It’s 2019, and you don’t need to be convinced that content is an essential component of your brand’s digital strategy.
But, what are we
talking about when we talk about “content marketing”?
Often, marketers (and consumers) automatically think of the written work — web copy, blog posts, emails, customer stories and so on — that constitutes a brand’s value proposition, products and services. And while that content is imperative to a brand’s successful digital marketing portfolio, this thought process allows one crucial content component to be reduced to an afterthought: the visuals.
At Stackla, we understand that visuals play an integral role in a brand’s content strategy, and we prioritize the focus on our customers’ visual content through our AI-powered platform. I find that visuals are often the quickest, most compelling component a brand can leverage to increase engagement. In fact, Demand Gen Report’s “2015 Content Preferences Survey,” which surveyed 177 business-to-business buyers, found that 91% of people prefer more visual content that can be accessed on demand.
These days, a world without visuals is impossible to fathom. Marketers know all this, yet they still tend to forget about the visuals when it comes to planning out their content.
I believe brands need to redefine the ways — and the reasons why — they deliver content to consumers. Instead of writing content and then searching for an image that will accentuate the subject matter, marketers need to evolve in their relationship with the visual content they serve. Since visuals are often the most immediately engaging aspect of any piece with written content, they need to become the star of the show.
Marketers’ Visual Content Quandary
Marketers need to shift their perspective from viewing visual content as just another tool for increasing engagement to viewing visuals as vital to their end-to-end customer experience strategy.
In the past, committing to a robust visual strategy has meant a whole lot of time-consuming and expensive work for marketers. In fact, at Stackla, we recently conducted a survey of 1,590 consumers and 150 business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers for the report “Bridging the Gap: Consumer & Marketing Perspectives on Content in the Digital Age.” We found that nearly two-thirds of marketers feel pressure to produce more content, more often.
If marketers don’t have the time to create the content they need, they typically spend huge amounts of money to source visuals from third parties. Our survey found that about one in five B2C marketers spend more than $1 million annually on content, while nearly 70% are spending more than $300,000.
Developed in-house or by a third party, if a brand’s visuals aren’t standing out among the rest, they’re a lost cause — and often, so is the written content that accompanies them, no matter how groundbreaking.
So, how can marketers maintain a focus on visuals while serving content that actually resonates? By putting the emphasis on authentic visuals by leveraging user-generated content (UGC).
A Visual Refocus To UGC
Consumers want content they can trust. In fact, our survey found that 90% of consumers find authenticity to be an important factor when choosing which brands they support, and 58% of consumers agree that UGC is the most authentic content. Nielsen’s research further supports this consumer mindset, as 70% somewhat or completely trust the online opinions of consumers.
It’s clear that real, relatable user-generated visuals are resonating with consumers. If marketers want to make a lasting impact, that’s the content they need to deliver.
From awareness and consideration through purchase and advocacy, user-generated content can be used at every stage of the buyer’s journey to serve consumers the authentic visuals they actually want to see. With the right automation tools, marketers can easily discover, curate, manage and publish the best UGC about their brand across all their customer touch points.
Worried about not finding enough relevant and quality UGC? There are a number of ways brands can encourage customers to create and share more valued visuals, and here are three to start with:
Run A Competition: Competitions are a great way for brands to engage and reward customers while sourcing the types of content they want customers to publish about their brand. Marketers should set specific contest parameters to ensure fans only submit the type of content they’re looking to use. And make sure the barrier to entry is low. Allowing people to post via their preferred social channels will increase participation. Also, creating a unique hashtag or requiring people to @mention their brand in order to be eligible for the prize will help marketers keep track of all the submitted content.
Host An Event: Whether it’s online or in person, hosting an event is another great way marketers can encourage audiences to create more UGC, while also giving their brand more control over the environment in which that content is being created. Again, having an identifiable hashtag or branded @mention in the posts is the key to finding the content and spreading brand awareness.
Tap Into Existing Advocates: Existing loyal customers are content creators just waiting to be called upon. Marketers can re-energize this group of brand loyalists by acknowledging them and simply asking them to share their experiences. Tapping into organic advocate programs and loyalty rewards will open the door for a steady stream of organic visuals created by brands’ happiest customers — content that marketers can leverage across their webpages, social channels, ads, emails and more in real time.
Start Treating Visuals Like The Critical Assets They Are
Don’t let content marketing become a one-track strategy. Redefine your content marketing to emphasize the role of the most influential content: the visuals. Instead of overspending time and budget on creating and sourcing visuals, brands should capitalize on the genuine UGC that customers are already creating and craving, and leverage that impactful content across their channels.
By letting your customers’ authentic visuals tell your story, your brand can build a trustworthy content experience that influences consumers on the road to purchase. So, when we talk about content marketing, let’s make sure we’re talking about the full content gamut, visuals and all.