Blink. No, really; pause for a second, blink, and pay attention to the speed of your eyelids.
An average blink takes about half a second to complete. The New York Times recently quoted Google research demonstrating that “web surfers” will dump your website in favor of a competitor’s if the competitor’s site loads just 250 milliseconds faster than yours. Two hundred fifty milliseconds: That’s roughly half an eye-blink, one-quarter of a second.
Fortunately, there’s a way to make this push for speed work to your advertising advantage. Twenty-first century consumers are speed sensitive. In a culture where advertising messages are ubiquitous, advertisers have the blink of an eye to capture a consumer’s attention, or they will move on to the next offer. The “information superhighway” has become similar to an autobahn: Eyes cruise along at speeds too fast to read the billboards. Instead of reading, the cruisers opt for looking at the pictures.
The six-second advertising rule
Highway billboard designers have understood the “speed” concept for decades. It’s the “Your Ad Here” picture that makes an ad work. Without a good picture, the billboard (in spite of its size) barely gets noticed. Billboard ads are designed around the six-second rule: Advertising messages must be delivered so that they can be seen and understood in less than six seconds. (Too long for an Internet ad!) Six seconds isn’t much time when cars are driving by at high speeds. So, the billboard’s picture has to grab attention, and the advertising slogan (six words or fewer, ideally) delivers the message.
Of course, such “quickie” ads don’t (or shouldn’t) promote a consumer response. I’ve always wondered why advertisers bother to put a phone number or web address on a billboard. What driver is going to reach for a pencil to write down the info while cruising along at 60 mph? That’s even more dangerous than texting while driving. Even when there’s a passenger in the car, six seconds isn’t enough time to grab a pencil and write anything down.
So, if billboards can’t effectively deliver a consumer response, what are they good for? Well, brand building, mostly. Name recognition. Seeing the ad enough times develops top-of-the-mind-awareness (TOMA) in consumers. Good pictures — and a lot of them — are key to an effective marketing plan in today’s world. If consumers see your name often enough, they feel as if they know you when the time comes to buy. And from whom do consumers buy? Merchants that they know, like and trust.
Images beat the six-second advertising rule
You can get potential customers to know you and like you through curating a collection of pictures on social websites such as Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram (henceforth T-P-I) and others. By “curate,” I mean you create a selection of photos that are pertinent to your interests and/or your business and post them to your T-P-I pages. You don’t have to have taken all the photos that you post; you simply create a selection for others with similar interests to view. Post your own photos, as well, and embed a clickable link in the pictures that connects to your website.
Whenever other T-P-I curators include your images in their collection, your website link goes with the picture, potentially driving even more traffic to your site. Create a slideshow of your T-P-I photos on your website, or link your T-P-I pages to your Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts. If your pictures are interesting enough, they will be shared on social media sites (also known as going viral).
Can you use everyone’s pictures on these social sites? No, you can’t. Some photos and artwork are protected by copyright, and you have to respect that. But there is a huge body of work that can be used. Of course, you can always use your own photos. (For clarification, visit the Copyright Librarian)
Pictures currently dominate the web. There are more than 2.5 billion camera phones in use worldwide. People are taking pictures of everything: their lunches, their friends, their activities. Smartphone applications, like Instagram, let users upload their photos to social media as soon as they’re snapped. Too much information? Maybe, but consider this: It’s estimated that 10 percent of all the pictures ever taken since the invention of photography have been taken in the past 12 months.
Even if you’re not inclined to add more social media to your online marketing mix, the impact of photos and graphics in your promotions is undeniable. An infographic published by MDG Advertising (that I originally found on Pinterest, by the way) breaks it down like this: (skip graphic)
• Content with images gets 94 percent more views.
• 60 percent of consumers are more likely to contact a local listing that has an image.
• Adding a photo and a video to a press release results in 45 percent more views.
• Facebook posts with photos result in one-third more engagement than text alone.
Advertising essentials remain the same
Thankfully, the basics of selling remain the same regardless of the speed at which they happen. First, get the prospect’s attention; then create interest in your offer, demonstrate how your offer will benefit the buyer, create a desire to own the product and ask for the order. Getting a consumer’s attention is paramount. If your ad doesn’t grab his or her attention, the rest of your offer will never get read. As a marketer, using pictures on social media sites enables you to develop an unseen customer base who will think of you when the time comes to buy. The best part of this scenario? It’s free. It just takes a little bit of your time.
Web surfers move fast. Pictures are the web’s billboards. When web surfers see pictures that interest them, they will slow down and read what the photos are about. Sometimes, they’ll click links to explore the originators’ web pages. Maybe they’ll bookmark the pages and come back again. But, you have to capture the viewer’s attention first. As with highway billboards, an interesting picture is paramount. If you want consumers to see your advertising message, slow them down with interesting pictures.
Previously published by Antique Trader Magazine