How to Create Visual Content That Stands Out in Mobile Feeds

Awareness and engagement. These are two fundamental goals of any marketing campaign. When you achieve those goals, people develop an interest in your brand. Consumer interest will, over time, evolve into action as people choose to enter the top of your marketing funnel. You can track this path of conversion in the form of engagement rates and click-through rates.

But what are the best methods to keep engagement rates moving in the right direction? Consumers increasingly use mobile devices to engage with content. Therefore, marketers must optimize all content for a mobile-first audience. After all, the best way to build awareness and engagement is to insert your brand into channels where people willingly connect with content.

Here are a few best practices to create mobile-friendly content that improves audience engagement.

Mobile-Friendly Content Improves Ad Recall

Suppose your brand has a large budget for paid social advertising. Your paid channels are responsible for driving the bulk of awareness and interest in your brand. Suppose that you also have excellent audience targeting, meaning people who engage with your ads are automatically qualified leads. When they convert on your ad, they slide right into your funnel.

Now, let’s play devil’s advocate. If your funnel is reliant on paid advertising, what if those ads aren’t performing? What if your content is not having the impact you need? Consequently, what if your cost per click and cost per lead skyrocket while total conversion numbers plummet?

1. Analyze your content library

Facebook IQ partnered with MetrixLab to conduct a global analysis of branded video content. The metrics examined in this “global meta-analysis” included:

  • 759 creative video ads
  • 300+ global brands
  • 9 separate verticals
  • 25 different countries

Once the data was collected, the two teams categorized the content. Their goal was to determine common characteristics that influenced performance. Performance was defined by two key metrics: percentage view time and aided recall. To measure aided recall, Facebook’s marketing team put out a survey asking people to confirm if they saw an ad from a particular brand or not.

2. Clear and visible branding aids recall

For the purpose of the analysis, all of the video ads were clustered into three categories:

  1. Mobile-first
  2. Adapted to mobile
  3. Traditional narratives

The distinction between the three categories had to do with the content itself. Mobile-first content was much shorter in length, and over half of the videos clearly displayed branding in the first few seconds. Many videos adapted for mobile also showed branding in the first few seconds, but they were longer than mobile-first content. On the other hand, only 38% of traditional narrative videos displayed branding in the first few seconds.

People most often responded “Yes definitely” when asked if they saw mobile-first video ads, under 20 seconds long, with visible branding in the first few seconds. These ads were also designed for sound off performance, allowing people to identify the brand without audio.

3. Avoid over-the-top branding that annoys customers

Visible branding improves mobile engagement, but it must be done tastefully.

The most successful video ads avoided or minimized the use of on-the-nose brand promotions. Instead, the visual brand identity was the strongest part of the ad. That means using colors, lighting, angles, and settings that best align with the brand positioning and core values. Marketers that made the brand the main focal point of the ad significantly improved aided recall.

Isabela de Lima Aggiunti, a principal member of the Facebook Marketing Science team, says the best branded content is primarily educational for the consumer.

Early branding does not mean just putting a logo on the front — good brand integration requires communicating who the advertiser is without annoying the consumer.

Effective Mobile Content Immediately Captures Attention

Given the results of the Facebook-MetrixLab analysis, the key takeaway for marketers is to create ad content that’s educational as much as it is memorable. People need a reason to connect with your brand before they will give any of their business to your company. The content must stick in their minds and be accessible from the right types of platforms. This means creating ads optimized for where people will spend their time.

Mobile usage has surpassed desktop

Mobile has become the number one browser for worldwide web traffic. Statistics show that mobile accounted for 52.2% of all web page visits in 2018. That means mobile has officially surpassed desktop as the principal supplier of web traffic. People are connecting with content first and foremost through their mobile devices.

Dissecting the data further shows that mobile apps are where the vast majority of consumers interact with content. Apps are particularly popular among the teenage or Generation Z demographic. According to Pew Research Center, 85% of young people use the YouTube app to engage with content. Instagram, Snapchat and to a lesser extent, Facebook are also popular apps for content consumption.

Each of these platforms has built-in ad management tools. These systems help marketers build and deploy ads for both mobile and desktop experiences.

