawn to visuals and videos and can’t help but engage, share and click through to devour more of their content.
We see the end result and we take action on it.
But what are the magic tricks that the brands or experts use behind the curtain?
It may look like smoke and mirrors, but these expert and brands all have a clear strategy, using tools and action steps that lead to a successful outcome for their content …and for us, their audience.
These are their secret visual content strategy magic tricks ?
Visual Content Strategy Tricks from the Experts
#1 Matthew Steele, San Diego Zoo
Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. He has over six years of experience in social media, and is proud to work for work for a non-profit full of passionate people working tirelessly across the world to conserve our planet’s precious wildlife and habitats.
Why do I like Matt and the social team at San Diego Zoo? They are doing great things with user generated visual content – they curate a lot of images around their two main attractions (the zoo and wildlife park) and I know that they have very innovative ideas about how to manage visual content across multiple platforms.
This is what Matt had to say:
1. Identify, cultivate, and connect with your brand evangelists.
We noticed that we had a strong contingent of high quality fan photographers, so we reached out to them to forge mutually beneficial relationships in which they provide us content and we provide them notoriety and perks.
We also connected them with each other, resulting in a growing, thriving, fiercely loyal community of fans.
2. Test, test, repeat.
We often share a piece of visual content on one channel to see if it would be a good fit for other channels. For example, we might test a piece of visual content on Tumblr, and if it performs well we might post it on Facebook knowing that it has a better chance of overcoming the strict news feed algorithm.
3. Stay relevant.
Capitalize on current events, popular memes, and current sharing habits to stay on the cutting edge.
Yep. #FoodComa #Thanksgiving #CollapsedCamel #cute #instacute #sandiegozoo pic by Mollie Rivera A photo posted by San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) on
BEHIND THE ILLUSION:
Communicate with your Team. When I was at San Diego Zoo two years ago, many of the staff, out and about in the zoo, knew exactly what promotions were happening at the time. They knew about the Instagram and Pinterest accounts, and “on-location” ie QR code photo or fan competitions.
Social media is part of the culture at San Diego Zoo. The social team physically walks around the zoo and meets with their staff in every section of the zoo, from the guides to the zookeepers on a regular basis. How can you involve your team more in your visual content strategy?
#2 Sarah (Sos) Mattsson, Tourism & Events Queensland
Sos Mattsson (@sosarina) is the digital content manager at Tourism and Events Queensland. She loves content and social strategy and firmly believes in the power of visual content to truly engage consumers.
I included the team at Tourism and Events Queensland as not only do I live here in Queensland, but their team manages some of the most innovative social media and digital campaigns across multiple platforms.
And they make it look fun and easy!
1. Content Efficiencies
This isn’t super sexy, but it’s about being smart with what you’ve got!
Not all visual content can be used across all digital channels. But where you can, push the efficiencies of the content to make sure you’re squeezing enough awesomeness out of the work you’re doing.
When we send instagrammers out to experience a destination, they publish 3 of 4 images per day in their Instagram account which is great to engage with the Instagrammers’ large audiences interested in travel.
The true value of these guys heading out into region for our team is to also get permission to use their images on our website, to create a visual itinerary on our blog, to use the images within the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse listings as well as across social channels.
It’s about looking for opportunities for longer term amazing content (not just leaving the content as part of a short lived conversation in Instagram).
2. Build Audiences and Engagement with High Quality Visual Content
We post around 4 images per day within Instagram.
The Instagram audience and engagement grows every day as we focus on republishing a variety of destinations and experiences, but we always try to feature high quality images.
We want to make people feel like they are there – sipping on that cocktail at sunset at Hamilton Island or getting into the kayak at the Noosa Everglades.
In Twitter, our 4 image posts receive way more retweets and favourites and really start conversations with our audience than tweets without images.
”” Queensland Australia (@Queensland) December 22, 2014
Our Pinterest channel has a broader range of visual content including infographics, images with blog titles over the image and more portrait images. Pinterest is a great place for us to test variety – but we still aim for high quality visual content.
