2 Big Trends of 2012: Curation + Visuals

Curation was the word on marketers’ lips earlier this year. This report from Altimeter in March confirmed “Curation is taking over the digital content scene.”

In recent weeks that’s given way to “visual content” as the trending topic. As CMO.com said in August: “Two years ago, marketers were spreading the maxim that “content is king,” but now, it seems, “a picture really is worth a thousand words”.

So now the question is how to bring curation and visual content together in ways that attract your target audience and achieve your measurable goals.

There’s plenty of evidence now that visuals promote social media shares and likes, and traffic to your website. If you’re in any doubt, take a look at this infographic. And read these 19 reasons to use visual content in your marketing.

Many businesses and nonprofits are curating collections of visuals to engage or retain their target audiences.

Don’t jump on a bandwagon just because it’s rolling past. Just because Instagram has 80 million users, doesn’t mean you have to be number 80,000,001.

Before you start curating visuals in earnest, follow these 4 steps:

  1. Define your goal clearly. What do you want your target audience to do? Like your Facebook page? View your videos? Sign up to your list? Contribute content in a way that engages them?
  2. Decide how you’ll measure success. Uploads? Website visitors? Likes? Shares? What will be your call to action?
  3. Define the type of content and channel. Photos of your business and employees? User-generated photos? Where will your curate them – your blog/website or social channels, or both?
  4. Test. As always in content marketing you need to test out your idea. You know your audience, you guess it will grab them, but there’s only one way to find out – start.
How to begin?

Steve Farnsworth (@steveology), one of Forbes’s Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers and author of the @Steveology blog, advises looking at your existing digital content and considering how you can translate it to a visual medium. “What images come to mind that are relevant to showing people instead of telling them?”

He pinpoints these ideas that work for larger businesses  –

  • The customers expressing the brand’s value
  • Activities, events and people that reinforce your brand messaging
  • Customers using the product
  • Employees’ human side or at work
  • And areas that are broader like history as it relates to the company’s brand or uses

Steve adds: “Try any or all of these and see what works. Keep what you like, and that which you feel has promise, and drop the ones that don’t seem to gel. Experimenting is required to become a seasoned hand with every skill. Remember: Mistakes are the petri dish for great creative.”

I’ve rounded up a few of the best examples of curated visual content I can find to give you ideas and inspiration

Moleskine: inviting users to be creative without limits

The designer notebook brand has created one of the world’s most active, prolific, and creative online communities on its own website. Users are invited to post art works, photos and videos.

The company ran a campaign called What’s In Your Bag? with users taking pictures of the contents of their bag – including a Molkeskine notebook  – and uploading them to a Facebook album.

Question for you: is there a creative community among your target audiences? Is there a way to start small and see what works for you?

General Electic: making the seemingly boring beautiful

GE is using Instagram successfully by posting  photos of things that could easily be labelled mundane but are not.

Here’s a GE photo that has more than 900 likes:

“Up close with a TheraCap capsule (radiopharmaceutical used to help detect, diagnose and treat thyroid diseases and tumors) at #GE #Healthcare in Braunschweig, Germany.”

Questions for you: would your audience enjoy seeing inside your business? Is Instagram the right channel for you?

LifeBridge Health: educating  on Pinterest

LifeBridge Health, a hospital system in Baltimore, uses Pinterest as a way of making a physical bulletin board available to many more people.

Their pinboard consists of content re-pinned from other boards. Educational information about breastfeeding, especially posts that feature a picture of a cute baby, has done well by their measure of success – being repinned by others.

Read more about how medical organisations are using Pinterest.

Questions for you: would your target audience enjoy educational content on Pinterest?  What boards could you create that would be unique and appeal to your own niche?

Heifer: a nonprofit telling stories on video

Heifer International works to end poverty in 125 countries and, like many nonprofits, uses photos and videos from many sources. Employees, volunteers, those who have been helped all contribute. Heifer shares visual content across multiple social channels.

They have more than 200 videos on their YouTube channel. One tip to take away from them is to put sharing links right in the video.

Joe Waters, writing at Inspiring Genrosity, says “Whether your nonprofit is an international organization such as Heifer, or a local food bank, images that capture your nonprofit’s mission are out there if you look for them.”

Questions for you: could you invite your target audience to send in videos to help tell stories around your organisation? Could your employees contribute too?


For more ideas, download a free ebook produced by Hubspot, B2B marketing software vendor, which gives 55 examples of brands doing visual content (email required).

And here’s a presentation from Marketo covering all the basic for developing a visual content strategy

Main  photo: moleitau on flickr
What aspect of curation or content marketing would you like to know more about? Do you have some examples or tips to share? Write me a comment now.
About Liz Wilson

Liz Wilson has been writing for eons as a copywriter, blogger and journalist. She's even published her first novel as an ebook. This is her blog where she likes talking about content, copywriting and social media. Say hello and leave a comment.


  1. […] From Marty Smith: (thank you Marty, coming from you this is praise indeed)   Looking at amazing photographs from my friend Jesus Hernadez today (http://www.scoop.it/t/digital-revolution-leaderboard/p/2770105530/visual-marketing-amazing-photographs-from-jesus-hernandez ) I was thinking about how to combine great visuals and marketing. I went searching for examples and found this excellent article from another friend, Liz Wilson, that is so prescient, so right. Curation + the visualization of everything is indeed the dominate marketing trend in 2012. Liz outlines the challenge clearly:So now the question is how to bring curation and visual content together in ways that attract your target audience and achieve your measurable goals.Great resource materials and a well thought out argument from Liz in this piece. Be sure to follow Liz LizWilson2 on Twitter and on Scoop.it  […]

  2. […] Read Bring Together The 2 Big Trends of 2012: Curation + Visuals  […]

Now have your say