Is your image-based content attracting superficial fans and engagement?

My mentor, George Kao, has many insightful philosophies about authentic marketing. I resonate with most everything he shares and even had the pleasure of teaching a Visual Marketing for Beginners course to his audience of like-minded entrepreneurs. It’s ironic because he isn’t in favour of using visuals to engage your audience.

It’s one of his beliefs I’ve always struggled to relate to.

If you follow George’s work, you’ll notice he doesn’t post image-based content. He publishes hundreds (perhaps thousands) of posts per year and rarely does it accompany a photo. He’s even found a way to post “imageless” content on an image-based platform like Instagram.

In this post, George gives four compelling reasons why he suggests not posting image-based content:

  1. More exposure creates inauthentic engagement.
  2. Getting engagement by non-ideal audience members worsens our costs for marketing to those who are ideal audience members.
  3. Training your audience to like your images (easy to do) decreases their patience in engaging with your more thoughtful material.
  4. You need to keep upping the game of attractiveness to keep their attention.

He adds:

For authentic marketing, we’re not just trying to play to the algorithm. We’re trying to inspire or help or connect genuinely with the people who are most meant for us. The algorithm, in fact, is trying to help us, authentic content creators.

George Kao

I wholeheartedly agree with his message and relate to this point-of-view.

But here’s my question:

Where does that leave the entrepreneur who appreciates beauty, values self-expression and sees their business as their art?

If posting visual content feels like a meaningful form of self-expression for creative business owners, should we feel bad for doing it?

As a creative myself, you’ve probably guessed my answer here is no.

As someone who feels called to communicate beauty and healing in the world through my visual and written content, I’d feel as if I was denying a core part of who I am.

The essence of creating an authentic online presence is to market your business in a way that aligns with YOU and if posting a pretty graphic feels true for you, trust it.

Of course, if you’re just using visuals as a tactic to get more likes on Facebook and increase engagement, that’s not authentic. But if expressing your ideas visually feels meaningful for you, your audience will sense your sincerity and will likely appreciate this about your content.

For most of my clients and me, business is a form of art, and an expansion of our soul—it needs to fully embody who we are to keep us inspired and nourished.

If you’d like to learn 4 ways I use visuals to engage my audience with integrity, keep reading below. x

So how can you authentically use visuals to engage your audience?

When your intentions are in the right place, using visuals (graphics and photos) can authentically engage your audience and help you:

01. Convey your message

Sometimes you can’t express what you want to say in words. Besides using visuals to make it easier to digest your content, you can use colour, typography or imagery to communicate your message. Pairing visual content with an interesting story or unique point-of-view is the essence of compelling content (in my mind). Your ideal fans are more likely to engage with your content if your message is clear and moving.

02. Create consistency

My brain functions best when there’s a sense of cohesion and organization in my work. Your visual content can help you create a holistic look and feel across your platforms (i.e. website, social media, newsletter, etc.). Over time, this consistency also helps make your business more recognizable which can build trust and establish credibility with your audience.

03. Enhance your audience’s experience

When I think about my home, why do I invest in fine art and decor? Simple—because it makes me feel good. I love beautiful things that are meaningful and my online home is no exception. When my space is well-balanced and reflects who I am, I feel inspired, joyful and relaxed and I want my guests to feel this way, too.

Not to mention that poorly designed content creates confusion, frustration and can leave your readers feeling overwhelmed. Well-designed layouts and graphics do the opposite. It provides a pleasurable experience for your audience, linking positive, “feel good” feelings with you and your business. 

04. Express who you are

Design is a meaningful form of self-expression.  Visuals are also a great way to communicate your ideas, philosophy and individuality to your audience. From the imagery you use to the fonts that you choose, each element speaks a visual language that either attracts or repels the people you want to serve.

Final thoughts

George makes a valid point when he says “post text whenever possible because you’ll reach people who’ll resonate with your message, rather than just followers who like your pretty pictures and might not even be reading your messages.”

Experiment with both and see how it feels. When you post text-based content with less engagement, how do you feel? It’s a great way to see if your intentions are soul-driven or ego-driven. If visual content is a form of self-expression and not a meaningless method for gaining likes or grabbing attention, then you’ll be okay if your text-based content doesn’t perform as well because you’re not doing it for superficial reasons.

Ultimately, if you want to create an authentic online presence that feels sincere and rooted in integrity, then you’ve got to do what aligns with you.

Prefer to watch?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, do you think image-based content attracts superficial fans and engagement?

Comment below.