Why write it when you can show it seems to be the thinking behind many content marketing decisions these days. The content landscape is becoming an ever more visual place, with photographs and videos taking the place of written descriptions.
As the 2017 State of the Creator Economy (SOCE) study revealed, a picture is actually worth 1,000 words. Photography and infographics are the content marketing approaches of choice. According to the SOCE, half of content marketers used photographs and 49 percent used infographics at some point in their careers.
Is the preference for imagery over written content just that — a preference? Or is there something driving marketers to go with the visual? As it turns out, it’s the latter.
Images Are Faster
The human brain is wired for images. Around 40 percent of nerve fibers are connected to the human retina, and the average person can process visuals 60,000 times faster than she can process text.
When a content marketer wants to get a point across quickly, she is better off using a picture or other visual to do so. That’s not only because the brain processes visuals more quickly, but also because people get distracted easily.
It doesn’t take much to distract a person. A study from the American Psychological Association found that distractions as short as 2.8 seconds were enough to double the number of errors a person made when performing a task. Imagine trying to read an article and having constant distractions. Whatever the article is saying just won’t make sense.
On the other hand, a picture gets its message across right away, before the audience can get distracted.
Images Create Greater Engagement
People don’t just process images faster than text — they also tend to respond to images more than written content.
Perhaps because they get the message across so quickly, social posts with images tend to create the most engagement. For example, a 2015 study from Forrester found that Instagram led the pack when it came to follower engagement.
Brands that posted on Instagram had a per-follower engagement rate of 2.26 percent in 2015. That might seem low (and it is), but it’s much higher than Twitter’s 0.027 percent engagement rate and Facebook’s 0.216 percent rate.
Video Is Taking Over
It’s not only static images that have pushed text and written content to the side. Marketers have also been shifting their focus toward creating videos to boost engagement. On Facebook, for example, video is becoming more and more popular. In 2014, users viewed more than one billion videos daily, and about half of all users watched at least one video per day on the social network.
The 2017 SOCE also found video to be making a great number of strides. According to the study, video saw a 20 percent gain in usage between 2015 and 2016 among marketers.
People Don’t Read Deeply
If a content marketer wants to get a message across clearly and succinctly, she is better off using an image or video. Here’s why: People don’t read very deeply when they read online.
A 2008 study from the Nielsen Norman Group found that the average person reads at most 28 percent of the text on a webpage during a typical visit. And it’s more likely that a person would read just 20 percent of the text on any given page.
That means that if a content marketer produces a blog post or long-form article, the average person is going to read just one-fifth to one-quarter of the text — if she reads it at all. That’s a statistic that can make even the most text-friendly content marketer want to switch to pictures.