Using Visuals in your Social Media

Over the last few years, it has become increasingly apparent that using visuals in your social media marketing is far more effective than using text alone. If you want your message to be seen, if you want to encourage interaction and you want to make the most out of your content, using an effective visual is essential.


In my work , I’ve found that using a visual, be it a photograph, a graphic, illustration or video, is much more attention grabbing in people’s newsfeeds.

It’s a form of content that is more likely to be shared; they evoke emotional reactions that text alone cannot, and visuals portray a lot of information quickly and conveniently.

There has been more emphasis on visual marketing in digital than ever before, and if you’re interested in boosting your social media efforts, then considering the types of visuals you use will be key to that.


So how can we use visuals in our social media and what types of visuals should we be creating?


The Product or Lifestyle Shot

People like to shop in real life so they can see items up close and personal, touch them, feel them, weigh them up in our hands. Of course, we can’t replicate that tactile experience on digital (yet), but we can offer tangible visuals of the items we sell. People want to see what they are buying, so show it to them, don’t talk about it.

Lifestyle shots help people to understand how your product or service might fit into their live; it helps them to visualise how what you offer can be of benefit to their lives. When someone can understand better what your item does for them, it tends to increase conversion sooner.

The Team Picture

 The Team Picture

People like to do business with people, and if we can see who is behind the business we are much more likely to trust them, particularly online. Showing off who you are and what your team is like helps to humanise your business in a way that no other form of marketing can achieve.

Behind-the-Scenes Spontaneous Shot

Most of us are interested in how you do what you do. Have you ever watched the show ‘How Stuff Works?’ or wondered why ‘Handmade’ has become more popular recently? They’re successful because people are genuinely interested in how the things they buy and use are actually made, who makes them and what materials are used to make them.

The behind-the-scenes visual also provides exclusivity by enabling you to give your social media audience an experience that they won’t get anywhere else, this builds rapport and community.

The Action Shot

Have you ever thought about showing people how you do what you do when you’re doing it? Because we gravitate more to human faces in visuals, capturing your team in the moment of doing their job provides realism and trust at the same time.

We should try to connect with our social media followers in real time, with real life, as often as we can. An impromptu, candid shot of you or your team while they are working, is far more credible than a posed or staged image.

Social media strategy

The Graphic

A bold, clean and crisp graphic is so much more effective at communicating a message. Graphics are fantastic for your Calls-to-Action and adds variety to your feed. Using colourful graphics increases people’s interest in your content, it draws the eye in, and makes us more likely to share that piece of content.

The How to Image

The rise of the ‘How To’ video, infographic and visuals across platforms like Instagram and Pinterest has been prolific over the last few years. As Jay Baer of Youtility explains, people who think they can do things themselves, usually tend to be a business’s best customer. Don’t think of the ‘How To’ as giving away what you do for free, but giving away inspiration to cultivate customers who will spend money on your professionalism and expertise.

The Collage

The way we upload visuals to our posts has changed across Facebook and Twitter recently to include collages of multiple pictures and videos. These have proven to have a good impact across social media, as they offer variety and tell a more rounded story than a single picture alone can do.

The Selfie

 The Selfie

While the ‘selfie’ is looked upon with disdain from some sections of society, it might be a surprise to learn that the concept of the ‘selfie’ has been around since the late 1800s. As soon as self-portraiture became accessible, affordable and a sign of your social standing in society, people have been recording images of themselves. In the digital age, this is made all the more convenient through smartphones and social media.

But what is important to remember is that people notice human faces first – our eyes are drawn to other people before anything else. A face looking out from a visual makes a direct connection with the person viewing it. It also helps us to guide our gaze, ‘human beings have a natural tendency to follow the gaze of others, and we have been coached since birth to follow arrows directing us to where we should be looking or going’. (Kiss Metrics)



New Favourite Thing: Infographics

Information graphics or infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge designed to present information quickly and clearly. Although infographics have been around for many years the recent proliferation of easy-to-use, free tools, have made the creation of infographics available to anyone.

What is an infographic?

an infographic is

Infographic to explain what an Infographic is by Hot Butter Studio

According to Inforgaphics Archive the history of infographics data back to early prehistory, where humans created graphics through cave paintings and later maps. One of the earliest maps to be recorded is the map at Catalhoyuk  which dates back to 7500 BCE. In 3000 BC ancient Egyptians used heiroglyphic symbols to tell stories depicting their lives, work and religion and perhaps one of the most recognisable infographic in the UK is the 1st tube map of London in 1933 showing only the lines of transit routes and stations.

