Visual content is nothing new, but it's only gaining in importance as consumer's attention spans continue to shrink PHOTO: Laura LaRose

Social marketers who think their words alone will win fans and influence people — how to put this gently? 

Text is out. 

It had a good run, but it's pretty much over. 

Long form content still has its place. According to Social Media Examiner's 2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 38 percent of marketers said blogging was the single most important form of content for their business. 

Want to know what came in second? Visual marketing, at 37 percent. 

Consider these marketers the ones to beat, because they've already figured out the key to cutting through the noise comes down to catching your audience's eye — and words alone just won't cut it. 

Visual Media Is In (and That Should Come as No Surprise)

Visual media is hardly an overnight success — images have been part of the equation since the internet began, and certainly have always been part of social media. 

But as peoples' attention spans have shortened, visual media has become the most economical and effective way to convey whatever you're thinking or feeling — with far more nuance than abbreviated netspeak and sparse character limitations ever could. 

It makes perfect sense consumers have increasingly gravitated to visual content over the past few years. 

According to Animoto, "Four times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it," while "four in five consumers say a video showing how a product or service works is important." 

But don't think it's all about video — it's not. Infographics, for one, are still going strong — they are "shared and liked three times more than any other visual materials available," according to Mass Planner

And on social media, visual media has influenced how the top networks have evolved. From the simplest of images (emojis and GIFs) to the most compelling videos (360-degree and livestreams), the stories being told on social are increasingly visual ones.  

Striving to Stand Out on Social

How have top social networks met this visual content trend? With a variety of new features aimed at attaining social users' love. 

Here's a quick break-down of what types of visual content are popular, and where: 

Live streaming video 

There's no time like the present to engage your followers in a one-time only event they can attend without ever leaving the house, and live video offers that connection.

Facebook Live and Twitter's Periscope are the biggest games in town, but other contenders crowd the field

Facebook reports, "People spend more than 3 times more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live." So there's your incentive to embrace this real-time option.

Snapchat and Instagram Stories

Snapchat's success inspired Instagram to come up with a competing version of the 24-hour Story feature. Both networks allow you to add images and videos throughout the day — to be viewed as a single Story, which then auto-deletes after 24 hours. 

It's a great way to connect with the privacy-conscious Snapchat crowd, and another way to keep followers interested on Instagram.

User generated content (UGC)

Don't discount the adoring artwork of your fans, as sharing it saves you a lot of time and money you'd otherwise spend on creating your own imagery. Fans can share this type of content anywhere, but Tumblr in particular is one network where artistic users tend to gather. 

The option to leave a video comment on Facebook also offers a unique opportunity to engage your followers by making them the star. 

Pinterest Pins 

Pins are the lifeblood of Pinterest, but brands and marketers may want to take a fresh look at their value. As the Pinterest 100 2017 notes, "People save things on Pinterest for themselves, not for other people." 

This means Pinterest gives you a direct look at what consumers care about — and that's every marketer's goal. 

Connecting the Visual Dots

Understanding consumers' passions is a crucial part of offering up a customer experience they can't refuse — which starts with how you reach them on social media. 

Use the Pinterest 100 2017 as a resource to discover trends for the upcoming year, as well as inspiration for how to creatively use those trends to reach your target audience. 

Don't dismiss the importance of social media listening tools as well. The more you can learn about your audience and prospects, the better. People are more than willing to converse with you when the interactions are just that — a conversation. Market "at" them, and you're sure to fail. 

Failure is also likely if you don't properly vet your visual media before sharing. American Apparel learned this very publicly when one of its social media team shared what they thought was an image of Fourth of July fireworks — but was actually an image of the fatal Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.  

Know what you're posting, be sure you're not violating copyright and don't try too hard. There's nothing worse than attempting to be cool when you're not. If you ever thought "LOL" meant "lots of love," you can appreciate how easy it is to get things wrong once that generational divide kicks in. 

The in-jokes are evolving, and so is social media. Who knows what the hot thing will be when we reach 2018? But for this year, let the pictures and video do the talking and your brand will be "in" — until the next big thing comes along.