Among my friends, it’s no secret that I love Instagram. It’s my favorite social media platform – more than Facebook, more than Twitter. I love looking at everything from beautiful images from talented photographers around the world to photos of friends’ kids and pets and vacations.
And I’m not the only one who feels that way.
It’s this passion for the visual that companies are capitalizing on today in their content marketing, and drawing people in. You may think this only works for big consumer brands like Pepsi or Zappos, but it’s just as effective in offering a well-rounded (and often very professional) look at your practice and law firm as well.
Let’s take a look first at the figures that support this trend – Neil Patel over at Content Marketing Institute has a great piece with some tips for visual marketing that we’re going to investigate further, and he shares some relevant data:
- Nearly 66% of updates on social media are visual content.
- Facebook users upload 350 million photos every day (not including Instagram images).
In addition to platforms that are specifically driven by images (such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat), other social media platforms have all embraced the visual trends too, and heavily incorporate visual content themselves. LinkedIn itself just recently rolled out the ability to add images to your posts, something that users had been requesting for a while. That’s playing catch up to what Facebook and Twitter have been doing.
It’s not just about the images themselves though – it’s also about using images to support your written content.
“Content with images gets 94% more views than content sans images. It doesn’t matter what industry, topic, niche, or specialty, images matter.”
When your written content contains images, it also gets more social shares as well (keep in mind that that means you have to include the image when you’re sharing it socially, not just that the linked piece has an image in it).
The statistics are clear – images get people’s attention. And that’s what you want. Attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter as we’re bombarded with more and more information each day. So it’s up to us to stand out – you can be the smartest, most experienced lawyer in your field, but if no one is able to find what you’re writing, they won’t know that.
If you’re taking the time to create content, it’s worth investing a bit more time to supplement it with the right images to really make it work for you. There are two ways that visual content is used, and either can be helpful in your practice or for your firm.
Images As Written Content Enhancers
The first is the idea of using images to enhance written content. The idea here is that you have an article or a blog post that you’ve written (or even a tweet, Facebook post, LinkedIn post, etc.), and you’re going to draw further attention to it by using a relevant and catchy image as part of it.
Patel offers some suggestions for how to get maximum distribution from your visual content, which I’ll share with you with my own thoughts on how these can work for lawyers and law firms.
“Use a featured image at the beginning of every article”
Patel starts every blog post with a featured image, which he illustrates for us here:
I include this because I want to show that images don’t have to be silly or kitschy things that make you roll your eyes and wonder about the qualifications of the author. In this case, Patel is taking an image that directly relates to the subject matter of his post, and sharing it with the audience right away, so that the theme of the post (reducing bounce rates) is immediately reinforced with the title AND the image.
It’s a strong message, and it’s a professional one – something that is completely possible to replicate within a lawyer’s practice. It’s also important to note that the image Patel uses is very clean and modern looking. As someone who is authoring good, smart content online, the idea that you’re offering subtly is that you’re on the cutting edge in your field. So you want to reinforce that message with your images as well as with your words.
Why is a featured image like this important? Patel tells us that it increases engagement with the post and draws attention to the content – two things that as the author of the content should be very important to you.
The image increases engagement. Plus, as Buffer has explained, it draws attention to the content.”
“Add one image for every 350 words”
This is one piece of visual content advice that I need to take myself – I typically break my posts up with other visual cues, such as headers and bullet points, but I’m not as good about adding images within my written content. So let’s call this a case of “do as I say, not as I do.”
Generally speaking, you should use at least one image in your articles for every 350 words you write. If your article is 2,000 words, you should have six images or so. Add images at regular intervals so readers can “breathe” as they read.”
Depending on your practice area, this may be a fairly easy undertaking. I work with an energy lawyer, who recently wrote a couple of very long articles that he broke up with graphs and illustrations for a discussion on peak oil. It was very effective. When you’re writing, ask yourself whether an image would help in making your point more effectively – or even reinforce it – and work to consistently include images in your writing to break up the text.
