Creating Custom Visuals: Why and How

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If you’re looking for a reason to use more visual content in your digital marketing strategy, we have some motivating statistics to share. We also have some tools, resources, and advice for doing it well– even if your only graphic design experience involves making these works of fine art. (Who doesn’t love to scribble and fill?)

We are living in a visual world

Marketers and advertisers have used print ads, billboards, commercials, and even the broad sides of buses to get brands recognized. People are bombarded with commercial imagery everywhere they go. But with the rise of social media, there are now an infinite number of ways to be seen. 

When you’re marketing a business on the Internet— and on social media in particular— visual content has never been more important.We all know that we have about a half second to capture the social butterfly’s attention as they scroll through their feeds, and using visuals has proven to be our best bet. Research suggests people will only remember 20 percent of what they read, but 80 percent of what they see.

Images help us tell stories in a succinct and highly-shareable way. A photo, cartoon or typographical quote can evoke an emotional or even visceral reaction– one that could inspire someone to share that image with their friends or become your newest customer.  

Why should you jump on this bandwagon?

The theory that quality, compelling visuals improve digital marketing has been tested again and again by countless professionals.

Here come the statistics…Here are two brands that are nailing it:

Nike’s Instagram account is an endless trove of artsy, energetic, empowering graphics, often including our favorite sponsored athletes. The visuals are helping to sell sneakers and sports bras by the millions, but their primary objective is to simply inspire and motivate followers, thus enhancing Nike’s position as basically everyone-and-their-grandma’s first choice for athletic wear. How can you do the same? Rebekah Radice of Social Media Examiner says, “Celebrate your fans by creating content that speaks to them.”

Save her blog post for later: Five Ways Brands Use Visual Content for Maximum Impact

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I could never do what Nike does. I’m running a small business.”  But, you don’t have to be a mega-brand mastermind or a prize-winning photographer to create eye-catching visuals that your followers will love.

Portland Juice Company, for example, consistently creates beautiful images for its Facebook page. In addition to featuring their colorful fresh-pressed juices, the visuals also often include their smiling customers.Each photo (which was more than likely taken with a smartphone) is clean and refreshing with a soft filter that appeals to the company’s target market. They’ve also used the same fonts when adding text, which unifies their branding.

As a result of their visually appealing campaigns, Portland Juice Company’s Facebook page has more than 10,000 likes, 130 reviews, and a respectable amount of follower engagement.

And if they can do it, you can too!

Here are the tools to make it happen

Canva

This browser-based creative suite has practically everything you need design visually compelling graphics. It offers a ton of free elements like backgrounds, icons, and fancy text templates. You can also upload your own files, which is perfect for when you want to include your own photos or logo. Start a new project with the ideal social media dimensions pre-set (more on that later), or choose your own. They make it super easy!

Skitch

This screen capture and annotation app from Evernote is great for creating the type of visuals you might want to use in blog posts, technical how-to’s, and presentations. Just take a quick snapshot of what’s on your screen, then crop, resize, and paint until you have just the visual you need. The blur tool is particularly useful for protecting privacy when sharing snippets of correspondence.

Easel.ly and Piktochart

Both of these websites offer the design elements you need to create impressive, professional-looking infographics. They have all the graphs, charts, and maps necessary to convey statistics and other info visually— the way approximately 65% of people learn.

Iconfinder

Can’t find the perfect icon on Canva? Not to worry! Iconfinder has thousands of icons that you can download and use for free.

Place it

Place it is one of the slickest resources for branded imagery out there. They’ll place your logo or website into stock images of smartphones, tablets, laptops and other devices. All you have to do is provide a URL and voila…

What Kind of graphics should I create?

Now comes the hard part. You’ve got all your tools locked and loaded, but you’re staring at a blank square not knowing where to start.

Here’s my advice: Figure out what message you want to send or what you’d like people to do when they see it first, and work backwards. Will this be supplementing a social post or a blog? What design elements do you need to get your point across? Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to put something on the page. You can always delete, rearrange, change direction, or start over– just get started! And trust me, you’ll get better at it.

Here are some other tips:

Be consistent. If you use the same font, filter, or subject in all your visuals, people will recognize them (and you) right away, which is one of the primary objectives of using visuals. It’s a good idea to use colors and themes that are similar to your website, that is, if you like the look of your website. If not, that’s a whole other conversation we can have 😉

Size it right. There are ideal graphic dimensions for each social network. So if you’re creating a new facebook cover image, make sure it’s 851 x 315 pixels.

Further reading: The Mega Guide to Ideal Image Sizes for Social Media (Buffer)

Take credit. Consider discreetly placing your logo or URL in there somewhere so that when your visuals go viral people won’t forget where they originated.

I sincerely hope that this post has inspired you to start making custom visuals for your digital content. It is guaranteed to increase the shareability and reach of your blogs and social posts. But, it’s also likely to re-awaken your creativity with regards to your brand and your business, opening new ways to express your passion for what you do.

Still unsure about the purpose of visual content? Get in touch with us about your digital marketing strategy. We’ll be glad to help. 


References:

http://www.slideshare.net/citrix/citrix-mobileusage

https://blog.bufferapp.com/a-complete-guide-to-creating-awesome-visual-content

https://www.marketingtechblog.com/visual-content-social-media/

http://www.adeliestudios.com/top-15-video-marketing-statistics-2015/

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