Today, a picture isn't just worth a thousand words. A picture — or any other type of image — may actually replace all the words onscreen or on a printed page.

These amazing statistics make the case for why pictures and images may soon replace — or have already supplanted — the written word:

  • 37 percent of marketers said visual marketing was the most important type of content used by their business, second only to blogging at 38 percent. (2016 Social Media Examiner)
  • Eye-tracking studies show internet readers pay close attention to images that convey information. In fact, when the images are relevant, readers spend more time looking at them than they do reading text on the page. (Nielsen Norman Group)
  • In social media, infographics are liked and shared three times as often as other types of content. (MassPlanner)
  • Between 2015 and 2016, infographic use by B2B marketers increased from half using them to almost 60 percent. (Content Marketing Institute)
  • A particularly important statistic for financial and professional services marketers offering online services: People are 32 percent better able to follow directions that include text and illustrations compared to text directions alone. (Research review by W. Howard Levie and Richard Lentz)

One more surprising fact: According to the 2016 Social Media Examiner, B2B marketers actually place greater importance on visual content than B2C marketers.

The definition of an image has changed significantly over the last few decades. A category that once was defined by illustrations and photographs now includes things like infographics, animated charts and graphs, videos, slide shows and virtual reality experiences.

What’s driving this evolution? Like most things today, it can be attributed to shorter attention spans and visual behavioral changes associated with the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablet devices.

Many marketers are not sure how to keep up with this trend.

Here are five things you can do to use images more effectively in your marketing and communication campaigns:

1. Don't assume an image is the best option. 

Just because visuals are popular right now, it doesn't mean they're always the right solution to a messaging challenge. Always start by thinking about what you want to communicate, then select the right medium to deliver the message. Sometimes, a narrative or simple written list may be the most effective choice.

2. Match the image to the message.

Different visual treatments are better at delivering certain types of messages. If you want people to feel something, an evocative photo is probably the best way to go. Video is useful for explaining complex concepts. Animated charts and graphs are valuable when you need to use numbers to convey results. Of course, infographics are useful for telling multi-part visual stories that unfold step-by-step.

3. Hire professionals.

People have become more visually sophisticated. They expect graphics that are clear, readable, polished and professional. Elements developed by product marketers or support staff will reflect negatively on your brand. If you can't afford to hire a full time professional graphic designer, partner with an agency or experienced freelancer.

4. Just because it makes sense to you, doesn't mean it makes sense to everyone.

Images are personal and can be interpreted by different people in countless ways. Make it a point to test images with your target audience before releasing them broadly. They may see things you don't, or completely miss the point of a graphic you’re sure is clear.

Yip: One easy and inexpensive way to test images with a target audience is through a limited release in social media. It will give you a quick read on whether your audience “gets it.”

5. Make sure your images align with your brand.

Has your company updated its brand for today’s more visual digital world? If not, it could be time to do that. Images are a powerful representation of your company’s brand. Having guidelines in place that define the types of visuals your company should use — and how to use them — will ensure they convey the essence of your firm and how it does what it does. It will also make it more likely that different types of visuals coordinate with each other.

Visual brand guidelines should include information on how to:

  • Select photos that reflect your brand
  • Develop videos that look, feel and deliver messages aligned with your other assets
  • Pick images that will generate social interaction
  • Create charts, graphs and infographics that use colors, typefaces and icons that are readable on all types of devices.

Need help improving your company’s use of imagery? Carpenter Group can help. We’ve developed award-winning campaigns using cutting-edge images that communicate for decades. Check out our portfolio to see examples, then contact us to discuss how we could help you.