As the internet and technology take on bigger roles in our lives, what people love to read, watch, share and promote changes. People have far less time and are expecting, or should we say demanding, more visual ways of digesting information and sharing it online, mostly in the form of social media.
Images and video are dominating Facebook and Pinterest, and that is probably no surprise. But places like Twitter, which were once a “text only” place to hang out, are now a visual-loving platform where you share your latest and greatest visuals too.
So it’s about time we all adapted to the visual world that is racing ahead of us and learned to thrive instead of withering away in a sea of text!
So here we go…
1. Develop a visual brand
The first step to becoming a visual superstar online is to develop your own unique brand.
I know what you are thinking. Branding is only for the big guns.
But it doesn’t have to be hard. All you really need to do is pick a couple of colors and fonts that you can call your own, and use them relentlessly. Soon enough, your style will become known and easily recognizable just like the Coke font is today.
That is what you want too.
2. Create a unique logo
The final step on your visual branding journey is the logo. It should use the same colors you have chosen for your brand, but may not use the font. Do keep it along the same lines though. The overall style should be consistent with your brand and the image you want to put across.
Hiring a graphic artist, or even paying someone online, can certainly bring your logo to the next level, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated or expensive. Even a simple color, font and shape combination can stand out.
Take a look at a company like Fed Ex. You would recognize their logo anywhere, right? And see how simple it is!
3. Use unique images (even free ones)
People often think that having amazing images on your website means paying a fortune for stock photography. The opposite is actually true. Stock photography is so commonly used today, that many people are actually sick and tired of the “same old, same old” when it comes to images online.
So instead of doing what the majority are doing, there are two simple options available to you:
1. Take your own photos. Whether that is simply with your iPhone, or using your amazing digital SLR camera. So if you like shooting photos, why not use them on your website.
2. Use freely available images online, like the ones using the Creative Commons licenses (you can read more about the licensing in this post). There are so many sources of free images online that you will never run out of choice (this post has a collection of over 100 sources to keep you busy).
4. Find out what works in your niche
There is no hard and fast rules as to what kinds of visuals you should use in your niche or industry. Every niche is different, and the expectations of the audiences vary quite a lot .
So rather than experimenting yourself, at least to start of with, I recommend taking a look at what experts are doing in your field. Follow them on social media, pop over to their blog. See what kinds of visuals are working for them.
This is especially obvious on networks like Pinterest where visuals make or break things. But it actually applies everywhere. So keep your eyes open.
5. Use awesome tools to create your visuals
We aren’t all Picasso that’s for sure! But don’t let that stop you from creating stunning visuals. In the last few years there have been a few amazing online tools created that can make your visuals oh so easy.
The main one I constantly recommend is Canva, which makes creating visuals a piece of cake. But if you prefer to get your hands dirty and really play with your images, fonts, and colors, then you could also try something like PicMonkey or Pixlr.
6. Always include visuals in your blog posts
One of the keys to becoming a “visual stand-out” in your niche is to use your visual branding everywhere. And one location, that is absolutely crucial, is on all of your content on your website.
So instead of having a completely text heavy blog post, you should at the very least have a header image that speaks to your brand. That means imagery that suits your style and includes your fonts and colors too (take another look at Peg’s site from point 1. above).
You can find even more examples on this great post from the Branded Solopreneur. (Yes, she happens to mention both Peg and myself in that post).
7. Optimize the size And shape of your visuals
Depending on where you intend on sharing your amazing new visuals, you have to be aware of the size and shape you will need. Why? Because you don’t want your images to be wide/landscape format when you are sharing on Pinterest, and the opposite is true of Twitter.
But rather than guess when it comes to social media, you can bookmark this guide from Sprout Social, where they always keep up to date with the latest sizes.
And what about your blog posts? Well I suggest using your main social media channels as a driver. What do I mean? Well if you share most on Pinterest, use a longer image. And if you share more on Twitter, a wider one. Just take the size from the guide I mentioned above and use that consistently on your posts.
That way you will always kill two visuals with one stone!
8. Share your visuals directly on social media
If you are only sharing text on Twitter right now, or leaving the default image loaded on Google+ when you share, it is time to change your sharing habits.
Sometimes images will come across ok to a social media network like with Facebook or LinkedIn. But more often than not, you are missing out on better visibility by not sharing your visuals directly when creating your social media post.
So if you are looking to dominate a certain social channel, increase your following or just stand out: upload your blog post image directly and get the visual impact you dserve.
9. Adapt your visuals approach to each social network
Although size and shape play a big part in winning over your social media audiences, they also expect different content on each network as well. What works on Twitter might not go down so well on Instagram, so you need to adapt your visuals to each network and audience as well.
For example, where Facebook is a network dominated by fun and sharing between friends, LinkedIn is a more professional network altogether. So don’t use a cookie-cutter approach to sharing.
10. Make social media sharing easy with visual tools
The social media tool creators of today are also starting to wake up to the visual revolution that is taking place online. And that means an easier life for us all.
There are visually focused tools for all sorts of social media networks and levels, like:
- ViralTag is a simple sharing and scheduling tool
- Tailwind is great for just Pinterest
- MavSocial is a full social media marketing suit with a media repository built in
Which kind of tool you need I cannot say, but you should definitely be on the lookout for tools like this that will make your visually focused social media easier.
11. Learn and adapt with analytics
Taking the ideas of tools to the next level, you also need to keep an eye on what is working and what is not.
Of course you can just watch you social media channels and guess. But I recommend you can use some form of analytics.
Depending on what tools you are using there might already be analytics in place. But if there is not, find the top tools being used by people on your favorite social network to determine what is being shared the most, when, with whom and much more.
Knowing these things can help you improve, and make decisions for the next steps with your visuals or your brand as a whole.
12. Use your new found visual identity offline too
I am always talking about online marketing and how best to get found and noticed with visuals. However, we should not forget that the offline world is still extremely important and useful in our crusade for visual dominance.
So also make sure that you are using your new found visual power (fonts, colors, logos etc) on all your offline material as well, to help you create a complete package and get noticed everywhere you go.