The Evocative Visual Approach to Social Media Marketing

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The great cathedrals, churches and basilicas of Europe are treasured for their exquisite stained glass windows, which for a millennium have been viewed with awe and inspired spiritual reflection.  The high aesthetic of colored glass and lead depicts icons, saints and biblical narratives for a once largely illiterate audience in a world where books were the rare domain of clergy, the aristocracy and the wealthy elite.  Gutenberg, 20th century printing press technology and the public education mandate changed all that.  So it is somewhat ironic that the Internet, which started as a pure text medium, is now responding to social business influences that stress persuasive images as essential (and sometimes valued even more than text).  The latest social business trends illustrate that compelling graphics are practically a prerequisite in every site design and as illustrations for every post.

In a recent article, Bob Geller emphasized the power of visuals for capturing the hearts, minds and click-throughs of site visitors.  Graphics have always been important.  The right images trigger the kind of visceral response that can lead to desired marketing outcomes.  Indeed, your first schoolbooks were basically pictures followed by text.  That’s how children learn and retain information quickly and efficiently.  Social media marketers can emulate that paradigm to achieve the business objective of maximizing reads, subscriptions, conversions and sales through such evocative marketing strategies.

Programmers got it long ago.  Low-level assembly coding was supplanted by higher-level business computing languages such as COBOL.  HTML, CSS and PHP, the current lingua franca of the social Web, are practically steps away from looking like common prose (though coding phobics may disagree). Today, as a social media marketer, you can even build corporate websites and business blogs without any coding whatsoever, via turnkey frameworks that use the paradigm of drag-and-drop building blocks or with shrink-wrap themes (design templates) coupled with thousands of plugins that deliver any imaginable feature or functionality to a site with the ease of a paint-by-numbers canvas.  It’s all very visual and science tells us that the human brain likes it this way; when presented with words, we morph them into images.  For social media marketing, the takeaway is emotionally potent graphical content and strong visuals are the most effective ways to sell.

The digital quilt becomes complete with the right mix of images and text featherstitched to create immediacy, impact, emotional response and, ideally, action.  The Internet experience is gradually evolving into a series of digital billboards for a social business audience driving Formula 1 racers on a three-dimensional speedway.  Since attention spans are running on fumes, social networks that rely on evocative marketing strategies (Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, et al) are ascending while, at the same time, veteran social media influencers are talking about blogging less and throttling back on the length of their posts.  That’s less text and less often.  So as one social media strategist/designer asked, should social media marketers spend more time on layout and Photoshop and less keystroking in Word to create social business content that looks like this?  That example may not be the right visual approach for your company, but it is suggestive of things to come.  Journalist and designer David McCandless notes that our neurons have been overwhelmed with data, and focusing on data visualization strategies is critical.  This is one of the reasons why infographics are so compelling as a powerful convergence of imagery and text.   Content with infographics or images drives more shares and engagement.  If you are looking for social media ROI for your business, focus on visualization.

For social media marketers building websites and creating content for companies, evocative marketing strategies elevate visuals with balanced levels of text.  If you are trying to cram your site with a fruit salad of keywords to stoke the SEO boiler, your tactic may actually be counterproductive.  A fresh new coat of social media marketing ideas might include some of the following approaches and recommendations:

1)      Evocative social media marketing techniques create a brand experience by using imagery to create an emotional connection via human sentiments such as family, children, pets, babies, nostalgia, love, sex, career, success, wealth and relationships.

2)      If the mountain won’t go to Pinterest, bring Pinterest to the mountain.  Though there are reports that some companies have elected to move their Web presence to Pinterest as part of their social media marketing efforts, you might instead leverage the design popularity of Pinterest in plans for site redesign and content posts.  Blend images and text to create a sales and marketing funnel leading to your conversion or commitment objectives.  If your Google Analytics bounce rate is too high, something is amiss with your images, videos, headlines, captions or textual content.

3)      Buy, borrow or steal a copy of Presentation Zen.  You will never produce a deadly dull slide presentation again that relies on a sea of bullet points and plain vanilla bar charts and pie charts.  Think of your next speech or seminar in the context of delivering your message in a cathedral.  Don’t project a script; envelope your audience in stained glass.

4)      Creating infographics is more complex than downloading stock photos and vector graphics.  Luckily there are many online software tools for creating infographics, charts, graphs and data visualizations, or you can design your own with CorelDRAW (Windows), Illustrator, KeyNote (Mac), Photoshop or PowerPoint.  Check out free cloud-based tools such as Creatley, Hohli,, Many Eyes, PiktoChart and

5)      Let’s talk about you, your image.  Plus the images of people you work with.  There’s plenty of evidence that using interesting, artful photos of people can dramatically impact conversion rates.  Cartoons used as company mascots and other types of vector graphics can help drop your bounce rates, so consider a site strategy leveraging a mosaic of photography and graphic art.

Does your company website or blog use enough photos and graphics?  Do you have plans to focus on visuals in your social media marketing as a means of retaining visitors and boosting conversions?

Joel Don
This monthly Social Business Trends column is contributed by Joel Don. Joel is principal of Comm Strategies, a consultancy that leverages public relations strategies, reputation enhancement and social media tools to maximize business success. Joel has worked for several PR and marketing agencies, and previously served as a public information officer at UCLA and UC Irvine. He also directed business and financial communications at a Fortune 500 computer manufacturer. Formally trained as a journalist, he has written for daily newspapers and national magazines throughout the country. In addition, Joel developed a digital solution for measuring the readership of company news prior to the advent of today’s link-tracking systems. +Joel Don
Joel Don


Community manager + social media/PR consultant helping you leverage the right strategies & tools. Skier & PADI scuba instructor
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  1. says

    Hi Neal, yes agree with you. The book Presentation Zen is really a powerful book. So far that’s the most useful book for presentation after Seth Godin’ book – “Really Bad Powerpoint”

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