A picture is worth a thousand words right? Then why do we depend so much on writing word after word, sentence after sentence and hope that words alone will communicate the message we want to deliver? In many cases we rely on our words to stand on their own and forget the power of images to reinforce our message or an experience.
Over the last year we have seen a number of emerging trends and social applications that have proven just how engaging, fun and effective images can be to audiences. In fact, in many ways this is leaving marketers scrambling to figure out how they might take advantage of the popularity of services like Pinterest and Instagram to increase brand affinity and attract inbound traffic. The biggest barrier? How to communicate and engage with customers almost entirely visually? Let me attempt to provide some ideas that might help you solve your image problem.
Making Data Easier to Consume with Infographics
Infographics have become one of the hottest trends on the web over the last year or so. If you are a marketer then you have likely been bombarded with enough infographics to circle the globe 1,000 times, just in the last week. I don’t see that trend slowing down anytime soon. At Secret Sushi Creative we have designed a few for clients recently and have seen the demand increase. If there is information that needs to be conveyed quickly and in an engaging way, infographics are a great way to go. Just think of that last bullet-point-riddled Power Point presentation you had to sit through. Would you have paid attention and absorbed more of the information had it been in the form of an infographic?
- If done thoughtfully infographics make complex data easier to absorb and understand. Especially when attention spans are short.
- A well designed infographic can also set a tone making the data more fun, serious, spooky (Halloween anybody?), etc.
- Infographics can be visually branded. Logos, colors, typography and more can stay on-brand.
- Infographics can be easily shared via any social media channel in the same way any other image can be. Facebook, Pinterest, your blog, Twitter, etc are all great places to share your infographic.
- Designing infographics can sometimes be costly if you don’t have a design resource in-house.
- The turn around time for a decent infographic is at least a couple days due to the data collection, design time and approvals needed to produce one.
- Although you may miss out on the complete flexibility of creating your own infographic from the ground up, try your hand at service like Piktochart. It offers a a set of themes, common infographic elements and a WYSIWYG editor enabling non-designers to create your own infographics on the cheap.
- When posting your infographic to your blog I recommend appending “(Infographic)” or something similar to the end of the title. Since the title of your post is usually the only things that people see when it is shared via Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and just about anywhere else… this will let those rabid infographics fans know that you have something that might interest them.
- Although many infographics are large and take a while to scroll through, consider making smaller, bit-sized ones from time to time. They take less time to produce and are more easily shared on sites that scale down image previews that are shared.
- Infographics are not about slapping pie charts and bar graphs on a pretty background. The best infographics usually tie in interesting data with a thoughtful design that helps reinforce the theme of the data. There are a ton of examples here in this group Pinterest board.
Sharing the Experience with Photos
Brands have been doing this on Facebook for some time now. Take a look at one of the great photos Red Bull has posted on their Facebook timeline (below). The new kid on the block is the social sharing service Instagram. With 27 million users and growing, Instagram is a growing community of people who fire up the app with the expectation of seeing some great user-generated photos.
Red Bull has carried their use of great photos on over to Instagram and amassed a large engaged community. Most of the images that they share is obviously shot by professional photographers versus an iPhone, but their followers are eating it up nonetheless. Local custom bag maker Rickshaw Bagworks has been using Facebook to share inside peeks into their company, some of the more interesting custom bags their customers have ordered and the culture of San Francisco where they are located. They recently started carrying that activity over into Instagram as well.
- The Instagram user-base is continuing to rapidly grow. Initially only released only on the iPhone, the app will be released to Android users any time now opening the community up to an even larger audience.
- Snapping photos and sharing them on Instagram is quick, painless and takes barely more effort than the act of taking the photo.
- Photos on Instagram can be cross posted to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumbler and more. In most cases, the cross posted images show up in other networks the same as if they were posted directly.
- Instagram enables users to LIKE or comment on images a la Facebook style. Comments can sometimes turn into conversations between the users and/or the brand.
- Images can only be uploaded via the mobile app.
- Images on mobile devices are small due to the screen size so detailed images have less impact.
- Add an interesting and/or engaging caption to every photo you post on Instagram. Keep in mind that the caption is the text that is included when you cross post your photos to Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. A good caption might make a big difference whether or not folks check out your image when cross posted to other sites.
