As humans, we are visual creatures. No less than 90% of the information transmitted to our brains is visual  —  that’s crazy, right? Not only do we delight in paintings, photographs, and drawings in our personal lives, but as consumers, we rely on marketers to pull us in with engaging images. Without website photos, visual identities, and social media images, we fail to connect with brands on a visceral level.

Marketing strategy needs to build on our natural propensity for images in order to connect with target audiences. Images strengthen online communities, make sales, and even boost metrics like click-through rates and shares. Just in case you still need more convincing, here’s why your online marketing needs images.

1. Boost Blog Readership

You’re always looking for new ways to get more people to your website, right? Clear and intentional imagery should be your first effort. Skyword, a content marketing company, analyzed almost 80,000 pieces of content published in 2011 and 2012. They found that articles with at least one image experienced an average of 70% more views than articles without images. Use visuals to boost page views and enhance your written content.

Find an image that ties to theme of the piece or a specific detail you would like to highlight. If you only add one photo, make sure it is above the fold of your website, and preferably, above your headline. Just as with subheadings, you can use images to bring attention a certain idea and break up large paragraphs, giving the reader’s mind a quick pause. If you integrate photos into your text, don’t ever break the left margin — it disrupts the reader’s experience. Instead keep embedded images on the right side or across the entire page. For an awesome example, check out Fast Company. They always include images above the headline and embedded along the right edge of their articles.

2. Craft Brand Identity

Iconic brands always tell stories with their visual identities. For example, at Grasshopper our icon shows up on our website, social media accounts, and e-books, infusing a multi-channel marketing strategy with continuity and emotion. Your icon or logo should reflect the gut feeling you would like to convey. How do you want your audience to feel when they see your visuals and images? Always keep that intention in mind as you plan a visual marketing strategy. Start by identifying your brand personality and pick colors, filters, and even fonts that reflect your desired effect — if you don’t know where to start, hire an expert.

As much thought as you can put into these visuals, don’t over process it. As designer Rob Brunner told Fast Company:

With the increasing emphasis on design in the world today, it's important to avoid the ‘over-designed syndrome’...A simple, well-thought-through, authentic design is often the best.

You don’t need to do something radical to connect with your audience, but you do have to be true to your company, and the rest will follow.

3. Drive Social Media Impact

Visuals are the social currency on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It’s impossible to build an online community without harnessing images as a killer part of your strategy. Dedicated visual content for Instagram and Pinterest are great, but you can also double up, using your website images for social accounts and vice versa. With more than 80% of survey respondents in a recent study stating that images were “Important” or “Very Important” to marketing optimization, you need to move images to the top of your priorities.

According to social media company Buffer, you’ll see strong results. Based on their user data, they found tweets with images experience 150% more retweets. Posts to Facebook with images receive an 87% interaction rate, too. As you plan your social media imagery, make sure that each post aligns with your brand identity. If possible, have one person rather than a hodgepodge of people maintain all your accounts — it helps with consistency.

4. Show, Not Tell

Visuals don't just drive results, they offer meaning and understanding. Screenshots, for example, can help your audience navigate a tricky customer service issue. And infographics unlock the power of big data without overwhelming readers. If you want to bring humor to a topic, try a meme. Unlike words, which are malleable but made of the same basic components, the options for visuals are pretty limitless. Get creative, showing rather than telling your audience about your products and services.

How to Stand Out from the Crowd

Now you know that visuals are essential to your success as a marketer — how do you make sure that they have the desired effect?

In an age of “infobesity” or an overwhelming amount of information, your information needs to stand out rather than fade into the background. Heed some advice from Kissmetrics: [pullquote]Lay off generic photos or images that are low-quality[/pullquote] — the lack of authenticity and pixilation will drive viewers away rather than draw them in. Don’t resize photos in a way that distorts the image, and always make sure that your images don't slow down your loading time.

If you’re interested in creating infographics, check out Visually and Canva, which can help you develop some awesome graphics. For cool, nongeneric photos, embrace UnsplashDeath to Stock Photos, and Negative Space. Even when commercial use is allowed, make sure to attribute your images to their proper source. Your integrity as a brand is even more important than your images!

Do you have any unexpected tips for integrating images into your only marketing strategy?