First London tube map 1933

First London tube map 1933

In the 2000s and 2010s we now have access to web based infographic creators such as:

I’ve been experimenting with for the last couple of months, it’s currently a beta site, but it is really easy to use and I can see the long term potential. The main downside to this site and I would imagine others is the database of  graphics and visuals you have available to you. is limited but as a beta site this is understandable. There is  the ability  to upload your own graphics or images, however these are imported as a solid block image, so if you want to overlay your own graphics without a white background onto your carefully selected infographic background this can be difficult. However with a bit of creativity you can work around the limitations to produce some pretty cool inforgraphics of your own.

Before the doors closed on the organisation I previously worked for I was able to pull together three infographics of the projects I was involved with. These were not only great at demonstrating to collegeues and potential business contacts what it is that I have done over the last four years, but it provided me with a real sense of achievement when I saw four years of hard work laid out in a easily understood pictorial.

HI-Arts Audience Development

HI-Arts Audience Development: Marketing, Research and Audience Development support for the cultural, creative and heritage sector

HI-Arts Craft Development

HI-Arts Craft Development Programmes for Craft Makers and Designers in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland

Growing Audiences North East Infographic

Growing Audiences North East: Audience Development for the Cultural Sector in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire

If you are interested in designing your own infographic I would definitely recommend and here are a couple of tips to get you going:

  • The Purpose; what do you want your infographic to depict? What is the point of it?  And who do you envisage reading it?
  • The Data; you need a good assortment of data and information to be able to present and to make it interesting. Look at your diary, your accounting, your social media, your website stats, the number of people you have worked with  or met, the places you have visited… the data you choose will depend on the reason you are creating the infographic in the first place.
  • The Theme; when picking your background or theme (colour scheme, background image, the graphics)  think about how these relate to the data you are trying to represent graphically. If your going to depict the number of miles you’ve travelled say, then you might want to use a graphic of a car or public transport.
  • It’s not always about the percentages; I will admit that I can overdose on percentages, they’re neat and tidy, but over use of a percentage can be a bit uninteresting, so try to mix it up. So if you know 25%  of the people who visit your website also visit your blog then why not express it as 1 in 4 people visit your blog.
  • Less is more; it can be tempting to fit in as much information as you can, but sometimes less definitely is more, especially if you are trying to get across a particular point. With the infographics I designed I started out with twice as much data as I ended up displaying.
  • Get someone else to check it makes sense; because we understand our data and know what it means to us doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else will too. It’s good then to get someone who is not as closely related to the information to read it over and see if they come to the conclusions or understand your graphic the way you intended.

If you are interested in having your own infographic made for you then do get in touch with me by leaving a comment below.

Inverness Castle and Ness River

New Beginnings

As of June HI-Arts, the cultural development agency for the Highlands and Islands, closed its doors after 20 years of providing support to the cultural and creative sectors of the Highlands, Islands, North East and beyond. I was privileged enough to work there for four years, where I was able to hone my skills, develop my knowledge and work with a talented group of individuals across Scotland.

This month I have set out on my own, as a freelancer based in Inverness, I aim to continue to work with the cultural and creative sector, as well as the tourism sector and with small businesses or all persuasions. My focus will be on marketing, promotion and audience (or customer) development, and after working so closely with numerous small businesses in the creative field on making the most of the digital and online world, there will be a slant towards taking advantage of the world wide web.

I’ve since started a 9 month contract with Strathpeffer Pavilion, a beautiful 19th century spa building in the lovely little village of Strathepeffer, about 30 minutes away from Inverness. The Pavilion is the UK’s most northerly Spa and now runs as a multi-purpose venue for the community, the Ross and Cromarty area, Inverness and beyond. The Pavilion puts on live music events, theatre, classical concerts, craft and food, arts and photography fairs, weddings and conferences. In the last couple of months it has doubled it’s staff members and has an eye to becoming the provider of choice for all types of entertainment and events in the Highlands.

I’ve been brought on board with Kris Reid to assist the team in developing and improving their branding, marketing and promotion, press and media relations, programming, sales and income generation, audience development, sponsorship and friends schemes – so quite a bit to do.

I’ll also be continuing to work with Pamela Conacher and Avril Souter on their crafts development programme, which has now joined with Peter Urpeth’s writing programme to form a new organisation; emergents. I am delighted to be able to continue to provide marketing and development support and advice to the many makers on the Making Progress and Made to Measure schemes over the next year.

