We all want to increase engagement levels in our marketing campaigns, but how do we actually achieve significant improvements? One of the most overlooked parts of this are the images used to promote content.

It may sound obvious, but relying on basic stock photography is no longer enough. To really boost engagement, you need to start applying advanced techniques to your visuals.

I’ve used these techniques to great success over the years, boosting engagement levels and enhancing the content itself. They apply to all aspects of marketing so it’s important to get right.

To help you I’ve created a guide called:

Three Pillars of Images

Where do we start?

Before we get into the detail, let’s look at an example and assume we are writing a piece of content for a blog post. How much time and energy do we invest in this? Typically it can be:

  • 30% brainstorming ideas
  • 60% writing and detailing the content
  • 10% finishing touches

It’s incredibly important to create great content that people will find value in, after all, this is what helps build trust in you and your brand. So the allocation above may seem appropriate. Surely the most important aspect to get right is the content itself?

For the most part, yes.

Creating valuable content in itself is a challenge, so it’s no surprise that when we’ve created our super shiny piece of content, we think it’s job done. We are so keen to get that content out there, we spend a few moments looking for an image to promote it. We’ve added our finishing touches, click publish. Done.

Sound familiar?

Well, one of the most important elements to the success of your content has just been neglected, with only 10% of your energy and time allocated to it. You absolutely have to invest time and thought into those ‘finishing touches’, which I’ll define now entirely as imagery.

I’ll explain why.

A good sketch is better than a long speech

How many times have we heard these sayings:

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

A picture speaks a thousand words.

Truth be told, when you’re looking at an online book store, or even in the shops, most of us do judge a book by its cover, certainly in terms of what catches our eye.

There’s a reason for that, and it’s as simple as – a picture really can speak a thousand words.

Take a look at the image below…

Earth from the moon
Image credit: Nasa

The picture is called Earthrise, taken from Apollo 8 during the first manned mission to the moon. Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell said:

The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realise just what you have back there on earth.

Without a doubt, image can be powerful and we should never underestimate how it can capture someone’s attention.

So even if you have 10,000 words of the greatest content out there, if you haven’t invested your time and skills into thinking about imagery to accompany it, then it may never get read.

In terms of engagement levels, your content can be seriously compromised by image neglect.

What do the stats say?

Evidence and stats are out there in abundance to support the importance of imagery and how compelling it really is. Let’s just have a brief look at a selection I’ve chosen:

  1. Coloured imagery increases people’s desire to read content by 80%
  2. When you publish content with images, view rates increase by 94%
  3. Posts with imagery achieve increases in engagement by 180%

People are visually-driven.

90% of information that goes to our brain is visual. Presentations with visuals, not just slide after slide of text, are 43% more persuasive. 65% of us are actually visual learners.

Staggeringly, 93% of all communication is nonverbal. When you consider that the human brain can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, it’s quite clear how important imagery really is.

Boosting those engagement levels

So the evidence is there which is great, but how do we actually increase engagement levels with imagery?

The Three Pillars of Imagery in Marketing is my proven approach to working with imagery and achieving success.

The three pillars are the foundations and guiding principles of image use for increased engagement. They are based from my own experience and what I’ve found to work, across all elements of marketing.

Three Pillars of Images

Relevance | Influence | Confidence

Pillar 1: Relevance

What is Relevance? It’s the degree to which something is related or useful to what is happening or being talked about.

This again may seem obvious, but for your campaigns to be successful, you have to actively show relevance between the promotional image and the content itself. So if you’re writing a blog post about “Top 5 Tips For Passing Your Driving Test” for example, using a stock image of a close up congratulatory handshake alone isn’t really going to cut it.

shaking hands

Depending on your brand and the tone you are looking to set, something a bit more creative, with some personality would work much better.

The below image for example, could even be branded with a company logo somewhere, and a banner of text with “Top 5 Tips For Passing Your Drive Test”.

driving test

The beauty of imagery is that once you get started and really think about promoting your content, titles for your content can also change. Always have in mind though the keywords you are targeting for your content and your overall approach to achieve your SEO objectives.

