When looking at blogging as a whole, there is one element that everyone can agree as the most important: the content. Quality, style, topic, timeliness and variety are all part of the process of creating an effective blog. But it also touches on social media and engagement, marketing and even branding.
Content is the single biggest focus for anyone who is trying to launch and expand a site into the mainstream.
This doesn’t just apply to what you write, however. Content can mean a whole spectrum of included work that goes well beyond text. Visual content is a primary example, and has been found to have many different benefits.
A good image has become a key to social media marketing success: Images grab attention in social media feeds. Images go viral.
The problem is, more and more businesses, bloggers and publishers are embracing all sorts of creative visual marketing tactics, so it’s harder and harder to stand out.
Diversifying your visual marketing strategy is the only way to see better results from your content efforts. Furthermore, by diversifying, you are able to cover more marketing channels (like StumbleUpon, Instagram and Tumblr for example) you wouldn’t have content to post to otherwise.
Diversify Your Sources
Are you paying monthly subscription at you good old stock image site? That is getting old: Stock images are boring and widely recognizable. Time to diversify!
Here are just a few newer free image sources you could consider:
- IM Free: Large collection/database of great copyright free images to use on your website. Good thing: The images are unique for this site. Unlike stock collections, you won’t see them anywhere else!
- Imonomy: Huge database of free images, but also a monetization technique, get money from your blog (You can choose to display ads in the image overlay which looks neat!)
- Find 20 more unique visual source here (including free photos, videos and audio files!)
Bonus tip: Adapt Stock Images
This won’t work for all images, as some specify that you can’t make any modifications to the original. But many others listed under Creative Commons or Royalty Free status let you do this freely, so making changes to an original to make it more fitting to your post (make sure you know your limitations though!).
Maybe this is a simple matter of cropping or enhancing colors/tones. Or maybe you would prefer to open up Photoshop and make something totally new. Either way, this is a great alternative to using a standard stock photo that could be seen anywhere. If you are taking images from a paid subscription, be sure to check the usage rules provided by the photographer.
This list of blogging tools has the whole section of image and graphic editing tools: Try all of them!
Bonus tip: Try searching for Creative Commons Comics!
I love using comics in blog posts, because I think they say more than the average photo will. They are also usually entertaining and can bring a chuckle or two from the reader. But I am not an artist, and so making my own comes down to opening up Paint and creating something that is less than impressive.
Luckily, there are cartoonists out there that are thrilled to have you use their work. Here’s a good collection of them.
Big names like geek-comic XKCD and tech heavyweight Bizarre Cathedral are just some of the sites that allow you to use their work. If you happen to be able to make your own comics, even better and congratulations! You are far more talented than I am.
Create Your Own Images
Creating your own images used to be much tougher! Many people still feel that’s too much over their heads.
The truth is, with lots of free tools available online, almost anyone can create awesome images nowadays!
Take Your Own Photos
When you want something unique that perfectly fits the post, the best thing you can do is take your own picture to use. Incredibly, even smart phones can take absolutely breath-taking photos! Here are some tips!
Editing and perfecting your own photos is not tough too! If you need a more hefty photo editing program, and you don’t want to deal with learning Photoshop or GIMP, PicMonkey might be a better alternative. It helps you to edit and create images easily, with tools that are quick to figure out and apply. They even have a huge list of fonts and filters.
Infographics are incredibly popular, especially now that social media marketing is all the rage. Not only do they allow an endless amount of information to be conveyed in a visual and easily understood way, but they are easy to share and more likely to catch the eye than a text based post alone.
You can make your own using an image editing software like Photoshop or GIMP. But it’s not really that easy.
There are quite awesome online image editors. Try Infogr.am or Piktochart. What is great about these is that it lets you make an infographic without having any idea how. Those of us who aren’t so good with image software can really enjoy the added help.
Tip: Create Cheatsheets!
People love bookmarking and sharing handy cheatsheets. Plus, they make awesome print content too!
Yes, your visual strategy doesn’t have to be digital only. By offering free printed materials, you can extend your visual strategy to conferences, meetups, etc. Even if you run a small business, you can easily add that to your marketing plans. Sites like this one offer to handle printing and shipping: All you need is content.
Create Visual Quotes
One great way to make a dynamic image with next to no work is by putting some text over it. This could be a full-image cover with a quote, or just the title of the blog alongside an image that describes it.
This is a great ego-bait tactic too: Visual-quote an influencer from your niche, tag him/her in your social media update and you’ll most probably get a retweet, re-share and a follow!
Use Canva to create awesome visual quotes: Very easy and free! Plus it will store all your templates, so you’ll be able to quickly visual-quote someone else in the future.
What I like about this method is that it says and does so much with so little. Plus, it is very shareable for sites like Pinterest, which gives it an added benefit and use.
User-Generate Visual Content
Another cool way to create great visuals is to get your users create them for you! Think of visual contests you come across daily. You can set up one of your own. It doesn’t have to be huge: Email your customers and run a give-away in exchange of a creative photo which you can use.
Use existing services to help you get more out of the initiative. For example, Gurushots.com helps you run a photography contest. And Tomoson lets you engage Instagram influencers: Find instagrammers who will agree to post their selfie with your product!
With diversifying your visual channels, you are most likely to come across a new problem: How to keep track. Too many channels will drive you crazy unless you find the way to monitor all of them effectively.
I am using Cyfe content marketing to keep an eye on important metrics (How often I post where, how my following is growing, etc) as well as monitor brand mentions. Cyfe supports Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus (as well as Google Plus search), Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and many other social media networks I am publishing to.
It also archives everything it monitors which makes it easy to go back in time and compare my new experiments and the results from previous months.
Images can make a huge difference: Once you start getting creative and looking outside of the box, you’ll suddenly see your content marketing efforts pay off! Use images to:
- Make boring information exciting. Infographics work great for that. But even simple charts can work very well. Look at how SiteGeek is making boring hosting comparison fun by using all sorts of charts!
- Attract attention and entice! Images will make your visitors stay and engage.
- Stand out in Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus feeds. Text is boring: Look at how many visual memes go viral as compared to text updates. Images draw clicks too!
- Cater to more marketing channels. Images open up your business to Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and even Slideshare. Images help you expand your marketing efforts and create new content assets.
Have a tip for creating images for your blog posts? Let us know in the comments!