If Content is King, Visual is Queen
In the quest for content that users of brand social assets will appreciate and interact with, imagery continues to surface as a key driver of engagement. All you need to do to understand this is consider your own social media behavior. While you may check your social streams multiple times a day, the odds are good that you fly through these “social checks” at quite a high rate of speed.
It’s also likely you’re prioritising your focus first on who posted the content. There are certain names you are more attuned to because historically, those names have brought you content you use or care about. Second to that, it’s the image attached to a post that either makes you slow down or stop at least long enough to read the headline. Other social users are no different from you, which is why imagery is without a doubt King Content’s queen.
Is it because people no longer want to read? No. But people want to do their reading when they have the luxury of time to do it. And let’s not forget the famous adage: A picture is worth a thousand words. It’s an activity that requires a very different set of conditions from social networking, which moves at top speed, and most likely as part of a workday. The image must grab the News Feed surfer to get them to the headline, which gets them to the content, which hopefully inspires them enough to engage with it. Wow, that’s a lot of hoops to jump through to get to engagement. And it all starts with that single image.
Our own research shows that posts with an image attached get 22% more engagement than posts with video, and 54% more engagement than text posts. Those numbers go up significantly depending on the vertical. CPG and QSR benefit from imagery at much higher than average levels.
Given these truths, the Pinterest and Instagram success stories should come as no surprise to any of us.
Pinterest launched in closed beta in 2010. As recently as summer of 2011, it was still being operated out of a small apartment. By January 2011, it was driving more traffic to retailer sites than LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+. According to Experian Hitwise, Pinterest became the third largest social networking site in March. It was the fastest site to break the 10 million unique users mark. And yet, early in its life, when the founders tried to pitch it to a major magazine publisher, the publisher wouldn’t even so much as take a meeting with them. Magazines, an industry fueled by photography and imagery, didn’t understand how powerful images were.
They keys to why Pinterest is so hot: it’s easy, it’s addictive, it can be consumed quickly, it’s fun, it’s useful for finding great ideas, it’s neatly organised around interests, and it seamlessly leads you to where you can purchase an item if you like what you see. It’s a digital catalog with no sales pressure.
Instagram launched in October 2010. Hashtags were added to make photos and users more discoverable. On April 3 it released a version for Android. And nine days later it was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, 1-and-a-half years after it was launched.
What made Instagram worth $1 billion? Well, there are plenty of people still out there saying it’s not. But Instagram’s success was built on users taking something that was already wildly popular (photos), putting their own unique creative spin on them through filters and effects, and then easily showing friends what they did via easy sharing. Instagram was valuable to Facebook because it was driven by mobile. Photos are quickly and easily consumed on mobile devices, and mobile usage is only continuing to skyrocket. Lastly, as with Pinterest, the bottom line is Instagram was a huge success because users across nearly every demographic love looking at pictures.
Three words you should post somewhere on or around your desk:
That is the magic formula of still imagery content.
You can rest assured innovators and entrepreneurs are at this very moment trying to come up with the next fun spin that can be put on taking and sharing photos. But what brand marketers must take away from the visual social network phenomenon is the sheer power of pictures. Whether that means generating your own visual content, or capitalising on Pinterest and Instagram by pulling them into the Facebook environment where your existing Facebook community can be leveraged, your ability to capture attention and tell a story in a mere instant is paramount.
Richard Beattie is VP, EMEA at Vitrue, the leading social relationship management technology platform in the industry.