- Similar to Twitter, Instagram supports the use of hashtags. Also like Twitter, the hashtags on Instagram are searchable directly on the Instagram app. Adding hashtags will greatly increase the reach of any photos you post beyond your direct followers on Instagram. I recommend initially posting your image with a meaningful caption and then adding one or more hashtag to the image as a follow up comment. This way you are still able to have a clean caption, especially if you cross post the image, and then the added benefit of the hashtag. In most cases you will add a hashtag related to the content of the photo. For example… if you posted an image of a model wearing your newest line of sneakers you might add the hashtag #shoes or #fashion. People searching for those hashtags will find your relevant photo. You might be surprised to see that the most active hashtags are very broad and can be can be appended to most images. To see what the most popular hashtags are being used at any given time scroll down to the “Top 100 Tags” list here: http://web.stagram.com/hot/. I’ve seen engagement double just by adding an appropriate hashtag.
- All Instagram hashtag searches generate a feed that can be subscribed to via RSS. This means, with a little help from a programmer you can pull a hashtag feed into a web page or app. To get the feed for a hashtag use http://instagr.am/tags/[hashtag name]/feed/recent.rss.
- Create promotion specific hashtags and encourage Instagram users to shoot photos that fit the theme or subject matter of your hashtag. Then using the hashtag feed you can collect all of the photos and display it in one place. My local news recently started asking residents to contribute great photos in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can see what people have shared here.
- Want to make your images a bit more dynamic and interesting? Consider using an app like Diptic to creatively display more than one image in one. This is a good way to tell a quick story or showcase multiple angles of a subject all within one image.
- Instagram doesn’t currently provide analytics. Until they do, get some basic stats related to your account using a service like http://statigr.am/
Curating and Collecting Images
It’s no secret that Pinterest is the talk of the town lately. With well over 10 million users and a growth rate that has been outpacing just about every other social web site to date Pinterest has caught the attention of brands and marketers curious how to tap into it’s very active community. I even highlighted a few ways you might use Pinterest for marketing research in a previous post.
A study from Shareaholic shows that, to some publishers, Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google Plus, YouTube and LinkedIn combined. The popular site seems to satiate the inner hunter (those scouring the web for great images to pin) and gatherers (those who enjoy collecting and organizing the pins that others share directly on the site) in many of us. Social bookmarking site Delicious.com had a very similar model around sharing and collecting links to sites, but never caught on with mainstream users, likely because collecting text links wasn’t very fun for the average person.
Pinterest is visually rich and feels very much like the experience of window shopping at your favorite mall, enticing you to dive in and out of images that catch your eye or quickly add it to one of your pin boards (a collection of images) to check out later. Bottom line, lots of folks are addicted to Pinterest. Will it’s popularity be sustainable? Only time will tell, but brands like Whole Foods and Lowe’s are creating a presence on the site and seeing a decent amount of engagement.
- Pinterest’s user-base continues to grow and shows little signs of slowing down making it one of the largest and most active communities on the web
- The user experience on Pinterest makes liking, repinning and commenting on images quick and painless encouraging more engagement from less tech savvy users.
- The highly visual nature of Pinterest makes it one of the best online communities for design, DIY, home improvement, fashion, food, gadgets and other similar brands.
- The user-base has been noted at around 90% women. This is excellent for some brands, but may be limiting for others that cater to a more male demographic.
- Brands that provide services or products that don’t naturally translate into compelling images will likely see much less engagement. Whereas other types of brands may simply post images of their products, they will have to get more creative with the images they share. For example: A law firm would have to think out of the box to make any use of Pinterest in comparison to an iPhone case maker.
- Sharing your own content is fine, but pinning content from other parties is a current point of discussion amongst some folks that think Pinterest may be traveling into rough waters regarding the use of copyrighted images. The Pinterest team seems to be trying to address this sooner rather than later.
- All images on Pinterest can include a link. This link can point to a page that includes more detail and a way to purchase a product, a post on your blog where the image was featured or just about anywhere else. You can manually upload any image, but always make sure that you include a link to drive traffic to your site.
- Find interest ways to integrate collections of pinned images into larger marketing campaigns. Texas advertising agency GSD&M used Pinterest boards as a way to collect interesting information about the Austin area in an effort to welcome SXSW conference attendees.
- Remember that you can pin not only images on Pinterest, but videos as well. We use it to create a pin board collection of our podcast episodes from our SoLoMo Show Podcast.
- Currently, Pinterest does not have any analytics. That may change in the future, but to get a decent snapshot of your overall Pinterest account and numbers per board check out http://www.pinreach.com/
The Wrap Up
So there you have it. A few ideas to help you solve your image problem. How might you be able to take advantage of these visual strategies with your business? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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