In an effort to win in the content marketing game, we are producing content at an astounding rate. With the explosive growth of visual content channels like YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, we churn out videos and images all in the hopes that it will drive traffic back to our site. And often it does.

But, are we forgetting something? Or someone? What about your target audience! Your buddy Brad, the buyer persona!

Reminder: The purpose of all of this content is not simply to gain traction via back-links and search engine rankings. Nor is it to build your followers, although this can be important. The point is to position yourself as the expert in your field. And whose expert are you? Brad’s!

If you’ve identified your buyer personas then you should have a very good idea of what information appeals to this person. This includes visual information like images, video, infographics, charts and more.

Knowing more about the target user (aka buyer persona) will help you to better serve them this type of media. From a demographics and statistical standpoint you could make certain assumptions…

  1. Are they on a mobile device, laptop, tablet, all of the above?
  2. Do they typically have high speed internet?
  3. Are they mainly using Firefox, IE, Chrome?

Knowing more about their browsing habits, you can make some assumptions about visual content they might like…

  1. Charts and graphs
  2. Colorful infographics
  3. Video

You can find this information in your site statistics. You can ask a select sampling of your target audience. The more you know about these users the better you can serve them what they need. They will be flattered to be asked.

Of course you can royally screw this up and it isn’t really that hard. In fact it happens ALL THE TIME. Anyone from a small mom and pop shop to a multi-national corporation could misuse this visual content.

What’s the offense? The user can’t read or understand what is there! Here are some of the visual content offenses and some ways to do it better…

Offense Number One – Image Size

Most digital cameras as well as digital scanners will produce large file sizes by default. These files can be 2-3 megs in size. That’s quite large for most web users. These would load slow for someone on high speed. Imagine loading them on dial-up or your 4G smartphone.

Video has the same issue. Raw video from a camera or any animation program will be very large in size. The output is generally higher quality and the longer the video, the larger the size. If the viewer, Brad, doesn’t have enough bandwidth the video will stop and wait and stutter.

Even when you are uploading to a system that automatically resizes the image, you still have to worry about storage. Also, some of these sites will load the full image and resize it on the page. So, it looks like its optimized but the download is still quite large  This will dramatically decrease site speed. Bad for users and for SEO. Ultimately it’s bad for your business.

How to do it better…

  1. For images, use a program like Adobe Photoshop to optimize the image for the web. This will scale the image down to 72 DPI and compress the file size. Better yet, find out from your webmaster the proper size and have them make a Photoshop kit for you.
  2. For video, make sure to compress the video with editing software. If you do not have this software, create a YouTube or Vimeo channel. They will compress and host the video for you. You can then simply embed the video on your site or just link to it.

Offense Number Two – Bad Graphics

So, you’ve optimized the image. Great. But, is it a good image? Sometimes we are in such a hurry to add an image to our site that we lose sight of its quality.

Again, who is this graphic for? What purpose does it serve? If it’s an instructional screen shot or infographic, is the text legible? Does it add value or enhance the message in any way or simply fill space?

Take time to think about the graphics you’re planning to use? Are they bad? Be honest with yourself.

How to do it better…

  1. If you are using a graphic for instructional reasons – like an install illustration, product sample or infographic – be sure the images make sense to the user. Be sure the text is legible. It should be clear right away to the user what purpose this graphic serves.
  2. Graphics don’t have to be serious all the time. You can have fun with these as well. Just look at Brad up there. I use Brad to illustrate the fact that I am talking about a real person, not just the ubiquitous marketing term “buyer persona.” Be creative. Have fun with these. Just make sure that your creativity and sense of humor work to enhance your overall message to your target audience. In other words, will Brad get the joke?

Offense Number Three – Stealing Boring Pictures

How many times have you seen the same woman in a headset on a website? No, she doesn’t work at 100 different companies at one time. She is a model paid to pose as a helpful woman wearing a headset.

I’m not saying that all stock photography is bad. Sometimes is can be quite effective. But, two things often go very wrong when using stock photography…

  1. You use a boring image that is used everywhere else online. More important, it really doesn’t help you to convey your message.
  2. You use an image without permission and get a nasty legal notice saying you owe an image broker thousands of dollars.

Number one will certainly not do you any good. It might even drive some site visitors away. Number two will ruin your whole day. We get requests from time to time to use an image that was simply pulled down from another site or from a Google search. These images are not public domain.

How to do it better…

  1. Use images that make sense and are as original as possible. Not all businesses can afford to set up a photo shoot to get the exact images they want. But, be willing to spend a little time and money to find a quality image that looks good and makes sense.
  2. And please, make sure you have permission to use the image. Using images without permission is plagiarism (a fancy word for theft) and can get you in a lot of trouble. Make sure to play it safe here. Google has a handy little tool to check for image rights.

Images and Video Work!

Of course they work, otherwise sites like Pinterest and YouTube wouldn’t be the powerhouses they are today. But, the good ones, the images, graphics and videos that really work are helping organizations succeed online everyday.

And the point is?

  • Some graphics are meant to be read. Some aren’t. Be sure you see the difference.
  • If graphics are meant to be read make sure that’s possible. Without a magnifying glass.
  • Every element of a picture, a book, or a website should have a purpose. If you don’t know what that purpose is either modify the element or take it out. Make sure it really fulfills its purpose.

What are some of your most frustration experiences with online graphics and video? What are some of your challenges? Had any very successful attempts using this type of content? Let me know if the comments section below…

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.