Are you feeling paralyzed by the change in pace of visual marketing? You are not alone. With billions of images shared daily, the struggle to keep up is real.
Similar to the endless stream of Guinness pints poured on St. Patrick’s Day (13M are consumed around the world), consumers today are immersed in a very visual web.
Marketers are under more pressure than ever to create content that engages their brand audience and has them standing out amidst social media feeds. It is not surprising that modern marketers are feeling overwhelmed when you consider the following:
- a staggering 49% are spending over a quarter of their day on their visual assets
- 71% say they’re under pressure to create 10 times more content to support all of the different channels
- lack of budget ranks among an organization’s top 5 content marketing challenges
In order to help, we will cover some time-saving, free visual content tools and tactics.
Visuals Are a Requirement and Images Convert
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The way people are consuming content is radically changing. Consumers are in a continuous state of discovery, engagement and shopping, with endless opportunities to connect with brands.
Marketing is now dependent on visual assets. Visual content increases message association, brand awareness and engagement. 500M people are watching Facebook videos every day and content with an image receives 94% more views. If those stats alone don’t convince you, consider this infographic by WebDAM packed full of visual data, explaining how humans are changing, and what marketers can do to keep pace.
Before choosing an image, it is crucial that businesses clarify their visual content goals and how they relate to their overall content marketing strategy. Ensure that whether you are using the image on your site, blog or social media post, that it aligns with your goals and that is has an illustrative and contextual purpose.
The ability to create the right visuals comes from your target audience insights.
Time-Saving and Free Visual Content Tools and Tips
INSPIRATION & CURATION
On top of the desire for constant fresh content, the expectations for quality content are higher than ever. It only makes sense to look to other innovative brands, competitors, fans and creative communities to get inspired by trending content rather than always thinking up new ideas independently.
Creative Professional Communities
You can visit sites like Behance and graphicriver (under the Envato Market Community) to discover creative work and follow design portfolios that catch your eye. You won’t run out of inspiration with over 9 million digital products created by Envato’s global community that lets you finish your project faster with everything from website templates to stock footage. They even offer freebies of the month!
Fiverr might not offer the same complexity of project inspiration but it has a free sign-up, offers over 3 million services and has a trending collections section. With projects starting at $5, you may want to consider outsourcing some simple visual asset creations to free up some time.
Industry Tool Resources
If you are using a social media scheduling platform, be sure to familiarize yourself with all its features and available extensions. For example, Post Planner has a “Find” feature that allows you to add a Facebook pages, keywords, hashtags or @handles for quick discovery and curation. In addition, it has a star ranking system to help you pinpoint top performing content.
Shutterstock released a 2016 Creative Trends site to showcase the data behind each of the year’s top image, video and music trends.
Canva’s Design School has a large library of inspirational design blog posts as well as short tutorials to fast-track your ability to create amazing designs.
Social Media Profiles and Websites
Turn to social media profiles you follow and blogs you subscribe to for inspiration. Creating Facebook interest likes or focused Twitter lists can be a great quick resource. Discovery platforms such as Pinterest will generate ample ideas for specific keyword search terms. You could also set-up a secret board to gather ideas that can be viewed only by your team (or shared through a link) but the pins won’t show up anywhere else on Pinterest.
Find and categorize websites that offer great inspiration with free tools such as Feedly which is a news aggregator application. Additionally, you can use a cross-platform app like Evernote (Google Docs and Dropbox are comparable tools) to digitally file ideas and inspiration as you discover them.
The app also supports IFTTT (If This Then That) which gives you the ability for additional automation, allowing you to automatically send content from other services such as Gmail to your Evernote account.
An additional time-saving tip is to learn if tools have keyboard shortcuts. The list below are those supported by Feedly.
Promote your audience’s voice and get your community to market for you. With 92% of consumers saying they trust earned media above all other forms of advertising, user-generated content will generate credibility and gain more social sharing. It can also be one of the best sources to uncover consumer insights and discover what visual content resonates best with your audience.
A good example, is images shared on social media of Chicago’s green river, a St. Patrick’s Day tradition that has endured six decades.
Re-sharing content from these sources or modifying ideas to make them your own, can save you a ton of time in the long run.
For most content marketers, creating and finding quality visuals is the hardest part of the process. Professional/commissioned photography and original graphic design are ideal. These types of visual assets perform the best and advocate brand consistency but are not feasible for some small to mid sized businesses.
One of the most widely-used visuals that won’t deplete marketing budgets is stock photography. Although it has been listed as the worst-performing visual type, there are ample free image websites that offer a selection of quality photos. They are far removed from the traditional awkward “posed” models and are sure to engage your target audience.
Free Image Sites
One that never disappoints is Unsplash with its endless stream of works of art. They are unmatched in quality with no attribution required and no stipulations on where you can use it. Although their search feature is somewhat limited they have other compelling, time-saving options such as the ability to “like” a photo which is then saved to your profile. In addition, they have recently opened up the capability to create collections allowing the user to group similar images or topics together.
Additional time-saving tips
Finding free images can sometimes be daunting so consider these tips and additional quality image sites that could save you some valuable time:
- Subscribe to sites (such as Unsplash, StockSnap.io, Stokpic) that offer regular delivery of hi-res photos to your inbox
- The most popular photos will typically appear at the top of the feed. Consult the popularity index if there is one and consider limiting your search to new photos if the option is available. Using images recognized by consumers can damage the reputation of your business and limits your ability to capture their attention.
- Use sites with a strong search engine such as Pixabay
- The site’s UI and how many images are displayed on a given screen. Endless scrolling can be a nice feature but not if you have to start from the top once you have selected an image and return to the main screen.
- Download the best possible quality image if options exist, to give you the flexibility of repurposing the image (for example you could zoom in and crop a section to make the image look unique)
- Sites such as Pexels and Visual Hunt use best practices (see SEO section for details) when naming their files which will save you time when uploading images for your visual marketing needs
- Be sure to review the site’s licensing and attribution requirements to know how the image can be used.
Consistently promoting engaging visual content that will resonate best with your audience is no easy task and can be very time consuming. Marketers can leverage the tips and free tools shared to help regain some control and precious time.
The Irish blessing said it best:
“may your pockets be heavy and your heart be light”
Jennifer DalCin, Visual Content Marketing Manager, InnovaMap
InnovaMap – we use the science of content marketing to connect you with your target audience.
Contact us to learn more on how to start integrating techniques for engaging the brain into all your marketing strategies.