What sort of digital media should you employ in your content marketing strategy? The answer depends on the sort of business and brand you are promoting and what your audience prefers. Take a look at our notes on each of the core forms of digital media and visual assets for content, why each are critical or not so critical in different situations, and whether to use them in your own strategy.

Images and Illustrations

These two are the more basic approaches to a number of content forms. By images, we refer to when you borrow a picture made for commercial use, attributing and/or paying for it as needed. Custom illustrations or graphics, on the other hand, are made either in-house or by a hired designer specifically for your content. In both cases, they are a good way of explaining a point or concept in the content. However, that is usually all they will do.

For instance, in a blog post about coffee beans from the Andes, there might be a free-use image of a steaming coffee mug or a custom graphic using that image and a quote from the post in a suitable font. It is not literally helping explain any of the points in the post in the same way that data visualization aids might help (we’ll get to those next), but if all else fails, one or two images or illustrations are an easy way to add visual spice to any sort of content.

Data Visualization

Data visualization includes everything from charts and graphs to other ways to actually display relevant information regarding your content’s message. Data visualizations are similar to infographics, but there are important differences that we’ll cover later.

B2B companies, which need to attract customers through concise data, will most often find opportunities to use data visualizations. But even in B2C spheres, they could increase engagement and conversions. In any situation where your business is teaching or explaining something precise, look for opportunities to visualize that data, especially if it would be too complicated to explain in text. Try to get creative and consider whether any sort of concrete information or facts can be portrayed visually in a clean, understandable way.

Animated GIFs

GIFs are files that can show a number of still images in a continuous video sequence. Artistic, free-spirit sort of businesses, or content based heavily on strong opinions, such as from an online reviewer, have a better ground for using this sort of digital medium. Some GIFs can be serious, but their nature of automatically loading and constantly repeating is inherently a little “in your face,” making them well-suited to comedy.

Animated GIFs are generally lighthearted and silly, used in contexts where professionalism isn’t emphasized. Be careful about using these if your brand is meant to be serious, or if it’s an inappropriate topic for such material. GIFs are usually more welcome on social media, so consider using them for intriguing or eye-catching visuals to draw attention to a link for your latest blog post, video, etc. In the case of video, a GIF cut from one of the most interesting parts can work wonders.


This popular and potent form of visual media involves multiple data visualizations all tied together into an attractively designed image that conveys a simple, sharable concept using plenty of credible sources. Infographics can be a bigger job than custom graphics or data visualization, and sometimes even bigger than videos. Because they are not videos, however, they are easier to quickly absorb, enjoy, and share with others. As a result, a great infographic can set a wildfire on social media, especially if it’s attractive at a glance.

Infographics don’t have to be used for wide-appeal, sharable content, however. They’re also a good way of outlining the story behind a compelling case study, which you could use mainly to enhance traffic on a mailing list. In any case where you have a complicated, data-heavy message, consider making an infographic.

Video Content

Image via Flickr by quinn.anya

Cisco has reported that by 2019, video content will account for 80 percent of all traffic online. Videos are sometimes more work than infographics, but they don’t have to be, especially if your brand is more casual. Artists are even making vlogs to better connect with their fans. A short and interesting video could be used to draw in cold traffic, or you could make personalized videos, a growing trend in the B2B realm, where a single customer makes a bigger difference.

The best thing to do when starting a video content strategy is to keep videos short and specific. An independent coffee shop, for example, could make sharable 10- to 15-second videos that show off new bean flavors or the coolest part of a special drink being made. Once you’ve grown comfortable with that sort of thing, shift into more complicated content if it’s appropriate. Consider a video series that people could sign up to receive, whether it be instructional videos for playing the guitar or an independent horror story told in video installments.


This branch of video content is valuable for its flexibility. Businesses tend to use animation content to liven up what might be a dry concept. There’s a reason that so many websites use an animation video to make the first impression on their website’s front page: Animation is immediately relatable and simplistic, supplanting many of the concerns regarding a professional live-action video, such as lighting, background, personal appearance, etc. In fact, making a professional live-action video short enough for a website front page is so difficult that the majority of brands would do better with animation.

If you’ve made an infographic that’s a big hit, consider animating it to get double the value from the idea. Take the same sequence in which the infographic is meant to be read, and give it a smooth, natural animation from one part to the next, bringing the data visualizations and tone to life.

Visual content marketing is a fundamental part of a successful online content marketing strategy. Text will always be required in certain roles, but real success will come from knowing what sorts of visuals your audience best responds to. Think about the sort of visual content types that would be the most effective for your business’s content marketing goals. See what competitors are doing and how you can make something even better, and your efforts will be well rewarded.