We all know that visual content is a big deal on the web today. It is clearly expressed on social media platforms, plastered on blogs and online articles, and dappled throughout websites. From images, videos and animation to presentations, infographics and charts, visual content has become a huge component of online marketing.
An Effective Marketing Tool
What makes visual content such a powerful marketing tool? Part of it has to do with what goes on inside our noggins when we process visual information. When we take a look at an image, our brains decipher all of its visual elements simultaneously and store them directly into our long-term memory. How amazing is that? We can instantly interpret and remember what we see. Compare that to how we process text and it becomes clear why imagery has the upper hand in delivering a quick and effective message.
As we read text, we process it in a sequential manner and then store the information in our short-term memory. According to Dr. Lynell Burmark, author of Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn, this process is 60,000 times slower than processing visual information. In today’s fast-paced, on-the-go world, taking the time to read everything is just not cutting it. The demand for quick and easy information is mounting and visual content is stepping in to satisfy it.
Why Visual Content Rules
Relaying a speedy message is just one of the perks to adding images, illustrations, and other visual elements to your online marketing efforts. Take a look at the advantages of utilizing this kind of content in your strategies:
1. Quick and Easy
As mentioned above, we can process visual information in a jiffy. That means viewers with short attention spans (lets face it, that’s most of us) can still grasp the message without investing a substantial amount of time, allowing you to get through to your audience with less risk of being shuffled aside.
2. Attention Grabber
How often do we flip through magazines and stop on a page with an interesting picture? Valuable images tend to arrest our attention, at which point our interest is peaked and we are more likely to read the caption or article that goes with it.
Help your audience sort through masses of text by throwing in some relevant and interesting visuals.
Remember Show-and-Tell in elementary school? It was one thing when that one kid said he met the Red Power Ranger. You thought, “Yeah, right. There’s no way.” But then when he whipped out a picture to prove it, your mind was blown and that kid just became super cool.
Show-and-Tell has evolved into a driving online force, and social media is the outlet of choice for consumers and businesses alike. Adding engaging, visual elements to social media is a great way for businesses to prove their accomplishments, earn trust, and enhance their brands.
Just in case you aren’t convinced, check out these numbers from MDG Advertising and get a taste of why visual content is online marketing’s rock star.
- Online articles with compelling images average 94% more views than those without.
- 60% of consumers are more inclined to click on a business’s local listing if an image appears along with its search results.
- Facebook posts that include photos receive a 37% increase in user engagement.
Make It Yourself and Make It for Free
Now that the value of online visual content is clear, the next step is to do something about it. But how? The prospect of rounding up or creating photos, illustrations, infographics, charts, animation, videos, presentations, and webinars can be overwhelming. It’s one thing to hand the issue over to your graphic design department and let the designers handle it, but many small business managers don’t have that luxury and have to take matters into their own hands.
The price and learning curve for Adobe Photoshop is steep, and trying to use Microsoft PowerPoint to patch images together is a pain. So what tools and resources are out there for businesses on a tight budget? Here are 29 great online resources that will make creating visual content easy. The best part: they’re free!
Inspiration: Get the Wheels Turning
When it comes to developing ideas, start by seeking inspiration from the best of the best. The sites below are my favorite sources for checking out the latest and greatest design styles, trends, and new ideas. They feature huge varieties of professionally produced, high-quality images. Keep in mind there is nothing wrong with taking the ideas you see, watering them down, adding a new spin, and creating something of your own.
Comprised of the work of web designers, graphic designers, illustrators, icon artists, typographers, logo designers, and other creatives, Dribble offers a glimpse of these professionals’ pride and joy.
Creattica is a gallery of great design that is submitted, voted upon, and accepted as the best work. There is a ton of stuff on the site, so make the search function your friend and get inspired!
It seems that just about every company that doesn’t have access to a photographer will need stock images at some point. Here are several sites that offer free, and royalty-free images for commercial use. Although there are great images available, be sure to sort through and avoid the cliché and cheesy ones.
Compfight is an image search engine that utilizes flickr. It allows you to search by license: Any license, Creative Commons, or Commercial.
Here all pictures are published under Creative Commons public domain deed CC0, which means you can copy, modify, and distribute the work, even for commercial purposes, without asking permission.
Named with a term that derives from the newspaper business, MorgueFile is an easy-to-use site that simply asks that you credit the photographer when possible.
Here you can find over 350,000 free stock images.
Here you can find over 900,000 free stock images.
Below are two miscellaneous, but fantastic tools that deal with capturing and placing images you see on your screen.