In-app content captures the eye of the consumer

As a marketer, one of your jobs is to assume the position of your consumers. You need to think about the value of your solutions from their perspective so you can create content that resonates. It also means asking strategic questions about how you, as a consumer, want to receive your brand’s content.

If mobile and social apps are where people will consume content, what is that consumption experience for the end user? How can you make your content more authentic and more pleasing for the consumer by optimizing content for mobile and social apps?

The fact is that the in-app experience is very similar for each consumer. Everyone who has an account on YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms has a feed of content that’s populated with updates from friends, followers, or influencers. Those feeds are packed with so much content that it often becomes difficult to distinguish one update from another. A quick scroll of the thumb allows people to browse through the feed and scan the content that most appeals to their interests. If the content doesn’t catch the eye, they simply scroll onto the next update.

Learn how to work Google and Facebook in your favor

Each social and digital platform is built upon an algorithm. Google, which owns YouTube and Facebook, which owns Instagram, feed content to the end consumer through those algorithms. The tech giants allow brands to bid on ad space within the algorithm to drive more eyeballs to their content. Those bids place premiums on their content and help expand the brand’s reach and visibility within news feeds.

Marketing teams need to spend time dissecting the social ad platforms to fully understand how they work. This can be done through a hodgepodge of team members carving out hours to analyze the platform, or through a dedicated digital marketing specialist who manages those ad platforms. This will help marketers make effective decisions with how they spend their own budgets, and better optimize content for mobile ad consumption.

Standardize a Unique Look and Feel for Content

Once you understand how to use digital ad platforms, you can make strategic decisions about how you create content. One of the best ways to create a unique look and feel is to thoroughly analyze your existing content library. Do this by gathering all creative assets from previous advertising and promotional campaigns. Then, compile the most effective pieces of content into a mood board for further analysis.

Use mood boards to make effective decisions with content

Mood boards are collages of your existing content. To create a mood board, categorize the top 25-50 visuals. You’ll have a large enough body of content to conduct an analysis.

Look for commonalities across each piece of content. These similarities may include:

  • The colors within the content
  • Environments featured in the backgrounds
  • Products used as the hero of the content
  • Lifestyle scenarios that appeal to viewers

Any of these variables can highlight commonalities and help define a unique look and feel for your content. Use your mood board analysis to determine what visual nuances generate the best results on your ad campaigns. This will give you a sense of what resonates with people about your brand. Once you have that sense of resonance, you can define a unique brand identity that helps your content capture attention and improve the performance of your ads.

Scale content creation with Shutterstock Custom

Content is, fundamentally, a tool to help connect people to your brand. When content is optimized for mobile consumption, and with a unique look and feel, it should inspire people to click and learn more about your brand.

Once you know what types of content to produce, you need a process to ramp up production. This is where services like Shutterstock and, in particular, Shutterstock Custom come in handy for marketers. Our platform allows marketers to standardize their visual brand identities in structured brief formats, and connect with a global network of creative talent.

Those contributors are sent copies of your standardized visual guidelines so they can create localized content that still adheres to your core visual brand identity. You’ll build libraries of unique and authentic content that’s highly targeted and localized to distinct communities. Ultimately, you can use Shutterstock Custom to create as much content as your marketing plan requires. This will help you go to market with more ad campaigns, develop a truly global brand presence, and drive more targeted traffic to your products and your services.


About the author

Grant is the Senior Vice President of Shutterstock Custom (formerly CEO of Flashstock Technology), a custom content creation platform for the world’s leading brands. In his role as CEO and Co-Founder of Flashstock, Grant has helped more than 250 enterprise marketing teams, including AB InBev, L'Oréal, Nestlé, and McDonald's amongst many others, change the way they think, develop, and source creative content at scale. Grant and his team has built a new breed of technology in the Content-as-a-Service category that leverages a global marketplace with SaaS-enabled capabilities. Prior to starting Flashstock, Grant was the SVP Product at a leading social media management company and a product manager at Nokia. He has worked with a number of brands in a senior capacity including Coca-Cola, JP Morgan Chase, and Amway. Grant holds an MBA from the University of Toronto (Rotman), and a BSc in Computer Science from the University of British Columbia.