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Should You Avoid Text in Favor of Visual Content?

Eye and Screens

You can easily find discussions about the death of text content because of video and other forms of visual content. There’s no question that people are currently showing a preference for video and images. But does this mean that the written word is dying a quick death?

Should your brand halt its text-based efforts, such as blogs, web pages, emails, and direct messaging, and fully or mostly transition to visual content instead?

Why Do People Say Text Is Dying?

Image via Flickr by perzonseo

Visual content is performing well compared to text-only content. We see statistics showing that adding a video can boost metrics such as social shares, landing page performance, and e-commerce sales; for example, conversion rates can go up by 80 percent by adding video to a landing page. Brands can also find success by adding images and infographics to their content offerings.

One of the main drivers causing brands to pursue video over text is that younger people want to see more video. In addition, video is simply becoming more popular, in general, making it seem like the best way to move forward.

Video and other visual formats have grown — at the expense of the written word. We saw the trend of publishers making a “pivot to video,” meaning they decided to move away from text content and put their main focus on video content.

With these kinds of trends, you might wonder whether it’s worth putting any of your resources toward text anymore.

Let’s Not Be Too Hasty

Yes, there is a strong case for including video and other visual formats in your marketing strategy. It’s true that visual content is a way to move forward, but it’s not the only way. Your company doesn’t have to get rid of text to offer more video.

Let’s consider the infamous “pivot to video.” While some people make the case that there are new metrics determining success (such as ad views through social media rather than website page views), these pivots away from text and toward video have broadly been seen as failures with plummeting web traffic to show for it.

Also, keep in mind that this tactic was done by digital publishers who tend to rely on ad revenue for income. Even if it does work for them, brands have different goals for their content. You may need to use different formats to promote products or services and to foster relationships with customers or clients.

It can be risky to focus too much effort on one format, as recent changes have shown us. After previously encouraging video, Facebook then switched its model to put less emphasis on brand and publisher content, including video. Also, web browsers are blocking autoplay videos, and consumption preferences have changed before and could change again. When companies put all their focus in one area, it’s harder for them to adapt to changes like these.

While some signs point to visual content as the sole way to move forward, other signs show a different picture:

  • Audiences are going back to text-driven reporting from traditional publishers such as The New York Times and the Washington Post over Buzzfeed.
  • Some people still prefer to read, and some formats are better suited to reading; some may want to skim long-form content rather than being forced to watch a long video.
  • More consumers want to use messaging and chat options for direct communication, which require text-based communicating.
  • Businesses still do well with blogs, web pages, and other forms of text content. A Hubspot survey found that the desire to have video content from brands or businesses (54 percent) only slightly surpassed the desire to have emails or newsletters (46 percent).

Overall, it might not be wise to be too extreme with suddenly shifting tactics or to assume that people only want visual content.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Ultimately, it’s a smart idea to incorporate visual forms of content into your digital marketing strategy, but that doesn’t mean they need to replace text. Visual and text content can work together.

Visual content will most likely always have some text involved, which can strengthen its messaging. Even with videos, text is used for scripts, headlines, video introductions, and transcriptions. When sharing a video or image on social media, it’s common to introduce it with a snippet of text.

If we take the above example that adding a video to a landing page improves its conversion rate, it’s important to keep in mind that the landing page still includes text. It’s the combination of text and video that is converting in this case.

Like the landing pages, you can elevate your offerings by combining different formats. For example, embed a video into a blog post and create infographics that merge the written word with graphics.

By using different formats within your strategy, you can:

  • Engage visitors more on your website and hold their attention by offering a range of experiences.
  • Reach audiences with differing preferences. If some of your audience prefers videos while others prefer text, offering a combination meets both their needs.
  • Fit different contexts. Your audience might consume different forms of content depending on the device it is using at the time and from where it is engaging. For example, someone might be more likely to watch a video at home than at work.
  • Maximize and expand your content by creating multiple formats for each topic. For example, create a video and then develop a blog post and infographic with some of the information from the video — or vice versa.

It’s possible that someday, we’ll transition to a society that communicates fully or mostly in ways other than text. But most likely, it won’t be right away. It doesn’t seem like people are ready to abandon text in favor of visual content. Instead, it’s an exciting time to experiment with different formats — separately and together — and see how people respond. If you start to incorporate various formats into your brand, you’ll already have a head start when the world moves in a different direction.

About the author

Sharon Therien

Sharon Therien is a freelance writer in Florida. She provides content and copy to support clients' marketing goals, and she studies digital marketing, especially inbound.