To top all this off, I’m going to continue to work with HIE on their IT Engagement Programme, as a specialist advisor and trainer, specifically in social media. In the last year I’ve delivered workshops in Dornoch, Orkney, Oban and Caithness.

Over the next couple of months I’m also working on setting up a social media marketing  business – so watch this space!

If anyone is interested in finding out more about the services I can offer please do get in touch

How to Use Twitter

To follow on from ‘How to Use Facebook’ check out these excellent videos for using Twitter.

Twitter in Plain English

Getting Started with Twitter

Twitter Lists in a Nutshell

Twitter Tools Explained

How to Create an Attractive Profile

Finding Followers

How to Tweet from your Phone

How to use Twitter for your Business

How to Use Facebook

I think that most of us now recognise the value of being on a social network like facebook. The interaction with audiences or customers, the instant feedback, the ability to promote events or activities to your core supporters, and having a more ‘social’ side to your organisation has opened up a whole new dimension of being able to promote what you do, while engaging your audiences on a whole new level.

But that doesn’t mean that we all instantly know how to use facebook. So I’ve scoured the medium of You Tube to find some good examples of facebook tutorials. If you find these useful, or not at all, do let me know. I’d like to produce our own set of online video tutorials, but if these do the job already then do let me know!

How to Register and Join Facebook

Singing Up and Explore the Home Page

Facebook Basics: How to Use Facebook

How to Find, Invite and Add Friends on Facebook

Create a Page on Facebook

How to use Facebook Events to Promote Your Business (Part 1 of 2)

How to use Facebook Events to Promote Your Business (Part 2 of 2)

Facebook Privacy

Click Through to Facebook to See there Video on Using Facebook Privacy Settings.

The Source Project

The Source

The Source


The Source Project Team would like to invite you to join them at one of three upcoming forums taking place in Glasgow, Perth and Edinburgh. The Source project is now is in its 2nd year, working with 42 arts organisations across Scotland. The Source is a collaborative project between the Federation of Scottish Theatre, Culture Sparks and The Audience Business. Since its inception, the project has provided participating organisations with audience data reports, training and development. 

The Source works closely with Experian to deliver Mosaic Scotland audience data analysis to arts organisations participating in the project. At the upcoming forums, Experian will discuss ways in which other sectors have used Mosaic profiling to their benefit – so that we in the arts and cultural sector can benefit from their knowledge! The forums are open to anyone operating in the arts and cultural sector in Scotland, not just those involved in the Source project. 

In addition, the Source project team will present the Scottish arts attendance benchmark to date, so you as a practitioner can gain valuable insight and intelligence about arts attenders both nationally and regionally. 

DATES FOR THE DIARY: The Source Forums, July/Aug ’10, RSVP
West:     27th July ’10      Venue TBC, Glasgow, 10:30am – 12:30pm 

North:     28th July ’10      Horsecross Arts, Perth, 2 – 4pm 

East:      24th Aug ’10      Venue TBC, Edinburgh, 10am – 12noon 

Please RSVP with your choice of forum to Nina Honeyman 


Look forward to seeing you there! Best wishes, The Source Project Team 

Engaging Young People in Culture

The perceived dangers of the outside world and the increased popularity of media use at home have curtailed levels of activity outside of the home. By understanding the barriers and motivations to attendance and participation hopefully you can persuade the young people in your area away from the computer and TV towards engaging and participating in your activities and events.   

Back in August 2009 the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCFS) conducted and published a research report on attitudinal barriers to encouraging young people in ‘Positive Activities’ in the volunteering, sports and leisure sectors (which includes Arts and Culture). The report drew on existing research, academic journals and direct surveys and analysis conducted by a number of different charitable and governmental agencies across the UK.

The research and findings provide an excellent insight into the barriers, perceived and real, that youths face to engaging in ‘Positive Activities’ which would include arts and cultural activities and events. It also outlines some key recommendations on how to effectively use your marketing to communicate with this potential audience group.  

The full report can be downloaded and read by visiting the DCSF website, I have also summarised the most important aspects and conclusions of the report and the practical advice given in relation to these conclusions, which can be downloaded from the HI-Arts website.  

Below I have outlined the points that the report covers. 