“Use a variety of images”
It’s easy for us to get stuck in the belief that using “visual content” means that we’re going to be posting memes all the time, and that will degrade the reputation of our practice and our firms. Not so (though a well-thought out meme can do WONDERS for the impression of your firm’s creativity!).
There are many professional images you can use to support and enhance your written content, but you also don’t want to get stuck in a rut of using only graphs or only stock images. Change it up a little. Patel offers us some different types of images to consider – words to follow are Patel’s, with my comments in parenthesis:
- Graphs and charts – It’s easier to communicate something on a graph or data in a chart than it is to craft explanatory text (We’ve covered graphs and charts already, and I suspect most lawyers would be quite comfortable incorporating these into their written content. But don’t forget to branch out).
- Stock images – It’s OK to use them sparingly because they are inexpensive, easy to edit, and quick to find. (Please try to stay away from images of gavels, columns, the scales of justice, etc. These have been SO overused to represent “the law” that it doesn’t lend you any further credibility to include them in your own work.)
- Custom images – It’s ideal to create custom images because you can better communicate your brand style and your message. (This doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition if you’re a small firm. There are all kinds of creative services these days that allow you to source a project online, and have people submit designs and images for a minimal fee. Don’t rule this one out for budgetary reasons.)
- Cartoons and comics – Who doesn’t like a good laugh? (Never hesitate to poke fun at yourself, but always make sure that you have the rights to use the images that you’re including).
- Memes – An occasional one may be appropriate. (I am highly in favor of well-done, creative memes for law firms).
- Screenshots – They’re a helpful method for tutorial or how-to driven posts. (Screenshots are another excellent image source for lawyers and law firms to illustrate their point).
- Embedded information – Instagram photos and tweets enhance the content visually. (This may take a little extra technological know-how, but if you’re not comfortable with it, just ask for help!)
Images as Standalone Content
Images can also be used as standalone content – content marketing, as we’ve discussed before, is about more than just the written word. We’re starting to get beyond the comfort zone of some of you here, I know, but trust me, using visual content does not have to be a scary thing!
The idea here is that the image itself serves as the content; it’s not being used to support a piece of writing. It can incorporate writing within the image (and typically does), but the image is the main driver of the content message. Let’s look at a few important things to consider:
“Define a Style”
Create a style for your visual content, which becomes part of your branding repertoire. When people see your visual content, it should be easy for them to identify that as your style or visual flair.”
This is usually where firms and lawyers get nervous, because the example that Patel uses is that of Red Bull. It’s an excellent one, of course, but it’s hard to draw the connection between Red Bull’s visual images and that of your law practice. (But bear with me a moment).
Some of the world’s best brands do this effectively. Red Bull has defined its brand idea in a visual style. It creates advertisements that resonate with its user base and can be easily recognized because of their style.”
The point here isn’t about making your law firm or yourself as a lawyer look like Red Bull. It’s about identifying what YOUR visual style is – whatever that may be – and keeping it consistent.
The great thing about visual content is that you get to define your style – complex, minimalist, artistic, shocking. This style becomes part of your identity as a brand, further enhancing your content distribution.”
Ask yourself (you should already know the answer to this) – what is it that I want to communicate to client and potential clients about who I am as a lawyer? Choose the three most important attributes (the shorter the list is, the more effective the communication of that list is), and then identify what the associated images should be. It’s not a test, so you can google that for some assistance if you need to.
Start to shape what YOUR visual identity is. Law firms will likely already have this in place, and that may help individual lawyers identify how they slot into that fabric, but you can also formulate for yourself what that image is. How has your writing been communicating your image? How can you take what you’ve been telling people about yourself through your writing and tell them the same thing visually? That’s what defining your style is about.
“Increase your visual output on social media”
Once you have defined your visual style, you want to take advantage of that as much as possible. You’ll already be incorporating images into your text to enhance it, and you can be using the top three social media platforms (for visual content) to really capitalize on the standalone visual content you’re creating.
