How to Use Images to Enhance Your Content and Social Media

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How to Use Images to Enhance Your Content and Social Media written by Guest Post read more at Duct Tape Marketing

How to Use Images to Enhance Your Content and Social Media

photo credit D.J. Billings

This is an excerpt from Master Content Marketing, a new book by Pamela Wilson of Rainmaker Digital/Copyblogger.

If you’re not a working artist, this post may push you straight out of your comfort zone.

“Me? Create images for my content? No way.”

The good news is that image creation (just like content creation and social media marketing) can be learned.

I’ll share a few rules of thumb to guide you as you get started. When you combine the rules I’ll teach with practice, you’ll become more proficient with image creation over time.

You may even find yourself looking forward to creating images! I believe that’s partly because images are processed in a different part of your brain than words. When you work on your images, you’re giving that hard-working verbal processing part of your brain a break.

Your Visual Cortex: An Unsung Superhero

Your visual cortex is a small part of your brain that’s hidden toward the back of your head. But its effects are massive: it produces the reality you see all around you. And it’s fast: it processes visual information 60,000 times faster than words.

Images “speak” a different language than words and convey their meaning faster, too. That’s why one of the most important things you can do to put a finishing touch on any piece of content is to add an image.

One of your goals is to create content that gets noticed and read, and great images make us stop and look. There’s proof for this: a 2013 study by MDG Advertising showed that content featuring compelling images averages 94 percent more total views than content without.

But images don’t just draw viewers — they boost understanding (and retention), too.

Text and oral presentations are not just slightly less efficient than pictures for retaining certain types of information; they are much less efficient. If information is presented orally, people remember about 10 percent, tested 72 hours after exposure. That figure goes up to 65 percent if you add a picture. — John Medina, Brain Rules

Images Invite, Explain, and Entertain

The best images add meaning to the words you’ve written: they convey emotion, evoke an atmosphere, and communicate opinions. All this without words! It sounds like a tall order, but the information in this post will help you find and use images that do all that.

You’ve spent time and effort writing an amazing article. Let’s put some icing on that cake with an image that draws attention to the content you created and helps boost comprehension, too.

Revisit Your Carefree Image Creation Days

As young children, we all start out as artists. The difference between the art we made when we were kids and the art we make now is that when we were kids, we didn’t care about whether our images “worked.” We enjoyed creating them, and that was all that mattered.

There’s no time like today to revisit your inner artist. And there are good business reasons to start adding images to your content.
Image processing happens in a different part of the brain from where words are processed, so putting images with your words will engage more of your reader’s brain.

Images are especially effective vehicles to activate associations. If you spark an experience or memory with your image, you can convey a meaning that goes well beyond the words on the page.

Block Out Time to Find the Best Image

Recreate those carefree “artist” days by blocking out time for image creation in your schedule. Some people like to “warm up” with images as the first thing they do when they get into their office in the morning. Others identify the times of day their minds seem to need a break from writing words or doing calculations, and they use those times to create images.

I jump between writing and creating images all day long. I look at my to-do list and check in with myself: “Am I in the mood for writing, or creating images?”

Begin with a Goal

What exactly do you want to accomplish with the image in your piece of content? What effect would you like it to have?
When they’re created for marketing our businesses, our image goals fall into common categories. We want to:

  • Entertain: these images provoke smiles and spread goodwill
  • Educate: these images share information and build authority
  • Provoke: these images surprise and prompt an action
  • Inspire: these images evoke emotion, encourage, or uplift the viewer

Decide what you want to communicate from one of the categories above and choose an image as a vehicle for your message. Having this information in hand will make it easier to get through the next step without wasting time.

Where to Avoid Looking for Images for Your Content

Before I talk about where to look for images, I want to talk about where not to look for images. And to do that, I need to share a few words about copyright. Stick with me! It will be short.

Literature, art, and photography are intellectual property which benefits from the protection of copyright. Finding an image floating around on the web doesn’t grant you the right to use it: someone owns it, and you may only use it if the owner gives you permission.

