The Illusion of Visual Content Strategy – 8 Experts Reveal their Tricks

With visual content being so hot right now, an effective visual content strategy is becoming more important as a critical component of your marketing.

We talked to the experts and brands who are getting big results with visual social media. In this post they reveal their magic tricks for executing a successful visual content strategy.

The Illusion of Visual Content Strategy - Experts Reveal their Secrets
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The Illusion of Visual Content Strategy - Experts Reveal their Secrets
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Magician by Shutterstock

How do you craft the right visual content let alone manage the juggle of sharing it to multiple platforms for your audience?

When you see a brand do it well, it can seem like they have magic tricks up their sleeves, to make it all look so easy!

Almost like an illusion – we see the end result of a brand using visual content well – we are drawn to visuals and videos and can't help but engage, share and click through to devour more of their content.

We see the end result and we take action on it.

But what are the magic tricks that the brands or experts use behind the curtain?

It may look like smoke and mirrors, but these expert and brands all have a clear strategy, using tools and action steps that lead to a successful outcome for their content …and for us, their audience.

These are their secret visual content strategy magic tricks ?


Visual Content Strategy Tricks from the Experts


#1  Matthew Steele, San Diego Zoo
Matthew Steele
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Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. He has over six years of experience in social media, and is proud to work for work for a non-profit full of passionate people working tirelessly across the world to conserve our planet's precious wildlife and habitats.

Why do I like Matt and the social team at San Diego Zoo? They are doing great things with user generated visual content – they curate a lot of images around their two main attractions (the zoo and wildlife park) and I know that they have very innovative ideas about how to manage visual content across multiple platforms.

Matthew Steele Social Media Manager, San Diego Zoo
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Matthew Steele Social Media Manager, San Diego Zoo
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Matt Steele gets out and about with the guests, staff and animals. Photo courtesy San Diego Zoo.


This is what Matt had to say:  

1. Identify, cultivate, and connect with your brand evangelists.

We noticed that we had a strong contingent of high quality fan photographers, so we reached out to them to forge mutually beneficial relationships in which they provide us content and we provide them notoriety and perks.

We also connected them with each other, resulting in a growing, thriving, fiercely loyal community of fans.


2. Test, test, repeat.

We often share a piece of visual content on one channel to see if it would be a good fit for other channels. For example, we might test a piece of visual content on Tumblr, and if it performs well we might post it on Facebook knowing that it has a better chance of overcoming the strict news feed algorithm.


3. Stay relevant.

Capitalize on current events, popular memes, and current sharing habits to stay on the cutting edge.

Yep. #FoodComa #Thanksgiving #CollapsedCamel #cute #instacute #sandiegozoo pic by Mollie Rivera A photo posted by San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) on



Communicate with your Team.  When I was at San Diego Zoo two years ago, many of the staff, out and about in the zoo, knew exactly what promotions were happening at the time. They knew about the Instagram and Pinterest accounts, and “on-location” ie QR code photo or fan competitions.  

Social media is part of the culture at San Diego Zoo. The social team physically walks around the zoo and meets with their staff in every section of the zoo, from the guides to the zookeepers on a regular basis. How can you involve your team more in your visual content strategy? 


#2  Sarah (Sos) Mattsson, Tourism & Events Queensland
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Sos Mattsson (@sosarina) is the digital content manager at Tourism and Events Queensland.  She loves content and social strategy and firmly believes in the power of visual content to truly engage consumers.

I included the team at Tourism and Events Queensland as not only do I live here in Queensland, but their team manages some of the most innovative social media and digital campaigns across multiple platforms.

And they make it look fun and easy!   


1. Content Efficiencies

This isn't super sexy, but it's about being smart with what you've got!

Not all visual content can be used across all digital channels.  But where you can, push the efficiencies of the content to make sure you're squeezing enough awesomeness out of the work you're doing.

When we send instagrammers out to experience a destination, they publish 3 of 4 images per day in their Instagram account which is great to engage with the Instagrammers' large audiences interested in travel.

The Illusion of Visual Content - Tourism Queensland
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The Illusion of Visual Content - Tourism Queensland
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@maximecoquard_'s shot of @elisaparkranger in the Green Island lagoon (courtesy Tourism Queensland)

The true value of these guys heading out into region for our team is to also get permission to use their images on our website, to create a visual itinerary on our blog, to use the images within the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse listings as well as across social channels.

It's about looking for opportunities for longer term amazing content (not just leaving the content as part of a short lived conversation in Instagram).  


2. Build Audiences and Engagement with High Quality Visual Content

We post around 4 images per day within Instagram.

The Instagram audience and engagement grows every day as we focus on republishing a variety of destinations and experiences, but we always try to feature high quality images.

We want to make people feel like they are there – sipping on that cocktail at sunset at Hamilton Island or getting into the kayak at the Noosa Everglades.

This style of content works really well in our Facebook and Google Plus fan albums which we post once or twice a week. 

In Twitter, our 4 image posts receive way more retweets and favourites and really start conversations with our audience than tweets without images.

  Our Pinterest channel has a broader range of visual content including infographics, images with blog titles over the image and more portrait images.    Pinterest is a great place for us to test variety – but we still aim for high quality visual content.

