Visual content in digital marketing is having a moment. Increasingly, businesses rely on visuals to tell their stories, bolster their brands and draw in engaged customers.
According to a Vennage, more than half of marketers surveyed in 2021 said most of their content included a visual component — and for good reason. Visual content is effective.
- Viewers are 80% more willing to engage with web content when it’s presented with meaningful images (source).
- People retain 55% more information when it’s presented with an image than text alone (source).
Not only do images draw visitors in and help them remember, but a number of studies have found that websites with images of real people engender more trust compared to sites without such images.
What can we take away from this data?
- Visual content is no longer optional for any business that wants to engage audiences online.
- Visual content is one of the best ways to engage your audience online.
- Authentic images build trust with consumers.
In this post, we’ll explore the importance of authentic visual content and offer tips on gathering custom images to use in your visual content strategy.
What Consumers Want: Authenticity
Today’s up-and-coming buying generations, Millennials and Gen Z, are completely intolerant of brands they deem inauthentic or “fake.”
- According to Stackla, 90% of Millennials say brand authenticity is important, and 30% of Millennials have unfollowed a brand on social media because they felt their content was inauthentic.
- About 82% of Gen Z consumers say they trust a company more when it uses images of real people vs. models in advertising.
These two powerhouse generations, more than any that have come before, are savvy, skeptical consumers. And they can tell when you’ve populated your website, blog or marketing materials with images that read as “fake” or too highly produced.
What does an authentic visual presentation of your brand look like? If stock or glossy model shoots don’t cut it — then what does?
Types of Authentic Visual Content
At the core, presenting authentic visual content is all about showcasing the real people, places and things that make your business unique.
This can include original photography of your products and services in use, behind-the-scenes glimpses of your team at work, or real-life examples of how your product or service has enriched your customers. Showing these elements of your brand helps build trust in the human side of your business and creates a genuine connection with your audience. Here are a few ways you can do that:
Photos continue to be one of the most widely used types of visual content for digital marketers. A well-placed photo on a website or social media platform can make all the difference in attracting and retaining customers. In fact, articles with images get 94% more views than articles without images. Additionally, according to data culled by Social Media Strategist Jeff Bullas:
- Including a photo and a video in a press release increases views by over 45%.
- 60% of consumers are more likely to consider or contact a business when an image appears in local search results.
- When it comes to e-commerce sites, 67% of consumers say the quality of a product image is “very important” in selecting and purchasing a product.
- For online stores, customers think that the quality of a product’s image is more important than product-specific information (63%), a long description (54%) and ratings and reviews (53%).
- The engagement rate on Facebook for photos averages 0.37%, whereas text only is 0.27% (this translates to a 37% higher level of engagement for photos over text).
Videos are becoming an increasingly popular form of visual content for businesses of all sizes and across industries. According to Wyzowl, 91% of businesses use video as a marketing tool in 2023 — up from 91% last year. And 87% of marketers say video has increased traffic to their website.
Short and engaging videos tend to have the most impact, especially those that grab attention in the first few seconds.
Original Graphics (Infographics, Illustrations)
This refers to graphic-focused content, like infographics and illustrations. These designer-generated assets are a great way to present complex information in a visually appealing and digestible way.
A Focus on Photography: Authentic Images Matter
While video and graphics can and should play an important role in your overall visual content strategy, for the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on photography.
Photographs are powerful tools to attract attention amid the clutter and noise online and make a positive first impression on potential customers. In general, humans like connecting with other humans — even if it’s through a smiling face on a screen.
In one real-world example, an online company selling art replaced photos of the paintings with artist headshots. The site’s conversion rate increased by more than 95%.
If that’s the case, why not just throw up a stock photo of a smiling person and watch the clicks roll in? Again, it comes down to authenticity.
While stock photos may seem like an easy solution, they can actually hurt your branding efforts. 41% of marketers said that content with stock images was their absolute worst performer, according to Vennage. And a Neilson eye-tracking study also found that users are actually prone to ignoring generic stock photos when browsing through a website.
That’s because (as we detailed above) consumers can spot inauthenticity from a mile away.
How to Source Authentic Images
For many businesses, sourcing images is one of the biggest hurdles to adding authentic visual content to their digital presence. In fact, 36.7% of marketers cite visual content creation as their biggest challenge.
The answer to breaking out of the stock trap and sourcing images that authentically represent your brand is custom photography. While custom photoshoots can be time-consuming and expensive, there are now more accessible and affordable options for marketers. Companies like FotoFetch allow you to order images at a reasonable price and get them fast.
Start by taking a look at your own website and social media channels. Where can you incorporate more visual content? Could you use some smiling employee portraits? How about shots of your products being used? Using high-quality photos can help you engage your audience and tell your brand’s story in a way that connects with your target audience — authentically.