From Pinterest to Instagram to Facebook, visual content is king. Facebook increased the size of the images on the site, has experimented with a tiled image views, and most recently started an auto-play feature for videos. The most popular social media sites, like Pinterest and Instagram, are primarily image-driven and each have millions of users. Your customers are on social media and social media is visual.
Visual Media Dominates Social Networks
No business can afford to ignore the immense growth in media-rich social networks:
- 20+ Billion Photos Shared on Instagram
- 1+ Billion YouTube Users
- 1+ Billion Facebook Users
- 70+ Million Pinterest Users
- 50+ Million Facebook Pages
Consumers now expect for businesses and brands provide them with visual materials. In order to engage with customers, you have to give them the tools they need to engage, which is content that works with their social networks.
Facebook posts are a given, but what about making sure your website has “pinnable” images or providing YouTube videos? If you’re in industries like fashion, beauty, travel engaging with customers on Instagram is a must these days.
Twitter, which was traditionally just text, started using Twit Pic in the past few years. And statistics reveal that Twitter users are 94% more likely to retweet images created though pic.twitter.com than other image sources. In fact, those with Instagram links are 42% less likely to be retweeted and FB image links 47% less likely. On the other hand, tweets using Twitpic links are 64% more likely to be retweeted.
Advice: Be sure that your customers can engage with your business where they are, not where you want them to be.
People Don’t Read Online
A recent study done by Chartbeat for popular online magazine Slate shows that most readers only make it halfway down the page of any given story. The same study showed that many more visitors see all content that is visual. While many people share content that they haven’t completed reading, as a business this kind of engagement might not necessarily help you communicate with customers.
The fact is that people don’t read online like they read books or magazines. Eye-tracking studies show that reader’s focus resembles the letter “F.” Time spent is much higher in the top and left of the page and gradually diminishes as the reader moves down the page.
As a business, you can fight this problem by offering up your best content at the beginning and hope for the best. Or rise up and meet the challenge of engagement by doing something that can really help readers make it through your content and understand it.
Using slideshows or posting videos on YouTube can help you engage with customers on a deeper level than a just an image. From serious tutorials to product reviews, or just for fun slideshows, adding a slideshow or video helps engage the customer without demanding much from them. And it’s also great for SEO.
Advice: Offer your customers an alternative to reading by providing slideshows and videos that will get your message across in a way that’s easier to understand than text.
Control Your Message, Direct Your Engagement
When people see images, it’s their natural reaction to assume that what they see is what they get. Even with Photoshop’s widespread use, it’s still our assumption to accept photos as “evidence” and for us as humans to interpret images literally.
This creates a paradox – “the photographic paradox” as coined by philosopher Roland Barthes. While we by default view images as a denotation (they are what they are), in fact this is an oversimplification. Every image is filled with connotations. This is why it’s absolutely vital for a business to take as much control as possible over how images of their product or business are used.
One poignant example is that of Coca-Cola’s public service announcement on obesity, which frames the discussion as Coke wants to frame it. The images are of happy and healthy people drinking Coke, a delivery man filling up a Coke machine in a school, and people delighting in life. It has over 5 million views as of today and the comments are overwhelmingly supportive of Coke – even though the message is that Coke isn’t healthy.
There is another video about the dangers of Coke, “5 Darkest Coca-Cola Secrets.” It was not made by Coca-Cola, has over 1 million views, but its comments overwhelmingly speak about Coke in a negative way because of the way the video influences viewers. Smart companies know that the negativity is out there, but they still control the conversation and create positive engagement.
Advice: When you create the content, you frame the discussion, you shape the engagement, and your message can dominate in a world filled with media. Don’t let anyone else engage your customers before you do!
Tom More is the CEO and founder of slide.ly, a popular creator of slideshows, videos and imagery.