Companies of all sizes are flooded with visual media. From content marketing to digital advertising to social, marketers and message directors manage more forms of content than ever before. But in order to leverage all this content, you’ve got to organize it first.

We recently conducted an online media poll here at Canto and found that 45% of respondents estimated that their organization managed 1,000 – 10,000 digital assets, while 24% estimated their digital assets at 10,000+ pieces. That’s a big enough number of assets to cause real problems in using them, since you can’t use what you can’t find.

Here are 5 tips for organizing digital assets to make the best use of them.

Tip #1 – Start with your most popular assets

Few marketing departments start from a clean slate, but must instead make decisions about digital asset management in the middle of a busy operation. This is why it makes sense to first identify your most popular assets. These will prove the ROI of your media library, especially if you share brand assets across teams within an enterprise, or with partners through branded portals.

One stop shops for digital assets, including high res and low res imagery, different formats and even pre-defined sizes for social media can save massive time by cutting down requests to designers and creatives for reformatting. Create once and share everywhere, versus create again and again.

Tip #2 – Sort images into an organizing structure

Sitting down with your team and deciding on a tree structure for digital assets will pay dividends down the road. Organize branded materials by sorting them into one folder structure, and sorting stock imagery into another. Adopt whatever folder categorization schema makes sense for your organization. Maybe by product name, product style, product manufacturer, you name it.

See this blog post from Canto, Staying Organized with Folders and Albums, for great strategies. Then, by broad strokes, keep in-progress assets in your own Work Space, like that offered by Canto, and choose when you wish to release these assets to particular team members, a full team or the whole organization.

Tip #3 – Label your images with metadata

The most important thing you can do in regard to photo organization for current and future members of your team or organization is to tag each image with appropriate keywords. You might wish to introduce a controlled vocabulary for especially large collections, but in the least case you should be prepared to liberally tag images with keywords that describe the image’s category, color, subject matter, product relationship or any other categories that makes sense for your operation.

Labeling images is really the master key to finding them later, and can provide you massive leverage over your visual assets. See this great Canto blog post, Getting Organized with Keywords and Tags, to show you how.

Tip #4 – Keep versions and alternates

An often overlooked aspect of organizing visual media is the large number of versions that can go into a finished visual asset, especially for organizations that have thriving in-house creative departments. For a variety of reasons, creatives keep past versions of visual media, as well as alternate files, basically equivalent to A/B tests. Robust media libraries, like Canto, can keep a history of file versions, a sort of “paper trail” that tracks the evolution of a particular asset. Combine this with alternate files and you are able to organize not only a wide “horizontal” variety of visual media, but also the “vertical” variety of versions and alternates that make up one finished media asset.

Tip #5 – Don’t forget about formats

This last big silo of visual asset organization is what can save your team or organization the most time and money in terms of reduced search costs and lost productivity. This is because it stops an image request traveling all the way back to the asset creator, who may be in sole possession of the master creative file from which derivative formats were made in the image library. By having creatives produce a range of pre-defined image file formats (png, jpg etc), image sizes (social media like facebook and linkedin), and resolutions (high and low), image seekers can then benefit from a “one stop shop” for their end-use needs. Marketers can get to what they need fast, and account executives can choose an image for client or partner delivery without having to route through creative or marketing for each individual request.

Bottom line: your content marketing strategy is only as effective as your means to organize your digital assets. Follow these tips and watch your team or organization reach new heights of success.

Give Canto a try with a free trial today and see how you can start optimally organizing digital assets!

Geoff portrait

Geoff Moran – Senior Content Manager and Author | Canto

Geoff has plenty of great insights into the digital asset management industry with excellent resources and blog posts. Check out some of his work.