Avoid clickbait at all costs, (an image that pulls you into clicking it but is intentionally misleading or overtly provocative) it will lead to disappointment for the reader and serious irritation. It will damage your brand!

Expert Tip
A thesaurus is your friend, use it, don’t be afraid to change things around if you are struggling to find relevance between your content and imagery. Images themselves can be an inspiration, so let your mind flow with creativity. As mentioned, do stay on track with your keywords as much as you can so that your content can still be relevant to your overall objectives.

Pillar 2: Influence

The ability to influence should never be underestimated in marketing.

This applies to images in particular. When we talk about a picture speaking a thousand words, it’s generally as a result of emotions and memories being triggered in our brain. As a marketer, our goal should be to try and trigger emotions and memories in our audience that will help them engage more with our content.

But how do you do this?

By using a combination of techniques, you can really power up your images and get on the right track with positive influencing.

The use of color is very important as each color is typically associated with emotional triggers in the brain. So depending on what you are promoting, make sure you take guidance from the chart below, which highlights some of these main emotions.

The Psychology of Emotions and Colour in Marketing

colour chart for marketing

For example, the branding on my website, and indeed on my logo Get Ahead, is predominantly shades of orange and red, that’s because I want people to feel enthusiasm, optimism and confidence when associating to me.

Think about what you want to trigger, then see how you can apply that to your images. It may be in applying a color overlay or choosing an image with a predominant color in it. Or you could modify your stock image to include banner strips for text. There is so much you can do. Think about the colors for your CTAs (Calls to Action), contrast them with the rest of your image so they stand out.

You also need to start thinking about what types of images you can use as certain types of images play influencing roles.

Screenshots for example show trust and openness, it’s completely real and engages your audience because what they see is what they get.

Images of real people also play a significant role, they show the personality behind the brand and work as building real relationships with your audience by building trust.

Font choice and size is also very important, whilst it should remain in keeping with your brand, always take into account legibility with the goal of making it as easy to read as possible. Also have in mind legibility across mobile devices, a responsive design is best.

If you are considering using infographics to tell your story, remember the psychology of color and use that to emphasize the emotions you want to trigger in your audience.

Expert Tip
Ask yourself what you want your reader to take from your content. Or what you want them to feel from it. Work it backward from that point so you can go forward with clear goals in mind. That makes it a lot easier to influence them the way you want to.

Pillar 3: Confidence

With so many brands competing for everyone’s attention, you must have confidence in what you are doing. The days of putting up any old stock image are almost gone. You can still do it, but not for much longer.

Now is the time to be confident and make the shift so that your brand has an identity, a personality.

Where can this confidence come from?

Reference your brand guidelines, speak with your colleagues to get a sense check. If you make sure you are on brand and have the tone of the organization in mind, you will have a deeper understanding of what you are able to do.

Be confident in your choice of images. Do your research, invest time into the process. They need to have impact whilst staying on brand. With so many people pressed for time, scrolling through social feeds is such a speedy process your content can easily be lost in the noise. Make sure your images stand out for the right reasons and remain relevant to the content you’re promoting.

Share your brand personality. Use original and customized images, avoid stock overload.

Your confidence will give you presence.

Expert Tip
Challenge yourself, don’t be afraid. Remember to remain on brand, check your branding guidelines or talk with your colleagues to get a better understanding. Always try and throw in an A/B test – you’ll be able to see for yourself what resonates with your audience.

Applying the principles and techniques

You may already be following elements within one pillar, or even two, but for you to be really successful, apply the principles of all three. This really does give you the best launchpad for your content.

Of course, the imagery you use and the approach you take may well differ depending on the social channels you are focusing on, or if going deeper into your sales materials or presentations.

The importance of imagery, often overlooked, can never be underestimated. It’s an extremely competitive world and if we want to succeed in what we do, we have to focus on the detail.

For your content to stand the best chance of increased engagement levels across the board, absolutely follow the principles set out in The Three Pillars of Imagery in Marketing.

You have everything to gain. Run some A/B testing for your campaigns and see what works for your brand.