3. “Always on” vs “the Big Time”
We have a ”˜medicine chart’ that shows our social and digital channels and the frequency and style of content for each channel. This is part of our ”˜always on’ strategy and is delivered every day. We also have a few large projects each year to encourage large growth of content, engagement and / or audiences.
These Instagrammers posted from sunrise to sunset and through the evening for star trails Instameets. There were many good things that came out of this ”˜big time’ event. We had over 8,000 images tagged with #thisisqueensland which built a huge content bank for us and our regional tourism partners to republish.
We increased the awareness of @queensland and #thisisqueensland with a raft of new locals and visitors and we also further cemented relationships with our keen Instagrammers around the state. We also invited large Instagrammers from Australia and the world to attend and host some of the Instameets which increased the reach of the Queensland content. The content efficiencies from this big time project are still happening 4 months on!
The instameet was a great way to highlight the awesomeness of the Instagram channel, but it also demonstrated the power of the community and how much they love taking photos. It’s important to thank everyone for playing their part in the world record attempt which we did with Instameet photo books for our hosts and lots of surprising and delighting on the day as well.
BEHIND THE ILLUSION: Tourism and Events Queensland may look like they are using magic to create amazing content in a seamless way but here’s an insider tip from Sos about what makes it work, in a team environment: “
It gets tricky to be efficient when you have different team members running different social channels and creating website or blog content or writing the enewsletter, but our content team communicates and brain storms regularly around content efficiencies which is super important to making the most of each content opportunity”.
#3 Sue B Zimmerman, The Instagram Expert
Sue B. Zimmerman is the founder of the online Instagram course Insta-Resultsâ„¢, the author of Instagram Basics for your Business, a CreativeLive instructor, a speaker and business coach. She teaches entrepreneurs, business execs, and marketing professionals how to leverage the power of Instagram for real business results.
The reason why I asked Sue to contribute to this post is because she has focused a lot of time and effort on building a small team to handle her visual content (mainly on Instagram but also on other platforms). I wanted her to share how the dynamics of her visual content strategy works;
1. Optimize Your Graphics as a Team
When it comes to blog graphics, web graphics, or product graphics we always have each person on the team approve it to optimize.
2. Start in Advance
Start in advance! Don’t wait until the day you publish something. Allow yourself enough visual content “creation space” and plan ahead. Creativity takes time!
2. Use Dropbox
Put everything in Dropbox. Keep a folder just for graphics and images as well as a stock of fresh professional photos. One great photoshoot with a lot of variety goes a long way.
BEHIND THE ILLUSION: Sue B Zimmerman is everywhere on Instagram, with multiple accounts, but it isn’t random. She uses a lot of tools, strategies and “tricks” within her team to be putting out quality content, consistently, while making time to respond and engage. She keeps a copy of her most used hashtags in groups on her phone for easy copy-and-paste into Instagram. Then she can copy and paste them into her posts to save time.
Sue B’s team is always on the lookout for content and they repurpose content as much as possible, ie “Everything is an image”.For example when I did a skype interview with Sue, she took a screenshot of our videocam and posted it on Instagram. Sue. B will also tag her team into images on Instagram to highlight them for sharing or tagging or to check out a profile. Clear procedures within their team keeps Sue B. freed up to do what she does best – Engaging on Instagram.
#4 Caz & Craig Makepeace, Y Travel Blog
Caz and Craig Makepeace are the co-founders of travel blog YTravelBlog. Voted as one of the Top 5 Travel Blogs in Australia by Virgin and the No 2 Travel Blog by USA. Today, in 2014 they have a huge following across many social platforms as well as their blog.
They have also built one of the largest Pinterest followings in the world (over 4 million followers) so when Caz gives advice on Pinterest… listen.
“Pinterest is our biggest community and a huge driver of traffic to our site. We focus a lot of time on creating the right visual images” Caz Makepeace
1. Optimize Your Images
2. Use Text Overlays
3. Check Your Stats
#5 Azure Collier, Constant Contact
Azure manages Constant Contact’s Pinterest and Instagram channels and is part of a larger team that creates and manages social media content for all of Constant Contact’s platforms.