Barriers to Participation  


 Physical Barriers

  • The perception that positive activities are time consuming.
  • The lack of cheap transport particularly for those living in rural areas and young disabled people.
  • Quality of facilities and buildings.
  • Timing of activities is a major barrier.

What often seems to be physical barrier is actually an attitudinal or perceptual barrier. The important message is that whether these barriers are real or just perceived that an efficient communication campaign should reassure young people that their fears and concerns are sometimes unjustified.  

Attitudinal Barriers – Internal and External Barriers   

 Even when an area provides good quality, reachable and affordable activities, some young people will still refrain from taking part in any activity, there are other restraints which hold people back that can’t be addressed only by removing the physical barriers.  

Attitudinal barriers can be divided into 2 groups – Internal barriers (those which manifest from the individual) and External barriers (the influence of opinions held by influential figures in a young persons life). These barriers include:  

  •  There is a general feeling among young people is that there is simply not enough to do.
  • Confidence and a fear of rejection are hugely influential in determining participation.
  • The values and priorities held by young people.
  • The role of external figures (parents, friends, role models, teachers and schools) in the lives of young people.
  • Accessing cultural activities or events depends a lot on the individual or team delivering the activity.
  • Negative peer pressure and the ‘not-for-me’ attitude is often shaped by external factors and reinforced by peer relations.  
Word of Mouth
Word of Mouth

  Marketing Your Message  

It is important to develop a succession of messages aimed at involving young people, to be followed by other messages to make sure that your new audience remains engaged. Highlighting the immediate short term benefits will initially will grab their attention, and once they are involved in an activity or event, further motivation can be given by providing opportunities to engage in other activities or events.   

Developing your Communication Strategy – You are going to be communicating a different message to young people under the age of 10 years (in fact you’ll be communicating to their parents) then you will communicate your message to teenagers. You can’t treat young people as a single audience; rather they are a number of separate audiences with different needs, interests and desires.  

Developing Your Message – It is more effective to focus your message on the experience on offer to the young person, rather than highlighting your core message or vision. You should try to combine all the different attractions for young people; having fun, making friends, doing something interesting and exciting, something different, unique and funky.  

Slogans can be a powerful way of communicating your message and be easily remembered, it has the added benefit of creating a recognisable brand. Involving young people in the creation of a slogan or brand is a really effective way of creating a message perceived by young people as authentic and powerful.  

Language and Tone – Keep the message simple. The more information an advertisement tries to communicate the less it is likely to succeed, particularly among young people who tend to have shorter attention spans. A motivating message can be buried under other information that could be communicated at a later stage. Websites enable you to communicate as much information as you like at a later stage.  

It’s important that you are careful not to appear condescending in the use of language styles. Attempts to make a message seem ‘cool’ can be counter productive, try to avoid appearing patronising or to be talking down to young people.  

Using words which entail young people’s empowerment and respect for their views, such as ‘it’s your choice’, ‘it’s up to you’, ‘you decide’, can have a strong and positive effect. Other words that make participation more attractive for young people are; fun, make friends, meet people, help, challenging, competitions, cool, enjoy, exciting, experience, free, funky, interesting, reward, skills.  

Media – Once you have defined and refined your message or messages it is important to choose which medium or combination of media to use to communicate this to your target audience. Young people’s interests change frequently, therefore it is important to regularly update your message and the medium you choose to market that message.  

Some of the key media platforms recommended are:  

  • Magazines
  • Social Networking websites (facebook, twitter, bebo)
  • Blogs
  • Radio – local and national
  • Text Messages
  • Viral Marketing (any activity which encourages people to pass on a marketing message to others through the web).
  • Websites
  • And of course Face-to-Face marketing. 

Creativity – Most obvious, but most importantly, don’t forget to be creative when engaging young people. If you’re trying to engage people in the Arts and Cultural sector, then play to your strengths, and that is your creativity. Consider offering something extra to promote your events and activities, young people appreciate items they can take away and use, pencils, stickers, stamps, wristbands, temporary tattoos. While flyers and posters are important in communicating information, this can be done through your website too, a gimmick or gadget will spark a young person’s interest and attention, and give them a sense of ownership, and is far more effectively then a flyer or poster.  

You can read my abridged version on the HI-Arts website,  


You can read the full report from the DCFS here.

The Lay of the Cultural Land



A huge thank you to all the wonderful people who took part in the first HI-Arts Audience Development Survey last month!

I have now finished the analysis and report, which you can download from the HI-Arts Research web pages.