This permission is often conditional. For example, you may be allowed to use an image to illustrate a point in a purely editorial context, but you may not be able to use it in a commercial context.

I have known several people who have been sued for not paying attention to proper usage. They ended up owing thousands of dollars to the owner of an image because they used it without paying for it, thinking they had permission. These people didn’t set out to “steal” anything, but that’s exactly what they did.

Never use a web browser’s image search function to find images to use in your content. It is too tempting to find the “perfect” rights-protected image there. I also recommend you avoid image-sharing services like Flickr. Yes, some photographers add a Creative Commons license to their images which grants permission to use it. But I knew someone who used an image with a Creative Commons license and then, later on, the photographer changed the license and my friend had to stop using the image. It was an image that had been used to sell one of her well-known products for many years, and she had to scramble to look for a replacement.

Let’s keep you out of legal hot water and save you from future headaches, shall we? Here’s how to find images you have the right to use freely — images that will make your content more attractive and effective.

Where to Look for Images for Your Content

To find the perfect image for your next piece of content, you have three choices:

  1. Find a free stock photo you have the rights to use.
  2. Buy a high-quality stock photo you have the rights to use.
  3. Create an image yourself.

You can also commission photography, of course, but that’s not very common for web content. Even major corporations use high-quality purchased stock photography. Let’s look at each of these three choices in detail.

Free Stock Photography

An important note: when looking at free stock photography, be sure to check the licensing on any image you use. In many cases, the image is free to use in exchange for crediting the photographer who provided it. Sites will specify what you need to say in the photo credit, so follow their directions carefully.

Pixabay.com: Pixabay is my favorite free photo site because it’s the one that feels most like a paid site. It features easy-to-search photos, illustrations, and vectors. Pixabay images are vetted by a team of volunteer editors and do not require you to credit the photographer. Creating an account on the site will allow you quicker access to images, which you can download in a variety of sizes.

Kaboompics.com: Kaboompics offers major image categories and has a search feature, too. Their image collection isn’t huge, but the images they do have are high-quality and quite large — large enough to be used for print design. The only thing you can’t do with Kaboompics images is to sell them: the site is devoted to keeping their images free.

TheStocks.im: TheStocks is a collection of stock photo sites all in one place — the majority of which are free. You can use the interface to browse collections and get a feel for the quality and style of the photos available.

Paid Stock Photography

Over the years that I’ve taught branding, I’ve met a few people who didn’t ever want to pay for the photography they used. And I have to confess I got more than a little impatient with them.

You see, I have art directed more photo shoots than I can remember. And I know how much work happens to create the professional-level images featured on paid stock photography sites.

Memorable images aren’t easy to create, and I think the hard work is worth paying for.

When you’re ready to make a very small investment in getting professional photography that you have the rights to use for any commercial purpose — and that you can run without adding a photo credit — take a look at these paid stock photo sites:

Bigstock.com: I love the oversized images, advanced search features, and vast archive on this site. It’s my go-to when I need an image that stands out.

Shutterstock.com: Polished, beautiful images with a robust search feature.

Adobe Stock: A massive collection of high-quality images with a price range that reflects the quality (it’s on the high side). Worth looking through when you need a specific image that will be memorable.

Create Your Own Images

Here’s a radical idea. Chances are very good that you walk around every day with a camera close by in the form of your smartphone.
What would happen if you began registering images of the world around you, a few photos at a time?

When you’re looking around, keep your eyes open for:

Contrast: Look for color contrast, light and shadow contrast, size or texture contrast.

Faces and emotions: Keep your finger on your camera button to capture expressions, emotions, and stolen glances that tell stories.

Angles: Dramatic angles and a sense of perspective that draw your eye into the image make a boring image interesting. Sometimes all it takes is positioning yourself or your camera above, below, or to the side for the image to come to life.

The Art of Image Searching

Some images just work: they complement your words; they add shades of meaning and entertainment value to your page.

And some images? They’re boring, they send the wrong message, and they aren’t worth spending time deciphering.

Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman group, which is devoted to researching website usability, says this about images:

“Users pay attention to information-carrying images that show content that’s relevant to the task at hand. And users ignore purely decorative images that don’t add real content to the page. So much fluff — of which there’s too much already on the web.”

