My critique partner, Larissa Emerald, and I presented a workshop at the New Jersey Romance Writer’s Put Your Heart in a Book conference this past weekend. One of the benefits of doing a workshop is the research you do while putting together the material. We concentrated on the power of images to market our books across a few of the social media sites.
Too often we think of ourselves as writers, so when we make our marketing plans we begin by writing. But what we really are is storytellers. And stories existed long before written languages existed. Stories were told around campfires to entertain, educate, and engender a sense of belonging. Stories evoke emotions. When we hear a story we begin building mental images about the words we hear. When we turn to visual images to market, we build emotional connections with our audience.
Why are visuals so powerful? It has to do with survival. Remembering places you’ve been before, recognizing things that are safe or dangerous to eat, animals that can be more easily hunted versus the ones that may hunt you ensured our survival. Those skills all revolved around visual encoding. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conducted an experiment to determine how well we remember images. They showed subjects 3000 images for 3 seconds each—that’s two and a half hours of viewing a series of pictures. When shown paired images, the subjects correctly selected the previously viewed images 92% of the time. Can you imagine how many numbers or words those same subjects would have remembered two hours later?
So now that we all believe in the power of images, how do we make them work for us?
By catching a viewer’s attention quickly. Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without. Images used in SlideShare decks from 2013 to 2014 increased by 53% and infographics on SlideShare get Liked five times more than standard presentations, according to CMO.com.
To begin, create a style guide to use for your entire brand communications. Determine the mood you want your brand to reflect; do you write dark dystopian stories, laugh out loud humor, women’s fiction, suspense, or fantasy? Make sure your images and colors match your writing style.
Select two or three colors—know the color’s RGB, HEX, and CMYK (for print) numbers.
|Color Picker Numbers|
And select two or three fonts for web and maybe two or three complementary typeface for printed collateral. Your goal is to create a look that resonates with your readers and can be recognized across multiple outlets.
Learn some basic design principles from books like Design Basics Index by Jim Krause and The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams. Or watch Lynda.com videos (anything by John McWade will help you see marketing materials in a totally new light!) Keep up with visual trends by watching free webinars from stock photo sources like Getty Images—they spot visual and color trends used in advertising and fashion before they hit the marketplace.
Start with your webpage. Unlike the ever-changing social media venues, you own your webpage and can control how and when it is changed. Invest the time to ensure your visual communication is as powerful or even more powerful than your text—just to get a viewer to stop and read what you have to say.
Remember to add Alt (alternate) Text wherever possible so visually impaired users can still get the benefit of your images. Screen readers pick up that text and read it to them, so use keywords that are descriptive as well.
Pinterest: Consider uploading images from events such as book signings or conferences and link back to relevant pages on your website. (Only do this for the images you own!) Make it easy to pin images from your website by adding a Pin it button. You can pin animated GIF images and short videos (from Vimeo and YouTube) as well. Pinterest Co-founder and CEO Ben Silverman in a Forbes article said “If Facebook is selling the past and Twitter the present, Pinterest is offering the future.” Use keywords wherever text is (board names, account and pin descriptions, even your account name).
|Board Dedicated to Coast Guard Images|
Just like every other social media tool, you must have a plan with clearly defined goals. Use tall images (the width is controlled in the Pinterest feed, but height is not) to get noticed. Create or convert your personal account to a business account and verify your URL to improve indexing and to gain access to analytics. Analytics let you see what is being pinned from your website and which pins are driving traffic to your website.
Twitter: Pin a tweet that showcases you and your brand—one with images or video. It will stay at the top of your feed until you change it. According to a study by Buddy Media, tweets with images double the engagement. Make sure the image or video is relevant to your post and brand. Create a schedule of posts and topics to post at specific day and times and measure your success by checking your analytics.
|Jayhawk Down Infographic|
Once you begin thinking with images, plan how to use them to gain the most interactions and think creatively. Can you tell your story with a video, an infographic, or an image that grabs the viewer emotionally? What kinds of images make you stop and read what the author has to say?