One of the great advantages of the internet is that it’s not constrained to one type of media. You can combine words, images, typography, video, and even music to get your message across in just the way that you want and that you think will be most effective. When talking about primarily written content, unfortunately all too often we assume (and I admit to hardly being innocent of this myself) that our finely crafted words are all that’s needed and we forget about the amazing power that different types of visuals have to enhance the ideas of our words, even in the shortest forms like marketing emails and social media updates. Even if you’re not a photographer or a graphic designer, or the business doesn’t seem like one that needs a lot of fancy images, there are a handful of things you can do without straining even the most limited resources to let visuals enhance your other messages and make your great ideas even more effective.

Use relevant images

An image that isn’t clearly relevant to the marketing email, social media update, or blog post that it’s supporting is simply adding clutter instead of value. When choosing images to support your other marketing and content efforts, it’s important to choose images that are not only visually appealing, but that are clearly relevant to the subject or product being discussed. Don’t use a picture of a product that isn’t what’s on sale or relevant to what’s being discussed, even if it’s the “prettier” or more visually appealing item, and don’t use an image just because you like how it looks if it doesn’t make clear sense in context. People are going to assume that the image is part of the message, because it is, so pay attention to what you’re implying with images and even typography.

Use consistent images

People in general like to look for patterns and things that match or coordinate. It’s simply how many of our brains work. As a result, we’re wired to begin to associate certain images or even types of images with certain products or brands if we see them used consistently. Use the same image or set of images (even if they’ve been edited differently for different platforms) across a particular campaign or when discussing a certain topic or product line to reinforce the larger ideas across multiple messages. As a consumer, I get a marketing email and see an image, I’m going to be looking for a similar image on the website when I go to potentially purchase the product, even if it’s subconsciously. By using consistent images, it’s going to make navigating your website that much easier.

Have a consistent visual language

Beyond images, you can use a whole visual language of fonts, colors, and various styles of typography that can emphasize the most important ideas in your content and can help communicate your brand. Use the same fonts, the same colors, and the same overall style across emails, social media, and your website to give customers an immediate sense of who they’re dealing with, as well as making it easy for them to identify your brand at a quick glance of any marketing materials. Once you’ve established a consistent visual language for a brand, anything that doesn’t fit in that language is going to stand out as being in some way important or unique, so do it intentionally and thoughtfully.

Be timely

Not only can supporting visuals help your content stand out, but it can help it feel timely and relevant, as well. Remember things like holidays, seasons, and special events like graduations or weddings and find ways to incorporate that into your choice of images, colors, and fonts. The images used in your marketing and the overall visual style can reflect these events, even if it’s something somewhat subtle like more flowers in spring and during wedding season, stars near Fourth of July, snowflakes or cool whites and blues during winter, and bright and warm colors in summer. It’s not necessary to go all out with seasonal or holiday themed visuals, especially if you’re not specifically dealing with them in your marketing or your content efforts, but a simple addition of some subtle hints can make people more responsive and can also help dispel the idea that all of your content or your marketing messages are automated or set up months and months in advance without thought.

Make it mobile friendly

We know that more and more people are doing a significant percentage of their internet use, especially social media, on their smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Any images or special fonts used simply must be mobile friendly or it compromises the effectiveness of your message and the consistency of visual language across email, social media, and website. Responsive design can absolutely be a help here, but it’s also important to be aware of things like the size of image files being called up, even if they’re being resized and optimized for mobile on the fly. It’s not just that mobile devices themselves typically have less power than a computer, but that they’re often being used on cellular data networks or public wifi that are not as robust as a dedicated home or office network.

Don’t give everything away in one image

A header image or a graphic used to encourage click throughs from social media should be a teaser — interesting on its own and with just enough of a hint of what awaits in the full length article to encourage people to click through, but not so much that it gives it away and makes people feel like they don’t need to go read the whole thing or look at the entire infographic. Think of it like a movie trailer. Movie trailers that are exciting but leave the audience thinking “but then what happens??” are by far the most effective, and trailers that seem to include all the best bits of the movie leave us feeling like we can skip the movie entirely, or feeling disappointed when we take the time to see the movie and realize the two minute trailer was just as entertaining.

While I love language immensely and think words have an unbelievable power, it’s key to realize how much visuals can do to support even the most carefully and beautifully written words. Whether it’s reinforcing ideas, getting customers’ attention, helping to emphasize key points, or simply adding an extra layer of fun or flare to content, ignoring the ways that visuals can enrich your content is a waste of a fantastic opportunity. Let us know what brand has your favorite use of visuals, and share with us in the comments!