We’ve talked a little about SlideShare before, which is essentially a place for you to share your presentations – that’s an excellent place to repurpose content that you’ve already created. Take the presentations that you’ve done and upload them to SlideShare so that you’re getting more benefit to them than simply the time you spent speaking in front of the initial audience.
But in this visual content conversation, SlideShare plays a larger role. Patel says:
Owned by LinkedIn, SlideShare is a thoroughly visual platform. Millions of brands are using it to easily share data and spread knowledge. It’s a powerful tool, not only because it’s visual but because communicating in slide form is a fixture for many businesses.”
Now that you’ve given some serious thought to your visual identity, moving forward, make sure to incorporate that in all areas that you express yourself visually – and this means slide presentations. Are you using the appropriate visuals in your presentations? Or are you still giving PowerPoints full of bulleted text? (Please say no.)
Ensure that you bring all of your own visual identity standards up to the same level across all of the platforms you’re using – whether it’s in-person presentations or your writing, and then use platforms like SlideShare to share your newly updated presentations with a wider audience. When you deliver a visual message with your presentations, you can also be confident that the verbal message is communicated without you having to be present to share it – so don’t upload anything to SlideShare that doesn’t make sense without a notes page.
Instagram isn’t just for casual users like me – it’s also a strong professional platform. Patel tells us:
With Instagram, it’s possible to create a visual style, maintain an output, and define your brand. It has the highest level of brand engagement (4.21%) compared with all other social platforms.
It also has one of the most instant and real-time impacts on brands – 75% of all photo comments are posted within 48 hours.”
It can be hard to identify how that may translate to you as a lawyer – we’ve talked a little bit before about using Instagram for lawyers and law firms, so I’ll just touch on that briefly:
- Behind the scenes looks at your firm or your practice – a “behind the curtain” look at your offices, the people who work there, etc.
- 15 second interviews with a client on something not related to the law, but to their business. Definitely highlight any awards they receive.
- Share quotes or funny photos (if that fits with the style you defined earlier).
- Charitable work that you and the firm do, in action. How are you good citizens of the community?
- Unique things about the office – do you have ice cream when it’s above a certain temperature? Is there an office Halloween costume contest? How can you engage people through “likes” on the posts?
- Pieces of your life that are NOT related to your professional life – give a more well-rounded view of who you are as a person, so people can know, like and trust you.
- Do a “client of the month” or “partner of the month” feature, with fun facts about the person and a funny photo of them.
There are many creative ways you can use Instagram to engage people with you and your firm in a way that’s professional AND relationship-building.
Pinterest is a tough one for law firms, because it’s obviously more relevant for ecommerce than for professional services – but that doesn’t mean that lawyers can’t take advantage of it. As a network, we have Pinterest boards that highlight our member firms (you could highlight clients, where possible, or lawyers within the firm), the cities that we’ll be visiting for conferences (you could have boards for things to do in the cities where you have offices), lawyer jokes, books and movies for lawyers, and even substantive articles on the law from our member firms. You could have boards dedicated to specific practice areas of interest, or industry areas, have office competitions for who can pin more relevant things for their office, etc.
I’m not sold on this one yet for law firms, but since it DOES have such a huge following, particularly among women, it’s something to keep an eye on.
This is a meaty post, and there’s a lot to think about. You don’t have to stop what you’re doing in order to implement this all TODAY, but adopt one or two of these visual content ideas into your repertoire of content marketing and see what the reaction is. Start to develop your visual identity, and see if you get more engagement and shares of your content. And have a little fun with it – you can be creative AND professional is the main takeaway I want to give you. There is certainly much MUCH more we can talk about when it comes to visual content marketing (tools, tips, tricks, etc.), but we’ll leave that for another day!
What are some visual content ideas that have worked for you? What are some of your reservations about visual content marketing?