To find the best images, you’ll want to become skilled at searching for them. Here are the tips the pros use:

Start searching for one word, then narrow your results by adding words or subtracting. Searching a single word usually leads to an overwhelming number of results. Bring up the results from a single-word search, and see what you want more or less of. Most sites will allow you to add a minus sign before terms you don’t want to appear. If you’re getting a lot of results with children, for example, and you’re looking for an image of business people, add “-children” to the search box along with your original word.

Use style terms. Adding specific words like “vintage,” “grunge,” “white background,” or “close up” will narrow down your results. You can also narrow your results by orientation, so you only see vertical or horizontal images.

Step back and see what jumps out. When looking at a page of thumbnail images, ask yourself, “Which one stands out?” When an image holds its own among dozens of others, that’s a good sign that you’ve found a strong one.

Consider your text. If you plan to add text to your image, look carefully to ensure there’s an open area on the photo that doesn’t have a lot of busy text underneath it, so your text will be readable.

Consider where the image “points.” Many images look like they “point” a certain way. Sometimes a person in the image is looking off to the right, left, above, or below. Viewers will tend to follow their gaze. Sometimes the image has strong angles that send viewers’ eyes in a specific direction like they’re following an arrow. Make sure to use this to your advantage: position images so they draw viewers toward the text you want them to read. For more on this, read Point Out the Obvious with Images on Big Brand System.

Use a single focal point for high drama. The most dramatic images have a single focal point: an obvious visual “star of the show.” Sometimes you can achieve this manually by cropping an image to remove extraneous elements and focus your viewers’ eyes.

Train Your Eyes to Pinpoint Images That Work

Even non-artists can put the power of images to work for their content and social media marketing. Need more guidance? Ask me your image-related questions in the comments!

Pamela WilsonPamela Wilson is the author of Master Content Marketing: A Simple Strategy to Cure the Blank Page Blues and Attract a Profitable Audience. She’s Executive Vice President of Educational Content at Rainmaker Digital/Copyblogger. Find more from Pamela at Big Brand System.

ABM brings the right guests to the party; marketing automation keeps them engaged

Original Post: http://feeds.marketingland.com/~r/mktingland/~3/tL2CFaDwpts/abm-brings-right-guests-party-marketing-automation-keeps-engaged-196414

What is account-based marketing (AMB), and how is it used? Columnist Jeffrey L. Cohen provides a primer on how AMB can improve marketing automation, drive sales alignment and improve customer profile data.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

The Anatomy of Virality: How to Engineer the Perfect Viral Blog Article

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Quicksprout/~3/2v6tCuyG2X0/

You hear the term viral all the time.

I’m regularly reading Internet content that has “gone viral” or watching the latest viral video post. I research virality, and I read articles about content virality.

Virality is a big deal. If you think about it, viral content is what shapes our culture.

The idea of viral content has become rooted in Internet culture. It’s obviously something that most bloggers and marketers strive to achieve with their content.

Viral content can come in many forms and mean different things to different people.

For example, by some standards, I’ve written several “viral” articles—articles that were viewed by millions and shared by thousands. But when I compare my little blog article to other viral pieces of content, I see that its reach is tiny.

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The underlying quality of a viral piece of content is that it circulates rapidly across the Internet and reaches a widespread audience in a short period of time.

It can go from obscurity to mass exposure overnight.

Whether it’s a meme, video, blog post, or commercial, viral content has a way of capturing the attention of people from all walks of life.

There’s something exceptional about it even if you can’t necessarily put your finger on it.

Although there’s no magical recipe that instantly makes a blog article epic and uber-sharable, there is certainly a formula you can follow to achieve virality. After all, virality is a scientific phenomenon, even if achieving insane levels, like 2.5 billion views, isn’t predictable.

You can engineer virality to a certain degree. You start by understanding a few factors and elements that unite viral content.

Here’s a sequence you can follow to engineer the perfect viral blog article.

Content type

First things first. Which types of content receive the most shares?

