The rise and rise of visual social media networks
We live in a visual-driven culture, and images have long been used as a powerful communications tool for branding with high impact.
With the rise of image sharing platforms such as Pinterest, the ongoing influence of YouTube, and facebook's new Timeline developments and its recent acquisition of Instagram, social media channels are becoming increasingly visual in nature.
There has also been a massive increase in photo creation through the growing number of people who own a smartphone. Ten per cent of photos taken by humankind took place in the last twelve months.
What does this shift towards a more visual conversation and increase in readily available visual content mean for businesses using social media?
It is more important than ever for businesses to create a strategy for translating their brand effectively through imagery cues on social sites.
Explore the opportunities to integrate your brand into your visuals. The colour and presentation of visuals used on social media can act as an extension of your business's branding style. The proliferation of photo sharing software means it is important to consider incorporating your business website URL or another recognisable watermark on your images in case they are disconnected from their original source link. This is particularly relevant for those working in visual industries such as photography.
Use images to help bring about emotional reactions to your brand stories. Well chose images can make people feel something that puts them in the right mindset to react more strongly to the text of your stories, and be more inclined to share this information.
Investigate ways to use Pinterest and Instagram as marketing tools. Provide useful tips and hints for your audience through inforgraphics, create virtual tours of your business, and use images to highlight aspects of your products and services. The latest apps from Luminate add an extra layer of interactivity to once one-dimensional, static images. For example, their new apps allow users to do things such as purchase mp3 files related to music artists or view movie trailers relevant to actors featured in visuals.
Experiment with user generated content. Encourage your audience to engage with your brand by sharing a photo to be posted on social media platforms to take part in a competition, promotion or event. This will help them feel a personal connection to your brand.
Keep in mind that using visuals is a double-edged sword. Visuals give business the means to show their brand story rather than telling it. However, visuals can be more easily misinterpreted and taken out of context than is the case with text, where there is more of an opportunity to explain intended meaning.
The availability of photo editing and photo sharing software also means that the way brand visuals are shared and displayed by social media users is out of a business's control.
Establish employee guidelines for tagging photos taken at business social events on your facebook page. Being social is all about the human element, and staff photos can help people create an image of your team when they think of you, but it is important to prevent inappropriate pictures being associated with your key brand ambassadors, your employees.
Develop a strong visual strategy and create opportunities for your customers and wider audience to share and engage with your brand through photo creation and interaction, and you'll develop a stronger sense of community with those who engage with your business online.