Online media has changed marketing forever. We don’t have captive audiences. We’re competing to capture the attention of consumers, and that’s a big challenge.

What is the best way to capture that attention? Through visual marketing. This marketing method is here to stay, and you need to embrace it or you’ll lose marketing traction.

You’ve no doubt heard the term “visual marketing.” But what does it mean and why do you need it?

Visual marketing is simply harnessing the power of images. Some examples of visual marketing include photographs, infographics, video and the very familiar image quotes you see all over social media.

Here’s why it works:

1. Audience attention spans. I’ve already mentioned that social media and online media have changed marketing forever. That’s because our audience has also changed. Attention spans are shorter than ever. Consumers are no longer willing to read your long-winded messages. You have to capture their attention, and you have to do it quickly. Most studies show you have only about three seconds to do that!

Most of the information transmitted to the human brain — up to 90 percent — is visual. Did you know that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than we do text? That is why visual content is truly the easiest way to capture someone’s attention within three seconds.

The fastest-growing social media sites are image-based. It’s no coincidence that the newest social networks are focused on visual content — and are highly mobile. (If you haven’t started using apps like Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat and Instagram, now is the time.)

2. Visual content gets shared more often. Studies prove that photos and videos drive more customer engagement with social media than text updates. On Facebook, pictures are liked at twice the rate of text updates.

Even more importantly, visual content triggers higher sharing rates. Videos are shared 12 times more often than text and links on Facebook business pages! According to Facebook, 87 percent of its most-shared content comprises photographs.

When content is shared, it increases brand visibility and broadens the audience, which ultimately is what we all want.

3. Visual content is great for search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines now incorporate social signals into their ranking algorithm. Every “+1,” “like,” comment and share has an impact.

The sites that have the biggest impact are Google Plus, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. By sharing visual content that increases your engagement rates, you’re increasing your SEO!

4. Mobile makes it easy. Real estate professionals are on the go constantly, and most of you struggle to find enough time to market yourself and your brand. Luckily, there are lots of fun tools and apps available that make visual marketing from your phone or tablet a snap!

Marci James is the director of marketing for Obeo.

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