Visual social media is the new phenomenon. There is no denying that a massive shift has happened in the way we communicate online. Image-driven social networks are exploding on the scene, even as smartphone cameras are upgrading constantly to keep pace. Has your brand gone “highly pictorial” yet?
Social networks like Pinterest and Instagram have hit popularity peaks over the last year, and Facebook has redesigned its whole layout to incorporate more imagery (a la the new cover photo and Timeline layout). More and more, the importance of images in social media marketing has grown. There’s a mass-migration from “telling” to “showing”.
What is becoming amply clear is that brands without a “solid visual vocabulary” or an eye for “visual storytelling” will be left behind. On the other hand, brands that are ready to embrace this new trend have a huge opportunity to leverage the power of visual marketing. If they can learn how to use images, photos, video, and other visual media in their online marketing, they have a greater chance of reaching more people with their messages.
But simple though it sounds to replace words with pictures, brands that do not have a social media image strategy in place can go all over the place and achieve nothing. There’s another caveat to this whole business of “going visual”. While images help tell stories, their meanings can also be misconstrued. Images leave a lot to the imagination and interpretation of the viewers. Brands that are not extra-careful to ensure that their images can deliver their intended messages may lose a lot in the translation.
As part of any brand’s visual social media strategy, it is important to get the right policies and practices in place, for starters. Key strategic decisions to make could include: what types of images would work best; what stories need to be told visually; which social networks will work best for which kind of brand stories; how can the brand image be consistent across social networks while also being interestingly variegated on content and exposition depending on each network; and what kind of image archive needs to be put in place to gradually build a whole brand library of visual assets.
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For those who like infographics (they’re images too!), I’ve found one that details the Visual Shift in Social Media very interestingly. This infographic has been produced by SociallySorted.com.au, and has six great tips for brands wanting to leverage the power of visuals online for their social media marketing.
Before you scroll down to read the whole infographic, here is their six-point plan in brief:
Don’t “tell” if you can “show”. Change your attitude towards information dissemination and advertising communication. Plan your messages visually and let pictures “speak”. Images can be of diverse kinds – pictures, videos, infographics, slideshows or animations. Use a variety of these to avoid monotony, and to add richness to messages. Look to sequence images, if you can, to string a brand story along.
Create original visual content. Think “viral” when you plan visual content. Visual social media thrives on the “sharing principle”. Only if your content is original can it have sharing value. Online it is believed that only 20% of all content is original and the rest of the 80% of content circulating is shared material. Brands that would like to succeed on the visual social media need to be part of the imaginative 20% that produce never-seen-before visual content. (If your images are original, remember to watermark them.)
Showcase your story. Since pictures are capable of individual interpretation, it would help immensely to ensure that your brand conveys to its viewers the “why” behind every image. People do not need a caption to a photo that simply states what is in that photo. They like to know what brought about that picture, what was the story behind it. Even purely business-oriented seemingly dull pictures of say, people in offices, could have an interesting back-story about the moment the picture was taken.
Crowd-source visual content. Image-based social media networking need not be a one-way street. Brands that have been immensely successful in the visual social media are those that have kept their audiences participative in the image-sharing process. Setting up a brand-related theme or contest and crowd-sourcing images around that topic can be a great way to attract audience engagement while also making people conscious of the brand’s values.
Add back the words. Images can tell a lot by themselves but if you’d like to add words to enhance the effectiveness of the images, be careful how you do it. Captions, descriptions, or image titles need not be staid, they can be humorous, dramatic, evocative, thought-provoking, tug on the heartstrings, or even be a call-to-action, depending on what kind of emotional response your brand wants to achieve. While you are at it, remember to add hashtags to keywords for greater impact.
Mix it up. The whole idea behind visual storytelling is to make the pictures themselves very innovative in their treatment. You should try to work on raw images to “soup” them up if that sort of creativity can lend some zing to your brand. Pictures can have textual overlays, filters, treatment with textures or imaginative cropping. Sometimes montages speak better than individual pictures. Some of the best advertising photography over the years has always included some form of “flavor” added to raw pictures. Sports brands add “movement” to their images, perfume brands add “atmosphere”, health brands add “aliveness”. Pictures on the social media do not have to look like they have been taken by amateurs, they can have all the hallmarks of sophisticated brand photography if that will help your brand stand out in the crowd.
Okay, so here’s the long and teasing infographic. See if you can take it all in!
Infographic credit: SociallySorted.com.au
Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling
The Visual Marketing Revolution: 26 Rules to Help Social Media Marketers Connect the Dots