Writing is about words, and as writers we all love to read and write. However apparently we are the exception, because it seems that at least 40% of the population prefer some form of visual imagery along with the text, in order to process and understand information, especially when reading digital material.
The need for visual images could be because according to web marketing group 90% of the information that comes to the brain is visual. Other studies have also shown that visual content on social media, including on Twitter and Facebook posts, are more likely to be noticed and shared than text only posts.
This information has huge implications for content writers and anyone using social media to promote their work. In essence a new form of writing, specifically related to digital marketing has emerged.
The recent growth in image focused social media sites, such as Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat is another testament to the expected growth of imagery within our world. The other major way in which social media use has affected writing style, is through sites such as Twitter, where written communication is restricted to just 140 characters. There is now a cultural demand worldwide to access short and to the point text and/or to have an image.
For many writers this may seem like a step too far, why bother engaging with an audience that doesn’t even like reading? The difference though is that many people absorb a lot of information through the internet, but still enjoy reading books and longer articles.
However they have to wade through all the information on the internet in order to find these books, and that’s where your own social media strategy comes into play. You can help them find your work. And using images can help you do that.
This blog is an introduction to that digital style of writing and social media communication,which involves using succinct writing styles alongside images.
Using Images in Blogs and Online Writing
There has been large growth in the use of images on the internet and this also means that there are now numerous tools and websites, offering free and paid access to pictures and photos. Although there are lots of websites out there it is easier to use an image platform that collects pictures such as Pinterest. The advantage with sites such as this is that you can collect photos and build up your own collections of relevant and appropriate images, and then visit the source site as required.
One of the main tools that I am currently using to access and collect images is Pinterest. If you don’t have a Pinterest account there is a video walkthrough here that can guide you through the basics and explain how to set up an account. I find it is a great source of visual inspiration and an easy way to build collections of images which can be used later in posts and articles. Each of your collection of images is placed on your own Pinterest board, each new picture or image is known as a Pin.
You can visit my Pinterest account here to see a sample of the different boards that I have collected for each of my blogs. This screenshot also shows a typical Pinterest account with a summary of their different boards.
When it comes to writing and blogging it seems that not all images are created equally, so choosing the type and kind of image is also important if you want your writing to have the most impact. Neil Patel has written an article describing some research he carried out on the different uses of images in blogs. He was interested to know how this affected their social media uptake. For the rest of this blog I will walk you through the various image types, and give you some examples of each type.
One of the tools that has seen a huge increase in use on many blog sites, especially business blogs, is the infographic. For those of you not familiar with infographics here is one looking at the advantages of using images in your writing.
Infographic by MDG Advertising
The advantage with an infographic is that it says everything you can write about, but presents it in a visual and easy to read form. Although infographics can be created from scratch there are already a lot of professionally made ones on available on the internet, if you google the topic and add the word infographic. Again sites such as Pinterest have lots of info graphics to choose from and you can trace the original site from an infographic that you like.
Although screenshots may not gain as many social media likes and share as other images, that is according to Neil Patel’s article; they are still a useful way of capturing images and helping to explain things. Many of the infographics can be quite large and take up a lot of space, however a screenshot of a segment of an infographic is another way in which information can be shared in a more visually interesting way.
For example the following screenshot is from an infographic about infographics, but here I chose one segment to illustrate a point I am particularly interested in sharing.
Screenshots can be another interesting way to edit images or choose parts of a picture to share on the internet. As with all images that you use, the original source needs to be acknowledged.
Graphs and Diagrams
There are times, especially when sharing research findings or data, that graphs and figures become a more effective way to get the message across.
In this instance even the graph format has been adapted to be more visually enticing to customers. However even using ordinary graphs can help to break up text and encourage the reader to continue the article.
Not all the images that you use need to be educational. There are millions of photos and awe-inspiring images that can be used or adapted for any writing situation. The photo I’ve used here could be used in a number of different situations or associated with different themed articles.
For example the picture could be part of an article on ‘getting to new depths with your writing’. In the end imagination is the only limiting factor when using images.
The only important point when using photos, is to consider how they link into the message you are writing about.
If your pictures are nice but don’t really relate to the article, they will just distract the reader. The aim of the picture or image is to enhance your work not distract from it.
Different types of pictures
Sometimes the aim of the image might be to engage the reader and make them think or take time a longer time to look at the image. 3D images can be a useful way of stopping readers from skimming over your work, and force them to think more about what they have seen.
Other types of images that have this effect are mirage and illusion type pictures. All of these have the same effect, which is to keep readers on the page and leave them with something to remember about your article.
Quotes and Images
Other ways in which readers can be inspired is to include quotes with the picture, or to provide a background image to accompany well known motivational quotes. This has two effects, it engages the reader to think about the quote and at the same time the image holds the readers attention for longer.
Using humour and images
Sometimes images and words have already been combined together by others in humour and cartoons. These can be used to emphasis a message in blog articles and to lighten the mood. They can also be useful when trying to break up complex or technical writing and ensure that readers can have a break without leaving the page.
Again the trick is to use cartoons or humour that links into the subject matter that you are writing about. Since this article is about images and photography, the minion cartoon is funny but also ties into the themes of images.
The final group of images are those that trigger an emotional response in the reader. Some of the most common images to appear on the internet are successful because of the emotions that they evoke. This could be humour, joy, bewilderment.
Animals are a common theme of shared images, especially cute animals. They even have a scientific value as research has proven that looking at cute animal pictures increases productivity.
Writing is obviously about the words and conveying an atmosphere or scene through description. However in a world of instant messaging, the challenge in digital writing is to convey the message and atmosphere as simply and quickly as possible. Images offer the opportunity to do this, if used correctly and with the same amount of thought and effort that is applied to the writing.
To sum up the key points covered today on using images –
- Use infographics as a way to provide readers with a lot of information or statistics as these are easier to absorb than pages of plain text.
- Take screenshots of infographics and graphs in reports so that they are broken down into easier to read chunks.
- Use photos – but link them into the theme you are writing about.
- Set up a Pinterest account (training video here).
- Build up your own collection of images and set up different categories to be used in future articles and blogs.
- Remember to identify the source of any images used.
- Humour and emotional pictures are the most frequently shared images on social media sites, which could boost your own work if you include them.