I often use Constant Contact’s content as an example in training and presentations, as their posts (across all platforms) are a great example of a creative and integrated visual content strategy. Azure shared her top 3 visual content strategy tips for Pinterest and Instagram:
1. Create Branding Guidelines.
The branded images for Instagram that I create are inspired by our blog posts and content from our website. We have a “one to many” approach.
You can share a blog post on multiple platforms, but also break out pieces of information and create images from them to promote your posts. I share lots of facts, stats, tips and quotes.
2. Use Visual Content to Show the People Behind Your Business
Use visual content to provide followers with a look at the daily activities and people behind your business. We share lots of photos that show off our hard work and expertise, but also give you a look at what happens behind the scenes at Constant Contact. These images come from a few different sources.
I try to keep tabs on what’s happening in the building, from events to holiday decorations to interesting things I see in workspaces or conference rooms. I use employee-generated content as well.
When one of my co-workers won a selfie stick at our department’s holiday party, he used it to take a photo of our entire team, and I immediately thought, “I need to use that for Instagram!”
I follow a lot of Constant Contact employees on Twitter and Instagram, and they’re always sharing photos of life at Constant Contact. We use the hashtag #CTCTLife, and I have a search stream set up in Hootsuite to look for tweets with that hashtag.
Our HR team does a great job sharing behind the scenes images, and our Regional Development Directors across the US, Canada and the UK post a lot of photos of the work they’re doing. We have a few folks in-house who regularly take photos at our big events and celebrations.
Our Life at Constant Contact Pinterest board has more than 500 pins of these employee-generated photos of our activities, our conferences and seminars, community outreach and scenes from our offices in the United States and the UK.
With Instagram, I post a few behind-the-scenes photos each week and a Throwback Thursday photo from an archive that goes back to 2006. Last year we started a weekly feature called #FailFriday, where employees and other marketing experts share their mistakes to help you learn what not to do with your digital marketing.
It’s a fun way of saying, “We used to be newbies! But you can improve from your mistakes.” The employees write their fails on a chalkboard and I take a photo of them holding the board.
3. Use Tools to Make Creation and Posting Easier
The 3 tools I use the most to create images are Photoshop, PicMonkey and Instagram. I have templates set up in Photoshop for Pinterest and Instagram image with our brand colors, logos, icons and fonts. .
5 Hot Tips for Using Visual Content Creation Tools from Azure Collier
1 I have templates set up in Photoshop for Pinterest and Instagram images with our brand colors, logos, icons and fonts. The templates make it easy to create branded images for Pinterest and Instagram
4 I use Tailwind for Pinterest scheduling and posting. It’s a great platform with lots of helpful features. You can schedule pins to post whenever you like, and you can set up regular time slots and days to post, and just add pins to whatever the next open time slot is. And you can go into your posting schedule to rearrange your scheduled pins if you want to reschedule certain content for different times and days. You have the option to save pins in a draft mode as a way to bookmark content, and then schedule it later.
5 I also use the Dropbox app to transfer images between my desktop and iPhone. Sometimes I’ll see a great photo from an employee in the Instagram stream, and I’ll use the Repost app to post it on our feed.
BEHIND THE ILLUSION: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency, Surprise. The thing that strikes me about Constant Contact is they are consistent (with an element of surprise thrown in for good measure).
Just like Azure’s 3 tips, they are consistent with their branding, they regularly invite us behind the scenes with their team (who, incidentally, seem to always be having fun) and they have mastered the art of using tools to make it all look so easy.
If you look at any of the Constant Contact social media accounts you can tell straight away that “it’s Constant Contact”. The consistency, style and FUN of their visual content speaks more loudly than any words can for their brand.
#6 Kristin Ammerman, Social Media Image Designer
Kristin is a freelance social media and project manager who specialises in creating visual content. She is also a contributor to Social Media Examiner and chances are, some of the visuals you see on their social platforms were contributed to by Kristin.
