What are the benefits of visual communication

Visual communication in the age of the social web: why is it worth it?

Today, GIFs, videos, images and graphics are an integral part of all social networks and channels. Visual communication is an indispensable part of professional campaigns and branding. But why is that actually the case?

A picture goes around the world. When a line plane crashes in the Hudson River, the first information goes online via Twitter. The tweet is picked up by TV channels. However, what is really spreading is the image attached to the tweet. This emergency landing made Twitter known and showed the power of images.

What is visual communication?

The eyes take in ten million pieces of information every second and pass it on to the brain. We perceive around 80 percent of all information through our eyes. We capture images faster than other information.

Humans have the ability to remember images they have already seen and to call them up in our heads. Even if we are not really enthusiastic about a picture, our subconscious has saved a first impression.

We get the first impression by communicating visually. Visual communication is also non-verbal communication: communication that gets by without words.

This includes everything painted, drawn, photographs, prints or films. With every blink of the eye, new images appear on our retina. We perceive colors and things and use them to create an image in our memory.

With visual communication, the feelings and the senses of the viewer are to be addressed. Visual communication is particularly popular in advertising. Here the attempt is made to convey something to the beholder's eyes and to generate a perception through the eyes.

In the context of visual communication, images take on two functions:

  • the transmission of content-related messages and
  • the accompaniment as a visual reminder.

“First of all, the transmission of information to the human eye is generally referred to as visual communication. It is therefore a form of interpersonal communication and, more precisely, as such, part of non-verbal communication. "(Wikipedia)

Why visual communication works

No question about it, spoken language will remain our main means of communication. But the written word is increasingly being replaced by visual content: We document our everyday life with Instagram Stories or Snapchat or send gifs and emoticons to friends and family to express our feelings.

No matter where you shop online: There is hardly an online shop that can do without images. Each product is recorded in different views and shown to the customer as part of an offer.

Such images seem like a call to action for us. They attract our attention and invite action, they arouse curiosity and generate anticipation. Pictures use a special language: They evoke emotions and wishes and thus contribute to the purchase decision.

Some images make people laugh or cry. You have a great potential for emotionalising. When we leaf through a magazine, our gaze falls first on the article images and then on the text.

All visual elements trigger emotions, at least potentially. Thus, images act as key elements. For this reason, you have to choose meaningful images for an article: If the reader does not like the cover picture, he will probably not read the article either.

A good picture often looks much more intense and better than any other medium. The imagery is not universal, changes over time, but the effect on our subconscious remains unchanged.

Good pictures are not only aesthetic, they can also tell stories, lead to associations and touch people emotionally. Well-chosen images structure an article, they help the reader to scan content more easily and quickly and generate eye-catching interest.

Imagery can link various media such as photographs, motifs, illustrations or symbols with one another. This creates key images that are indicative of a person or the message of a company.

Image material is an image carrier and transports business ideas, visions, philosophies, competencies or the core messages of a company. The aim is to leave a lasting impression on potential customers, employees and cooperation partners.

Your own corporate design is often the first and, at the same time, the only point of contact between the public and a company or a brand.

The advantages of visual communication in a nutshell:

  • Visual communication saves time and communication messages arrive faster. Images and videos offer viewers a high entertainment value and information content and can be consumed quickly. And time is a crucial cost factor. For this reason, visual communication also makes sense from a business point of view.
  • With visual communication, companies can convey information clearly. If content is provided for professional purposes and you want to communicate messages clearly, you should use images or video formats. Because people can understand visual elements straight away.
  • Visual communication can be used to convey information consistently. With a corporate design, companies largely define their identity. Logos, colors, graphics, icons and illustrations contribute to the overall image of the company and set it apart from the competition - the clearer the design, the higher the recognition value. Regardless of whether you are a freelancer, entrepreneur, employee or start-up founder: You should continuously use the same visual elements, as this is how customers recognize companies at first glance.
  • Information conveyed through visual communication is better remembered. Viewers can remember information that was conveyed visually longer and better. Visual communication can be used to ensure that viewers remember key messages for longer.

How does visual communication fit into the social web?

The flood of information and content that we encounter today on the social web makes it much more difficult to convey your own communication messages. Those who communicate in a simple and structured way can stand out from the competition. This is not only possible with the help of relevant texts, but above all with visual elements.

Visual communication works in the social web because content is perceived, disseminated and shared very quickly - better than textual content. Platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat are at the top of the social networks with their user numbers, because everyone can photograph and share motifs with their smartphone.

Visual elements are social media affine: Social networks are increasingly shaped by images and videos. The interaction rate increases significantly as a result. The picture is the most shared type of post, ahead of opinions and status updates or links to articles.

The infographic "2017 - This is What Happens In An Internet Minute" by Lori Lewis, Vice President Social at the media group Cumulus Media, and by YouTube satirist Chart Callahan also shows how much content we share on the Internet every minute.

We share 46,200 photos on Instagram, send 15,000 GIF files via Messenger or watch 4.1 million videos on YouTube. The numbers clearly show that visual elements have become an important part of our everyday communication.

The use of images and other visual formats is not only sensible, but a must for companies that want to conquer the social web with their brand.

There are already a number of companies taking advantage of the above. They have their own profiles on these visual platforms and interact with their target group with the help of appealing visual elements:

  • You use visual communication to explain complex issues as simply as possible on the social web. For this they prefer to use infographics.
  • Companies use pictograms for visual communication in order to distribute content in an internationally understandable way.

A practical example: Anyone who likes to drink coffee knows Starbucks. Many customers also have bonus cards and are regularly supplied by the coffee house chain with information that helps them to return to their own products again and again.

Starbucks achieves this not only through a sophisticated marketing strategy, but also through the use of visual communication. No matter where you get information about Starbucks - be it in real life or on the social web - the logo is always present. Starting with the shop sign above the local coffee house to the typical Starbuck cups, which are also provided with the logo.

Starbucks' design also takes seasonal changes into account. Here is the to-go mug design from Christmas 2017.

Wherever Starbucks communicates with its customers, they consistently implement their corporate design and thus ensure a high recognition value: website, email newsletter, social media profiles such as Instagram, Facebook and Instagram use the same (green) color scheme and that Brand logo for your visual content such as videos or high quality photos.

Visual communication: indispensable for social media

As a communication medium, images have a different effect than spoken language or writing. Anyone who knows how to use visual communication skillfully can use it profitably for their social media activities.

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Anyone who wants to use visual communication for their social media activities should be aware that ...

  • Content gain credibility with the use of images.
  • Visual communication can be used to present complex issues in an understandable and simplified manner.
  • Users are more likely to accept visually perceived elements and stay in the viewer's memory longer than textual content.
  • Images have a high information density, so they can be consumed more quickly and thus counteract the short attention span of the target group.

Visual content is indispensable for professional communication in social media today. Their potential is enormous, but so is their complexity - if you take them seriously.

Hence, with this article, we're starting one series all about visual communication. The next part continues with best practice examples.

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