I am sure you have noticed by now the rise in popularity of visual content being shared online. We now have social networks based entirely on images (Pinterest and Instagram) plus many existing platforms are emphasizing photos more than ever (Facebook and Google+ for instance).

As business owners, I encourage you to take advantage of this trend and to use visual content as part of your marketing strategy. However, it is not enough to plop up some great product photos or to Instagram some behind the scenes shots of your work. Like with any marketing strategy, there are some best practices that will help you to make the most of your visual marketing efforts.

1. Branding
Many biz owners will include a watermark on their images, which is a very smart strategy as you don’t want your images to be used by others without your permission or attribution.

But many do not think about the watermark beyond that. This is a great opportunity to build brand recognition and to make an impression with your audience. To truly brand your images consider including: your business name and URL, plus your own name if you yourself are very much a part of your brand. Also, include your logo, your brand colours & fonts, and any other features of your brand. You might even use your brand colours consistently in your photographs themselves!

The key is to come up with a way to brand your images that will be consistent but also allow for flexibility. For instance you may decide to always include a circle with your logo, biz name & URL, in the corner of your images, but you might vary the corner (depending on the photo) and have a colour palate to worth with for variety.

2. Text
Photographs on their own can be very powerful and memorable. But once they draw the attention of your audience, what is it that you want those people to do? Unless you want people to say, “Ooooh nice photo,” and then move on, consider adding text to your photos.

For instance you could have:

  • a bit of teaser information to entice people to keep reading and get more info
  • a call to action to click on a link or contact you or subscribe etc.a helpful tip or
  • a bit of instruction that your audience will find handy
  • something funny or entertaining or inspiring that will resonate with your audience
  • the headline of the corresponding blog post or email newsletter

Text can be the thing that turns your visual content from something pretty to something that gets clicked or shared or pinned or retweeted or commented on. So think about your purpose. What it is you want your image to achieve? Then design your image to suit that purpose!

3. Where to use them
Visual marketing does not have to be something NEW that you add to your business efforts. You are likely already using strategies such as social media, blogging, newsletters, print (flyers, postcards, or business cards), SEO, and more. There is a place for visual content in all of these strategies, and you can let your visual content serve more than one purpose.

So you can take an image of one of your products or services that you would likely just share on Instagram and make it really work for your biz. You can brand it to help create brand recognition and make your image stand out. You can add some text to help engage your audience and help your images serve a purpose. and then you can post the image to your Facebook page along with a link to your site, you can include it in your blog and your email newsletter, you can pin it to Pinterest and tweet it on twitter, and you can even hand out print versions at your next live event.

Visual content can be a great way to spice up your marketing and engage with your customers in new ways. With the free online tools available today it is very easy for business owners to start creating their own branded images that they can use for marketing, promotion, and engagement. The key, as with any marketing strategy, is to have a plan: know what your purpose is, and build your visual content around that.