Kristin is savvy and creative and I wanted to get her “take” on social media strategy. Kirsten has been creating, sharing and promoting visual content for major brands across a number of social media sites, including Facebook and Pinterest for a couple of years now. She didn’t disappoint!
1. Keep It Simple.
Many of my clients want to be on every social platform. I refer back to their target market and business goals to come up with the best two social platforms for their needs.
2. Create a Publishing Schedule
Don’t wing it
- Use a calendar that everyone on the team can see. Have this planned out up to 3 months in advance.
- Look ahead at the calendar and see how you can tie in seasons and holidays
- Always have a day between when you create a blog post and when you post it, at a minimum
- And ideally, you’ll be working on your newsletters several days before they are sent out to your followers.
Great Tip via Marcus Sheridan: Pay attention to questions people are asking you and start creating posts based on those questions.
3. Don’t Be Boring
Don’t Be Boring: as said by Melissa Barnes in her keynote at BlogHer14. It’s so obvious, but is often at odds with traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. This means respecting your client branding, but keep it fresh; easier said than done.
People are on social to see videos of cats or touch base with their friends. They don’t come to visit social websites to see you. So to compete, your mindset must be set accordingly and always employ one of the following three elements: Educational, Inspirational and Entertaining.
For example, the hamster video executives balked at, but then after seeing their 2 million views they saw the value in humor for social.
And don’t forget traditional television spots have been rocking attention grabbing techniques for decades, like this Lowe’s commercial.
Twelve Points Wealth Management is entering their first foray into integrating articles with images. This financial firm, could’ve be the ultimate dull example. However they decided to allow play on words, instagram-inspired filters, and utilize interesting photos.
An image of someone about to start a race gets our hearts beating faster, too. This reaction is superior to the reaction a viewer would get to an image of a person staring at their computer screen. Even a traditional financial firm can share educational content on social and not get yawns. BEHIND THE ILLUSION:
“Make it Simple but Significant” – Don Draper.
What Kirsten said about simplicity is too true. So many brands want to be everywhere and end up spinning their wheels. By focusing on the minimum effective dose on any platform, you can get results without the overwhelm. Then, when you are getting those results, move on from there.
#7 Scott Ayres, Author and “Ambassador of Awesome” at Post Planner.
Scott Ayres is the co-author of Facebook All-In-One for Dummies and “Ambassador of Awesome” at Post Planner. Scott became addicted to social media before even MySpace (the first time around!). He’s been married for over 20 years and has 3 kiddos who are his world!
If you have read any of Post Planner’s engaging articles over the past 1-2 years you would no doubt have come across Scott. He has been an integral part of Post Planner growing exponentially through content marketing from 9,000 unique visitors a month to their website to 480,000 unique visitors just a year later – and winning a spot in the Top 10 Social Media Blogs by Social Media Examiner in 2014.
Because Post Planner specialise in helping us find and share visual content that has already been proven to attract high engagement. I love their Viral Photos Tool, and I wanted to get Scott’s take on visual content strategy.
Facebook — We 100% use the Viral Photos tool inside the Post Planner app to find photos to post to our page of course! By posting photos already proven to have high engagement on other pages we consistently have a weekly Reach of over 7 million, from our page of 100k Likes!
Instagram — We use a combination of repurposing photos that performed well on our Facebook page along with original graphics that contain quotes or lead users to our blog posts. From time to time our staff will also post pictures of what’s going on in their world around the globe. As a distributed team that can be quite interesting at time with people in the US, UK, Europe and Asia!
Pinterest — We just hopped onto the Pinterest bandwagon recently and our team is creating unique images that coincide with our blog posts and pinning them exclusively to Pinterest. Most of these images have the look and feel of an infographic, which catches the attention of users due to the size.
BEHIND THE ILLUSION:A master uses his own tools. The team at Post Planner have used their own creation, Post Planner, an important component of which is their Viral Photos Tool, to cut the mystery out of working out what visual content will get shared the most. It’s a proven formula that has seen them get phenomenal results. If you want to see how to drive traffic with visual content, sit back and watch Post Planner across the main social networks.
