Visuals play an instrumental part in the everyday lives of billions of people. Little wonder why advertisers, content creators, and influencers have been harnessing this phenomenon for many decades. If your brand is solely relying on text to get your message across, your audience will have a harder time getting the full picture.
Visual aids go beyond aesthetics. The reason they are so effective can be explained through science and psychology. People are naturally attracted to images, videos, and other graphics.
Technology has simply evolved to adapt to users’ media tastes and thrive with it. Here are a few interesting studies that explored the correlation between images and persuasion, perceived credibility, and information processing:
Why Visuals Work
1. Persuasion: In 1986, the University of Minnesota School of Management conducted a study sponsored by 3M. The goal was to see whether presenters who used visual aids to communicate a course of action had a greater persuasive effect on audiences. The results showed that those who used images, graphics, and other visual aids in their presentations were in fact more successful than better presenters (as gauged and selected by the researchers) without visuals. On average, presenters with visuals had a 43 percent greater chance of persuading the audience.
The hypothesis is that unlike text, visual aids use colors and shapes to assist the human brain in retaining concepts and helping the human eyes move from focal point to focal point.
The study showed that in long, text-heavy presentations, audiences are challenged to concentrate against the monotony. Visual aids are not distractions, but serve as relief. These little breaks between text strengthen audience members’ attention spans, thus increasing persuasion.
2. Perceived credibility: Some people might not judge books by their covers, but most people will judge a Web site by its visual design and layout.
In a study conducted by Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, 2,684 participants were told to evaluate the credibility of two Web sites sharing a similar topic. Each person would then leave comments addressing the most noticeable aspect of the pages. Of all the elements in a Web site, the look and design was addressed most frequently, with 46.1 percent of all comments having mentioned the effectiveness or the deficiencies of the visuals.
It doesn’t matter how credible the content is. If the visuals are weak or poorly designed, people will have a hard time seeing past it, let alone digesting it.
3. Cognition: Every person receives information differently, but according to 3M, most people benefit from visuals. Images have been shown to improve learning by up to 400 percent. The human brain simply has a faster, easier time processing images than it does text, approximately 60,000 times faster.
So whether you consider yourself a kinaesthetic, auditory, or visual learner, we all require our senses to translate ideas and concepts into something personally comprehendible. At a glance, images and graphics can communicate an idea much faster than text. After all, a picture is worth 1,000 words.
The Marketing Implications Of Visuals
1. Search engines love visuals: Let’s take a guess: Most of your favorite blogs and Web sites use images, right? We already know that our brains prefer images to text, but another reason why posts that incorporate media elements do so much better is because SEO favors visuals as well.
Posts including images, videos, lists, and other types of media as parts of content are more successful in earning traffic because of their ability to gain more In Linking Domains (ILDs--which are, essentially, links back to your posts). A study conducted by Moz has shown that videos, specifically, have the capability of attracting three times the amount of ILDs. And posts that include all types of media can attract about six times more ILDs.
Although word counts play a role in the world of SEO, visual elements cannot be ignored—unless you want your content to be ignored as well. Audiences like visuals as much as search engines. In fact, a study has shown that viewers spend more time with brands when visuals are involved.
2. Videos increase time spent with brands: Companies revolve around clients and consumers, and brands recognize that visuals help sustain and nurture relationships between the company and the consumers.
Starting in 2009, online marketing company Attivio conducted an internal study, evaluating the increase in traffic (from 200 percent to 300 percent more monthly visitors) that came with introducing regular video postings. The study discovered that the average time on site per visitor increased by 100 percent. The results show that visitors will stay approximately three minutes on a page with videos, while only staying for a minute and a half on a page without videos.
Videos and images are engaging not only on Web sites, but also for brands’ social media outposts as well.
3. Images and social media engagement: In the Social Media Content Optimization Survey conducted by Software Advice, seven tactics were highlighted as being essential to optimizing social media content. Naturally, the most important highlighted tactic was images and photos.
Images can increase engagement by 94 percent, nearly double the amount of engagement with posts lacking images. Generally speaking, social media platforms, such as Facebook and Google+, are designed for sharing images. It’s only in content creators’ best interests to include them in their practices.
At any given moment, consumers are scrolling through their feeds trying to find something to catch their attention. Images hook eyeballs much faster than just a line of text alone. So combine the two!
Images don’t just spruce things up. They’re an inherent part of how our minds work, and brands have seen some undeniable ROI from them. Although it can be tough work finding the perfect visual to accompany the content, it’s well worth the effort.