By now it should be evident that content marketing is not just another buzzword or passing fad–it’s here to stay.
The sad part is that, like most things that spread like wildfire in this Internet age, it’s been abused, misused and misunderstood.
Take a look, for example, at these epic fails by big brands like Starbucks and Heinz. From newsjacking disasters to shameless self-promotion and superficial treatments of complex topics, unsuccessful content marketing campaigns abound.
And now that visual content marketing is on the rise, poorly designed infographics and images have only compounded the content fatigue epidemic.
What’s a content marketer to do? Can we still appeal to audiences who’ve already put up their “Marketing Defense Systems”?
I set out to answer this question by reaching out to 42 content marketing influencers to find out what they were doing to stand out with their visual content in a crowded Web, and many of them advocated for a new approach.
Insights From Top Content Marketing Influencers
Here are excerpts from some of their most actionable tips and insightful advice:
“The noise is being created by too much content of too little quality. In visual content, the quality of that content cannot be underestimated.
In the written word, someone might look at the title and become interested and continue to read. In visual content, the visual IS the headline – that’s it! This means you need to absolutely focus on quality, and often we can learn more about the quality of our content by seeing how our fans respond to it through our analytics.”
–Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer
“Focus on consistency and quality to stand out visually online. We all have access to the same tools and talent to create visual media, but how we use them makes all the difference between a winning visual experience and forgettable one.
Develop a consistent visual brand to become noticeable and recognizable to your audience over time with similar colors, logos and other stylistic choices. Invest in quality visuals to ensure you’re representing your brand in the right light by ensuring you’re not doing things like choosing the same stock footage on your website that everyone else in your industry is also using.”
-Top 50 Content Marketing Thought Leaders (Onalytica)
“‘Effective’ is nearly synonymous with ‘relevant’ when it comes to visual content. That means understanding your target audience preferences for visual content discovery, formats and action to deliver the most relevant content possible.
For example, if your audience prefers finding visual content through Instagram featuring short video and offering a CTA to a longer video on a YouTube channel then that’s what you should give them. To cut through the noise, find out what kind of visual content your audience wants, where they want it and how – then give it to them.”
-CEO of TopRank Marketing
“The visual content that works most effectively for us at Moz does three things well:
1. Stands out due to its style, format, and uniqueness (for example, the photos we use to start Whiteboard Friday videos).
2. Communicates its message clearly and obviously, in a way that anyone in the target audience can understand (e.g. this graph of the SEO slog).
3. Never feels corporate, inauthentic, or like it’s a stock visual (we do all custom-stuff, like this simple visual of Google’s algorithmic journey).”
“The best way to create effective visual content that cuts through in a media-saturated world is to keep everything as simple as possible. Simple graphics. Simple messages. Simple distribution. It takes a great deal of thought to deliver visual content that’s simple.
It means that we have to dig in and understand the insights, rather than making our audience do it. That’s what makes the visual representation simple and make it extremely valuable to your audience.”
-Top 100 Content Marketing Influencer (Onalytica)
“Effective visual content starts with understanding your audience, their problems, wants and desires as they relate to your products or services. Once you understand this your role is to create content that answers and solves the questions posed by your audience.
Do this in a manner that captures and then recaptures it every seven seconds and your audience will not only devour your content but they will share it, promote it and do whatever it is you wish them to do.”
-The Top 5 Content Marketing Influencers to Watch in 2016 (ScribbleLive)
“A great content marketer needs to tap into the artistic to create visual content that pops with originality and authenticity. If it doesn’t move you, it’s not going to move anyone else. Keep at it til it does.”
-Forbes Top 20 Social Media Power Influencer
“Know the greatest pain points your readers are experiencing and address them as your lead – then you can proceed to demonstrate the value the content contains.”
-Best-selling author of Duct Tape Marketing
“Sometimes cutting through the noise means not playing in the noise.
One trend I’m seeing with visual content is delivery via direct email (and not posting it elsewhere on the web). This creates an exclusivity and relationship difficult to achieve on a blog or web publication.”
-50 Top Content Marketing Influencers in 2016 (TopRank)
“Draw from a different well to everyone else. So much visual content uses the same image libraries or the same tired iconography/vector graphics/lens flare effects which rapidly become cliches. No more ‘man in suit pointing at abstract words on an invisible white board’ please!
While visual content tools are extremely useful, avoid the ‘included’ image assets where possible because everyone else will use them too. Always import your own or edit/adjust and otherwise treat them to make them your own.”
-50 Top Content Marketing Influencers in 2016 (TopRank)
If you’re hungry for more advice, check out this infographic summary of all 42 expert tips: