That old adage of “a picture is worth a thousand words” has never been more true than it is in the Instagram age. In today’s image obsessed world, every business owner needs to think about how they can use images to visually elevate their business. Photos are an important part of building a brand, but picking the right photos can pose a consistent challenge. Every detail -- from the color to the framing to the content itself -- matters.
For entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to create a digital personality, cultivate a distinct brand identity and engage your audience, here are three ways to visually elevate your business.
1. Stay on message.
Mobile devices have made it possible for people to take and consume photos and videos in countless different ways. Whether it’s a Snap, an Instagram post or the gallery of images on a website, consumers now expect multimedia content, and these images can boost a business’s brand. The question is how to pick the images.
To start, the image should strike a chord with your message and your brand, so consider your audience. Your audience’s preferences and needs should always come first, and it’s a good idea to review demographic data to ensure your imagery is aligned with your audience’s age, income range and interests. That said, there may be images that align with their interests but have nothing to do with your brand. Make relevance a litmus test. The images you use on your site and collateral need to relate in some way to your main offerings, whether literally or symbolically.
There is certainly room for experimentation and creativity, but don’t go so far afield that the message becomes confused. If people look at the images you are sharing but that interaction adds nothing to their understanding of or connection to your brand, it’s wasted effort. Make sure images are easily assimilated into your brand and support the message you want to convey.
2. Embrace social media.
Social media is no longer a “nice to have” for businesses -- it’s a must have. Social media is a core part of how today’s consumer learns about new businesses, conducts research, makes purchasing decisions, develops loyalty, and engages with brands. This doesn’t mean that every business needs a presence on every single social media platform -- there are far too many for that -- but it does mean creating a social media strategy that is designed to achieve your goals.
The first step is to go with channels that match your target demographic. For example, Snapchat tends to skew towards younger users, so if deciding between Instagram and Snapchat (to start), that’s an important fact to keep in mind. Also keep in mind that every platform has its own unique culture and norms. Failing to follow these norms can make you look unprofessional, or worse, irrelevant. Content that works on Instagram probably won’t play as well on Twitter.
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That said, don’t follow visual trends too closely. There is so much content on social media that you want to stand out. Attracting customer attention means doing something to differentiate yourself and stand out from the masses. One option is to create a visually cohesive series of images to use in rotation in order to establish a certain look or feel that will get associated with your brand on social media.
3. Use great images.
As mentioned above, there are a lot of images clamoring for people’s attention. Between social media and news, it can be hard to focus on any one thing. The images that are easiest to overlook are those that don’t pop. Use high quality, high-res images. Pictures taken at low resolution will deal your brand image an immediate hit. And go for content that captures people’s attention and draws then into some sort of action -- vibrant photos with bold colors that suggest excitement. Don’t be afraid to be creative and playful. While you want to select images that engage people, rather than annoy them, keep it classy. The goal is to foster conversation, but avoid inappropriate or offensive imagery that can create the wrong kind of buzz.
Finally, stay within the law by only using legally downloaded photos from a reputable source. The costs are typically not high, while the brand risk of using unlicensed photos is.
By choosing the right mix of photos, you tell the viewer that you care about your brand, and this feeling can translate into a positive view of your product and services. The grace period for not having a visual online presence may be over, but this is can be an opportunity to take your brand to the next level.