I think you’ll agree that it’s easier to watch a four-minute music video, for example, than to read a 2,000-word article.

I’m interested in written content for the purposes of our discussion, so I’ll stick to long-form articles.

OkDork and Buzzsumo analyzed over 100 million articles to uncover underlying patterns that contribute to virality.

Here’s what they found in terms of what content was shared the most:

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When it comes to blog content, you’ll notice that list articles performed the best overall by a fairly large margin.

This is followed by “why posts,” “what posts,” and “how-to articles.”

So, in theory, you’d have the best odds of your article going viral if you created a list—more specifically, a 10-item list because it increases your odds even more.

According to OkDork, “10 item lists on average received the most social shares—on average 10,621 social shares. In fact, they had four times as many social shares on average than the 2nd most popular list number: 23.” The next best performing articles were lists of 16 and 24 items.

The exact number isn’t as important as the fact that it’s a list. BuzzFeed, the king of listicles, regularly produces viral listicles. When I checked on Buzzsumo the most popular articles in the past year, two of the top five were listicles.

image05

The number seems a bit arbitrary. But the fact that it’s a list? That’s the appeal.

Keep this in mind when deciding on the number of items to include on a list.

Content length

The word count of an article is another huge factor in determining the potential for virality.

There’s a common misconception about long content.

It goes like this:

  • If the content is long…
  • …then nobody will read it.

Guess what? That’s totally false.

Obviously read is a slippery term, so I won’t get into the mechanics of what reading means to people.

Here’s what I do know: longer content gets more shares, backlinks, views, and all the good things that great content deserves.

Here’s what the study mentioned above revealed:

image04

By analyzing this graph, it’s clear that the higher the word count, the better the likelihood of a blog article going viral: 3,000-10,000 words generated the highest overall number of shares.

And this totally makes sense if you think about it.

I’ve definitely noticed a pattern where long, well-researched, in-depth content kills it, while your average, run-of-the-mill 500-word articles achieve only marginal results.

Although people may not read a long article in its entirety, they’re still likely to scan it. To me, that’s important. I try to create articles so people can get value from them even if they don’t read every word.

Aiming for at least 2,000 words per post is ideal if you want your content to get shared across a wide audience.

Evoking the right emotions

Next, there’s the issue of getting readers to feel certain emotions.

The same study from OkDork and Buzzsumo revealed which content received the most number of shares based on the emotions it evoked:

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According to these findings, the top four emotions to target are:

  1. Awe
  2. Laughter
  3. Amusement
  4. Joy

What’s the underlying pattern of these emotions?

They’re primarily positive emotions.

Although awe could be positive or negative, laughter, amusement, and joy are all emotions that make people smile and bring about good feelings.

You’ll also notice that negative emotions, like anger and sadness, don’t perform as well. What’s the takeaway? Positive content has a far better chance of going viral than negative content.

Capitalizing on trends

Striking while the iron is hot is also important.

If you can create blog content based on something that’s wildly popular at the moment, the potential for virality increases exponentially.

Although this approach is likely to have a fairly short shelf life and probably won’t be evergreen, you can still generate some massive exposure for a little while.

And if your content is epic, there’s a good chance that many readers will return to your site to see what else you’ve been up to.

Buzzsumo offers a great example.

They mention an article on Fox News Travel from 2015 that talks about a zombie-themed “Walking Dead” cruise.

image00

This article managed to generate a whopping 1.5 million shares and over 400,000 comments. Not bad for a piece about undead brain eaters.

The lesson here is that writing content based on current trends can definitely work in your favor.

Visuals

People love visuals. They make even the most mundane content come to life and bring the points of a blog article into a cohesive whole.

So as you might imagine, images play a considerable role in virality.

To put it simply, including images in your content increases your odds of getting shares.

Skipping images reduces those odds.

Here’s a graph that shows the impact images can have:

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As you can see, articles with at least one image greatly outperform articles without any images.

In fact, having just one image will theoretically double your number of shares.

However, I wouldn’t stop at just one. The more visual appeal, the better.

That’s why I always make sure I include at least a handful of images in every blog article I write.