#8 Rebekah Radice, Digital & Social Media Strategist
Rebekah is the founder of Rebekah Radice, LLC and a founding partner of Imagine WOW; digital marketing agencies committed to helping business professionals align strategy and intention for breakthrough social media results.
There is a reason why Rebekah was listed as one of the Top Ten Content Marketers of 2014 and recently one of the Top 10 Social Media Blogs by Social Media Examiner. I asked Rebekah to contribute to this post as she has an amazing ability to integrate social media platforms (especially visual content) and make it look effortless. She is an illusionist, for sure!
1. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Rather than create multiple versions of one image, create one image that works on multiple platforms. I create an image that’s the perfect size for Google Plus and Pinterest and then an image that works on Facebook and Instagram. I have found that portrait images perform well on Google Plus and Pinterest.
My perfect size is 735 x 1200 pixels, but I do test this frequently. Many of my top performing pins such as the one below, are 600 x 900 pixels. Don’t be afraid to try various sizes and combine them across your social channels. It can save time and brain cells as you attempt to keep up with graphic creation.
2. Make Your Blog Article Tweetable
As a blogger, I’m always looking for inventive ways to increase social shares. As Dan Zarrella has noted, “tweets with images are 94% more likely to get retweeted.” That’s a powerful stat for anyone looking to improve engagement.
To make your article tweetable, create an image that is perfectly sized for Twitter. The featured image on each of my blog posts is created with this in mind. The Twitter preview size is 440 x 220 (a 2:1 ratio), but I’ve found that an image size of 1024 x 768 pixels works well within the feed and as my featured image.
In order to position the text for Twitter in-stream preview, make sure you use this formula from Laura Roeder: “Divide the width of your image in half to find the 2:1 ratio and the number of vertical pixels you have to work with. Now divide the in-stream preview height in half.
Using the same example as above, you would divide 1024 in half to get 512.From the horizontal line in the center of your image (the Y axis), move up that number of pixels (e.g., 512) on the Y-axis and draw another horizontal line. Do the same thing again, but moving down the Y-axis from the center of the image.Everything inside that blue box is the in-stream preview. The blue box aligns with Twitter’s 2:1 template and is centered vertically to keep the best part of your picture visible.”
Here’s what my image looks like in the feed when opened:
And here is what it looks like in preview-mode on the Twitter feed – the position of the text is perfectly place to show when the image size is reduced:
3. Make Your Own Quoteables
Position yourself as an industry leader by sharing your thoughts and quotes. One easy way to do this is with the “Save Publishing” Chrome extension. Here’s how to use this as a blogger: Add the extension to Chrome, navigate to your latest post and click on “Save Publishing.”
Save Publishing will magically highlight quotable text. This text is highlighted in red and clickable. Copy and paste this text and add it to an image using a tool like Quotes Cover. Voila – you now have a series of quotes to add to your social channels!
BEHIND THE ILLUSION:
It ain’t smoke and mirrors. If you want to see how to have an effective visual content strategy just watch Rebekah across Google+, Pinterest , Twitter and Facebook. She is the master of integration across multiple platforms to make it look seamless and if you look closely at her blog posts you will see that she repurposes like a champion – from blog posts to slideshare and in her cross linking on posts from one platform to another and back to her blog. Magic!
That’s a LOT of visual content strategy! I knew I could count on these savvy, creative magicians to pull back the curtains and reveal their tricks. Trust me, if you want to have a visual content strategy that works you need to listen these guys!
NOW… go away and start creating some visual content magic of your own!
Check out the Slide Deck!
We wrapped all the best tips up from this post into a super-awesome Slide Deck. Be sure to click through and check out the magic secrets of the visual content experts!
Over to You
Don’t waste this advice. A magician rarely reveals how they create their illusions and these marketers just gave you step-by-step instructions for how to pull of their visual content tricks!
Which strategy or tip are you going to take action on this week? Tell me in the comments below and we can all be accountable to each other!
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