9 Forms of Visual Content You Need to Know About

April 18, 2013

visual content

Social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest are hungry for visual content. Many of these platforms have been designed to highlight graphics, and with the opportunity to share insights, information, or even a laugh, it’s time that all brands recognize the power these pieces can have.

To help bring inspiration to brands large and small, we’ve created a list of the 9 most popular types of visual content we see online today. Take a stab at any or all of these to see if you can increase your engagement and reach. You might have a little bit of fun, too.

1. The Quote

Good content has a human element to it, and nothing is more human than a direct quote. Whether it’s a statement from your CEO or an inspirational leader from the past, visuals featuring quotes are easy to consume and relate to. Marketo inspires with their graphics, cleverly categorized as Moments of Marketing Genius. We could say the same for their series.


2. The Current Event

Newsworthy topics often present great opportunities for brands to create content. While many may write blog posts with their take, a simple graphic can allow users to share theirs quickly on the fly. Oreo, a brand that is known for their visual appeal and social savvy, nailed it again for March Madness with a simple graphic featuring colored cookies to represent Michigan and Louisville.


3. The Stat

The main idea of a news article can usually be summed up in one sentence. Use this frame of mind when thinking about quick pieces of data relevant to your audience that you can share. Sprout Social does a great job curating information from the web that they can then transform into visual content. Often, one piece of research can lead to multiple posts.


4. The Hybrid

A picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes, a simple photo can help make a point that in text alone might not be as impactful. UNICEF, an organization that often uses photos to move their audience, employs a combination of photos and text to highlight causes and research that they’ve conducted on a variety of issues. It’s graphics like these that are hard not to notice in your feed.


5. The Question

Conversation can be contagious. Encourage customers to share their story or thoughts by simply asking them. Hubspot shares conversation starters often, creating a platform for those in the industry to exchange and absorb opinions.


6. The Celebration

As we like to say, the bigger the party, the better. This is definitely true online when organizations let their customers join them virtually in celebrating milestones. Blue Compass Interactive is well known for their employee cartoons. When one of their employees celebrated her engagement, they took the opportunity to expand that celebration.

blue compass

7. The Plug

Not every piece of content lies on social media, therefore, driving eyes or ears to other pieces of content is important. Use social media images to let your audience know what they will get, where they can find, and how they can interact with additional content. Game of Thrones continually shares graphics with their viewers to remind them of air time and the hashtag to use for conversation. Based on the share count, it’s safe to say these work.

game of thrones

8. The Rally

Images can also be used as you would buttons for a political campaign or posters for an event. When working on causes and campaigns, getting your message out takes as many supporters as possible sharing the same idea. Social sharing makes this easier. Scouts for Equality encourages their fans to share their images to show their support for the upcoming Boy Scouts of America vote.

scouts for equality

9. The Meme

If your brand personality includes humor, visual content can be a great way to showcase your wit. Consider creating an image based on a popular internet meme, or if you’re adventurous, have a go at creating your own. In order to bring attention to upcoming series return, Arrested Development created several humorous images for their biggest fans, reminding them of favorite scenes while drawing engagement and shares from users anticipating the show’s Netflix-only launch.

arrested development

As with all marketing endeavors, some ideas may get more traction than others. Still, we suggest giving various forms of visual content a try and iterate when things don’t work. Remember, while some people may not click right away, the payoff may still be there as there is more front-end engagement and long-term awareness being built.

Using top brands like those above as examples, you can put together a strategy that includes more visual content as part of your social media marketing mix. As always, consider your business objectives when deciding which type of content to create. Are your fans connected to you to learn or are they there for enjoyment? What type of content would fit best with your overall marketing strategy?

What other brands creating compelling visual content? What do you like most about the images they share?

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts on creating content for your brand. Subsequent posts will focus on showing company culture, using video, and driving engagement with contests and giveaways.

Photo via Flickr user Underscore Design
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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.