Here is a quick overview of the survey findings.

  • 51 different arts and cultural enterprises completed the survey.
  • Of these 32% were individual artists or practitioners, 21% were voluntary or community groups, 20% were art centres or a venue, 13% were promoters, 6% were touring or theatre companies, 8% marked themselves as ‘other’.
  • All the art forms were represented in the survey (music, craft, visual arts, theatre, film, writing, dance, heritage, and museums).
  • All the areas across the Highlands and Islands were represented in the survey.


  • All enterprises engaged with a variety of small, medium and large audience bases (from less then 500 a year to more then 15,000 a year).
  • The key audience base for these enterprises were adults aged 31 to 59 years, the tourism market, families, other artists and those in the Arts Sector.
  • The majority of enterprises said their core audiences were mainly local residents.
  • Only 22% of respondents admitted to having a ‘living’ marketing strategy.
  • The most popular marketing and promotion tools were websites, posters and flyers, print brochures and leaflets, and email campaigns.
  • Only 24% of respondents have Access Policies, although 17% admitted they ‘were working on it’.
  • Accessible websites were the most popular accessible resources provided to disabled audiences by both ticketed and non-ticketed events and sellers.


The Survey will remain open until the end of July and I will be developing a new audience development survey for the autumn.

If you have any thoughts or questions about this survey, future surveys or about developing your own surveys please do get in touch.

Saving Our Woodlands Promoting Our Art

Let's go for a walk

Let's go for a walk

On Friday afternoon I was invited up to Milton, near Alness, to attend a joint networking meeting of the Woodlands Community Association, Voluntary Arts Scotland and a variety of artists.

The networking event itself was held to discuss the concept of bringing together Arts and Nature, how the Artistic and Cultural sector can support the growth and sustainability of Scottish Woodlands, through Arts Projects based within Woodland Communities.

The Community Woodlands Association, established in 2003, was set up “to help community woodland groups across Scotland. It provides advice, assistance and information, facilitates networking and training, and represents and promotes the benefits of community woodlands, both in the political arena and wider world” (CWA, 2010).

At present there are 150 member groups with 15,000 participating members across the country, but the future survival of these woodland communities are under threat. Whether it is from the modernisation of the world or apathy towards saving our environment, CWA recognise that this is a time in which action to engage wider audiences and therefore members is necessary to support all the hard work of the few devoted individuals who work, live and protect their communities woodland areas.

Voluntary Arts Scotland (VAS) on the other hand offers support, advice and information to groups and individuals who take part in the voluntary arts and crafts. This partnership between the CWA and VAS may well ensure a future relationship between socially motivated Artists and the woodland communities, towards providing socially engaged artistic projects right in the heart of the Woodland areas across Scotland.

The concept of ‘Community Arts’ has always been a tricky one in my mind. I have had the most amazing opportunities in the past to work alongside community art projects, and see the impacts and benefits that communities have from engaging the arts and an Artist to deliver something unique and special to these groups. Community arts projects definitely have an important role to play in fostering participation, partnership and greater respect for local communities or for arts in general.

However, I have struggled with the idea of a ‘community artist’. Does this really exist? A community arts project by definition involved local community members, it is a collaborative project between the artist, the community and the local area. Many socially motivated projects require specific and measurable ‘outcomes’, what will the legacy of this project be, what skills will the local community have learned. It is vitally important to define your goals, have an idea of what you hope to achieve, to leave a legacy for the local community. But how much of this infringes on the creativity of the Artist? Especially if the socially motivate outcomes are already predetermined by either the local community or organisation(s) involved? Where does ‘community art’ stop being about Outcomes and more about Artistic practice?

Govan Beacon

Govan Beacon

It is afterall a balancing act, and there are so many incredibly talented and inspirational artists who work with community arts projects across the country, one such artist I met on Friday Tara Beall, who had worked on the Govan Graving Beacon project in Glasgow for the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art.

The Graving Beacon is an automated light placed on the Govan Graving Docks which flashes messages in Morse Code. People are encouraged to send their messages to the Beacon via text message, and wait to see their message translated into Morse code and flashed out across the docklands, and then wait for a reply. So see more check out the beaconcam at

The meeting on Friday was designed to give both parties an opportunity to talk through their needs and requirements to make sure this partnership has a successful future, and I believe much ground was made in the few hours we had.

This is early days still for the partnership, and I’ll be sure to keep you all up to date on all the developments.

Milton Community Woodland Trust: