Facebook has never been a more important platform for marketing. An incredible 94 percent of marketers use Facebook, with two in three citing it as their most important social media platform, according to a survey of more than 5,700 marketers published by Social Media Examiner in 2018.

Yet less than half of marketers believe their Facebook strategy is effective, and 52 percent have actually seen declines in their organic reach on the social media platform in the last year.

So how can you develop an effective Facebook marketing strategy without breaking the bank? First and foremost, know that visual content is king when it comes to Facebook. The platform is even introducing virtual reality memories and 3D photos because users can't get enough of this kind of text-light, visual-first content. As a marketer, creating and sharing visual content can go a long way toward helping you develop an organic following, but a recent algorithm update has reduced organic post reach dramatically; so ads -- also a visual-first medium -- need to be a part of most visual campaigns.  

Here are six key strategies that you'll need to implement as you develop a full-fledged visual strategy for Facebook.

1. Know your audience.

Anything you post on Facebook should be created especially for the people you're trying to reach. For younger demographics in nonprofessional contexts, you may opt for a more fun-loving, playful tone and design style in the kinds of bite-sized videos they like most. You might also use Facebook Stories, a recent addition to the platform that feels like home to Snapchat users.

For older demographics or for B2B messaging, you'll want to take a different approach. Keep in mind what color palettes and illustration styles might be most appealing to these groups. Would a static infographic be more appealing to them than a motion graphic? Target audience will make a fundamental impact on the type of content you produce.

2. Minimize your use of text.

People are less likely to engage with text than with images on Facebook, so before publishing any post, consider how you can make it visual. Can you include a mini-infographic that visualizes a cool stat from a report you're sharing, rather than typing out the stat as a post? Can you create an explainer video instead of an explainer blog post? These efforts are sure to boost your engagement.

3. Set clear goals.

For every post that you publish on Facebook, you should know how you want readers to react. Should they click through to your website? Share a photo? Watch your latest motion graphic? Once you have a goal in mind, choose the best visual content for encouraging that action. A graphic of a pie chart isn't shareable unless it's something that your followers think their friends and family would love to see.

4. Ensure a consistent look and feel.

A consistent look and feel across all the visual content you share on Facebook makes it more instantly recognizable as yours, while at the same time reducing the need to include your logo so often. This, in turn, makes the content more shareable.

This same consistency should carry through onto other platforms, especially when they're part of the same visual campaign. Think about it: a compelling illustration on Facebook loses all its power when your audience clicks through to a drab landing page.

5. Encourage all types of engagement.

Engagement isn't just about liking and sharing posts. You want your audience to comment on and react to your posts. Your visual content should encourage them to do this. How can a graph you're sharing stimulate deeper conversation? How can a motion graphic that tells a story encourage viewers to share their own stories?

And remember: you're not the only one that should be sharing images. If users post their own images in response to yours, they're more likely to generate engagement themselves, and all that engagement will lead back to your post.

6. Opt for visually strong ads.

As organic post reach becomes more difficult to achieve, ads will probably be part of your Facebook marketing strategy at some point. How can you make sure they're effective?

Foremost, make sure they're customized for the specific audience you're targeting in your campaign. A catch-all ad design isn't likely to catch anyone.

Still, it can be hard to know what will make that audience click. So invest some time and effort into creating a few different ads, then see which ones generate the most results. Use this design as the model for future ad designs, and consider how it can inform the overall visual language of your campaign.

Visual content is the primary driver of Facebook engagement. Incorporate these six strategies, and you're sure to see improved results in your next Facebook marketing campaign.

Published on: Oct 16, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.