8. AwesomeScreenshot: Capture & Annotate
A free Google Chrome extension, AwesomeScreenshot makes it easy to take screen shots, mark them up, and blur sensitive information in one simple interface.
This site provides you with dozens of free, high-quality images featuring electronics such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops in realistic settings. The best part is that Placeit allows you to easily place your own images in the screens of the electronics. It is definitely worth checking out.
When Photoshop is not an option, try these free image editors. Some are more complex than others, so pick one that fits your needs best.
10. Pic Monkey
Pic Monkey is great for first-timers and veterans alike. The program is simple and self-explanatory, making it easy to edit photos, make a template collage, or design from scratch.
This free online program features three different photo editors, each varying in complexity. Pixlr Editor has both functions and complexities similar to Photoshop. Pixler Express is an easier version that is great for quick fixes. Pixlr O-Matic features pre-made filters that you can easily apply to your photos.
Gimp is the most complex program out of the bunch. Download it onto your computer and use it as a paint program, expert photo retouching program, or a batch processing system. Add plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything.
Having page load issues? Make your image file sizes smaller with these two wonderful tools without changing the quality of your pics.
Upload your JPEG images and wait a moment while the file sizes are reduced by up to 5 times! Woot!
TinyPNG dramatically reduces the file size of your PNG files while preserving transparency.
Add extra style to your visuals by getting creative with fonts. Move away from drab default fonts and have fun with the free fonts found at these sites.
15. Google Fonts
Google has developed this to make it easy to add creative fonts to your websites and apps. The fonts are open source and can also be used in print and on your computer.
Here you can be sure to find hand-picked, high-quality, fonts that are free for commercial use. Check out the trendy fonts or make a custom search to find the one that is perfect for your project.
Dafont has thousands of fonts to pick from. Although it has plenty of great fonts, be weary of the ones that should be reserved for scrapbooking. Also, pay attention to the license before you download. Not all of these fonts are for commercial use and several ask for a donation to the author.
18. What The Font
Need help identifying a font? Just take a screen shot and throw it into What The Font. This free online resource will help you uncover the identity of the mystery font.
Need help putting together a color palette? Find out what colors are in and how to match them.
Pantone, a color authority in the design world, shows you which colors are in and predicts the stylish colors of the upcoming year. See what they have to say about next year’s color trends.
20. Adobe Kuler
Pick a color and Adobe Kuler will give you several colors that match analogously, monochromatically, and more. Pull colors from a photo or check out some hot color palette trends. This site makes matching colors easy and fun.
Vectors are great because they can be resized to fit any dimension. These gems come in handy for illustrative design and there are plenty of freebies out there for the taking.
Vecteezy has its fair share of great stuff and not-so-great stuff. So, just pick the great stuff.
Texture is the spice of life when it comes to making visual content. It brings depth to your composition as well as an extra element of awesome.
22. Subtle Patterns
At subtlepatterns.com, preview and download hundreds of patterns that are perfect for backgrounds. The patterns are repeatable which makes them great for improving page load time.
Present information quickly and clearly by utilizing the power of the infographic. Don’t have a designer on hand? Try it yourself with these free online tools.
Add colorful graphs to one of six pre-made templates. You may also add a photo or video to encourage interactive engagement.
Pick from several different templates and start adding graphics, colors and text to make your very own infographic. Then download, publish online, or share.
Charts and Diagrams
Got paragraphs full of data? Put them in a chart. This is a great way to convey otherwise boring information in a colorful and visual way. Take advantage of the resources below and make some good-looking charts.
Create a structure for collecting and organizing ideas with XMind, a mind-mapping tool that makes it simple to get your ideas out on the table in visually pleasing way.
26. Lucid Chart
Drag and drop shapes and text to create all kinds of diagrams from flow charts to conceptual data models.
Need a chart? Chartgo can help you make simple bar, line, and pie charts like no one’s business.
Share what you know with a presentation, a fantastic and largely successful form of online visual content. Presentations are a great way to add verve and value to your message.
With SlideShare, you can upload presentations and embed them on blogs and websites or share them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Add mp3 audio and turn your presentation into a webinar.
Make a presentation that lets your audience step into your world. With the ability to zoom in and out of images, Prezi creates a learning atmosphere that is engaging and fun.
Ready, Set, Go!
Now that you have a leg up on creating your own visual content on a budget, start making some catchy videos, presentations, webinars, infographics, charts, and captivating images. Most of all, remember to have fun. Chances are if you have fun doing it, someone will have fun seeing it. Best of luck!
In the meantime, be sure to share your favorite content creation tools with us. There are tons out there, so leave a comment and let us know what visual resources rock your world.