3. “Always on” vs “the Big Time”

We have a ”˜medicine chart' that shows our social and digital channels and the frequency and style of content for each channel. This is part of our ”˜always on' strategy and is delivered every day.    We also have a few large projects each year to encourage large growth of content, engagement and / or audiences. 

A recent example of this was the Queensland Instameet.  In October 2014, @queensland hosted a world record breaking Instameet with 88 events on the one day with over 1000 participants.

These Instagrammers posted from sunrise to sunset and through the evening for star trails Instameets. There were many good things that came out of this ”˜big time' event.   We had over 8,000 images tagged with #thisisqueensland which built a huge content bank for us and our regional tourism partners to republish.

We increased the awareness of @queensland and #thisisqueensland with a raft of new locals and visitors and we also further cemented relationships with our keen Instagrammers around the state.            We also invited large Instagrammers from Australia and the world to attend and host some of the Instameets which increased the reach of the Queensland content. The content efficiencies from this big time project are still happening 4 months on!      

The instameet was a great way to highlight the awesomeness of the Instagram channel, but it also demonstrated the power of the community and how much they love taking photos.  It's important to thank everyone for playing their part in the world record attempt which we did with Instameet photo books for our hosts and lots of surprising and delighting on the day as well.

BEHIND THE ILLUSION:  Tourism and Events Queensland may look like they are using magic to create amazing content in a seamless way but here's an insider tip from Sos about what makes it work, in a team environment:        

It gets tricky to be efficient when you have different team members running different social channels and creating website or blog content or writing the enewsletter, but our content team communicates and brain storms regularly around content efficiencies which is super important to making the most of each content opportunity”.  


#3  Sue B Zimmerman, The Instagram Expert
Sue Zimmerman
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Sue B. Zimmerman is the founder of the online Instagram course Insta-Resultsâ„¢, the author of Instagram Basics for your Business, a CreativeLive instructor, a speaker and business coach. She teaches entrepreneurs, business execs, and marketing professionals how to leverage the power of Instagram for real business results.

The reason why I asked Sue to contribute to this post is because she has focused a lot of time and effort on building a small team to handle her visual content (mainly on Instagram but also on other platforms). I wanted her to share how the dynamics of her visual content strategy works; 

1. Optimize Your Graphics as a Team

When it comes to blog graphics, web graphics, or product graphics we always have each person on the team approve it to optimize.

2. Start in Advance

Start in advance!  Don't wait until the day you publish something.  Allow yourself enough visual content “creation space” and plan ahead.  Creativity takes time!

2. Use Dropbox

Put everything in Dropbox.  Keep a folder just for graphics and images as well as a stock of fresh professional photos. One great photoshoot with a lot of variety goes a long way.

BEHIND THE ILLUSION:  Sue B Zimmerman is everywhere on Instagram, with multiple accounts, but it isn't random. She uses a lot of tools, strategies and “tricks” within her team to be putting out quality content, consistently, while making time to respond and engage.  She keeps a copy of her most used hashtags in groups on her phone for easy copy-and-paste into Instagram. Then she can copy and paste them into her posts to save time.

Sue B's team is always on the lookout for content and they repurpose content as much as possible, ie “Everything is an image”.For example when I did a skype interview with Sue, she took a screenshot of our videocam and posted it on Instagram. Sue. B will also tag her team into images on Instagram to highlight them for sharing or tagging or to check out a profile.  Clear procedures within their team keeps Sue B. freed up to do what she does best – Engaging on Instagram.

#4  Caz & Craig Makepeace, Y Travel Blog
Caz and Craig Makepeace, Y Travel Blog
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Caz and Craig Makepeace are the co-founders of travel blog YTravelBlog. Voted as one of the Top 5 Travel Blogs in Australia by Virgin and the No 2 Travel Blog by USA. Today, in 2014 they have a huge following across many social platforms as well as their blog.

  They have also built one of the largest Pinterest followings in the world (over 4 million followers) so when Caz gives advice on Pinterest… listen.  

“Pinterest is our biggest community and a huge driver of traffic to our site. We focus a lot of time on creating the right visual images” Caz Makepeace 

1. Optimize Your Images

We try to use as many of our own photos as we can for our images, so we can keep to our travel brand and story. Portrait size images work best so we're conscious of making sure we grab portrait size photos when we're out exploring. We use Lightroom to edit our images.


2. Use Text Overlays

We use Canva or PicMonkey to put text over our images. We prefer PicMonkey for it's ease and simplicity. We have constant internet connection issues while travelling around Australia, and PicMonkey works better on slower internet speeds.


3. Check Your Stats

We use Tailwind to schedule pins to Pinterest and analyse our stats, such as most repinned pins and top repinners, which then helps us to know what type of images to pin and how to engage with the community better.


BEHIND THE ILLUSION:  Caz and Craig are a great example of how you should be flexible in your visual content marketing. They didn't always focus so strongly on Pinterest but when they saw that their Pinterest account was growing organically… and fast, they quickly pivoted and put a lot more time and effort into their Pinterest marketing.  Always be willing to follow a new direction if it presents itself!  
The Illusion of Visual Content Strategy - 8 Experts Reveal their Tricks
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The Illusion of Visual Content Strategy - 8 Experts Reveal their Tricks
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Magician by Shutterstock. Pin it for later here.


#5  Azure Collier, Constant Contact
Azure Collier, Constant Contact
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