Author byline

There’s also the issue of a byline, which briefly tells the reader who the author of an article is.

In this case, that’s you.

OkDork and Buzzsumo found that this is also a factor in virality:

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Overall, content with a byline/bio receives more shares than content without one.

While there’s virtually no difference in terms of shares on Facebook, it definitely makes a difference on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

But why?

It’s simple. Having a byline lets readers know who the author is, which adds to the article’s credibility.

More trustworthiness = more shares.

Do yourself a favor and make sure to include your byline with each article, ideally with a professional-looking headshot.

Posting at the right time

One factor that’s commonly overlooked is the day of the week a blog article is posted.

Research has found that the odds of content going viral are increased considerably when the article is posted during the weekdays. More specifically, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays are your best bets.

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There’s a very clear drop off on the weekends, which makes sense, considering many people are out and about and less likely to be glued to the Internet.

For the best possible chances of your article going viral, it would be smart to post on a Tuesday.

The power of influencers

One last thing. If you can get influencers to share your content with their audiences, the potential for virality goes through the roof.

Here’s what I mean:

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Even if you can get just one influencer to share your content, the results can be significant.

But if you can somehow get five influencers to do this, it can have a monumental, earth-shattering impact.

Of course, this is easier said than done.

But one strategy for getting an influencer on board is to first see which types of content they’ve shared in the past.

You can then base your article around a similar topic and reach out to the influencer once it’s completed.

Putting it all together

Here’s the deal.

You can never tell for sure whether or not any given piece of content will go viral.

There is a nearly infinite number of factors involved, and you can never fully predict how people will react.

However, you can follow a formula to give yourself the best possible chance.

Let’s recap.

  • Create a “list article,” ideally with 10 items. Otherwise, lists with 23, 16, and 24 items work best.
  • Make sure it’s a fairly long article with at least 2,000 words. However, the more words, the better. Pieces with 3,000-10,000 words receive the most shares on average.
  • Try to stick with positive themes that evoke awe, laughter, amusement, and joy. Don’t kill the vibe of your audience with overly negative themes.
  • Base your article around a popular trend that’s sweeping the world at the moment.
  • Include visuals. One image is a must, but don’t be afraid to go a little crazy with your images. Your audience should respond favorably.
  • Insert your byline/bio at the end of the article to boost your credibility.
  • Post during the weekdays. Tuesday is ideal.
  • Reach out to relevant influencers, and try to get them to share your article with their followers. If you can manage to get five influencers to share, your exposure will quadruple.

Conclusion

Just think of all the benefits a viral blog article can have.

You can create instant exposure for your brand, grow your social media following, generate a massive volume of leads, and increase your brand equity.

Along with this, it’s reasonable to expect that your sales numbers will increase significantly as well.

By understanding the key elements contributing to content going viral, you can devise a more effective strategy.

And once you “crack the virality code,” you can simply rinse and repeat.

What do you think the most important element of a blog article is in order for it to go viral?

Weekend Favs October 29

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ducttapemarketing/nRUD/~3/Q-9bg6qQGeg/

Weekend Favs October 29 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

pumpkins

NetHunt – Enhance your Gmail inbox with an enterprise-level, CRM functionality.

Infinitweet – Say goodbye to character limits! With Infinitweet Chrome, you can write a message of any length and post it to Twitter as an image.

Established – Lessons from some of the world’s oldest companies as twelve business writers set out to find the answers to age-old questions and learn their secrets to survival.

Infographic: 6 Copywriting Steps to Selling More

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/crazyegg/~3/zVmHl1l1rA4/

copywriting infographic

It’s true. Spending a little extra time (and a little extra elbow grease) on your copy can boost search engine traffic – and ultimately your conversions. The problem is that most of us are too busy to go back and pay attention to content we’ve written in the past. You can reap considerable returns just by spending a little extra time on improving the key pages of your website. It’s worth it. A 30-minute improvement session on one page can increase the sales generated by that page every day thereafter. This infographic does a great job at highlighting the key…

The post Infographic: 6 Copywriting Steps to Selling More appeared first on The Daily Egg.