Gone are the days when it was enough for a brand to just have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. Now, brands have amassed thousands -- if not millions -- of followers on these and other social platforms, and these followers won’t come back unless brands provide great content. Social media marketing has morphed into "content marketing."
Brands know the stakes are high; to engage with today’s consumer, now they must become publishers. So many marketers have hired teams to write articles, produce videos, create contests, and pen blog posts, among other forms of content. Despite this torrent of brand-created content, many marketers have neglected one critical component of content marketing: images.
That’s a mistake, because the future of the social Web is all about pictures. With the rise of Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr, as well as other visual e-commerce startups like Wanelo and Houzz, consumers have made their preference clear: they like posting and sharing photos. Of course, Facebook itself is arguably the world’s largest photo-sharing site; people upload more than 300 million photos to Facebook every day. What’s more, the ubiquity of smartphones has made taking, sharing, and viewing photos extremely easy.
Whether sharing a photo of their new sneakers on Instagram, or clicking on photos of necklaces and shirts they want to buy on Wanelo, consumers are more and more inclined to interact with one another -- and with brands -- via images.
Marketers that understand the power of images as branding tools have a head start. Some companies have already amassed loyal followings for their brand images on Instagram and Pinterest. And a handful of companies have embraced the power of pictures in all of their social marketing campaigns. But the majority of brands are focused on publishing videos and articles, and have neglected to use brand imagery as part of their social marketing strategies.
What are some of the ways that brands can incorporate images into their content marketing strategies?
On social networks, brands should choose images that are highly "shareable" and will people like the picture enough to want to share it with friends and family? Shareable photos tend to evoke an emotion -- beautiful, funny, exciting, touching, etc. The images can be tangentially related to the brand with just a small logo or text tag, or they can include recognizable brand logos or images.
For visual e-commerce sites like Wanelo and, increasingly Pinterest, brands should choose images that make a strong call to purchase. Images of products that present a "look" work best, so consumers first fall for the "feel" of the photo, then realize quickly they can purchase the item. Images for these sites should also look great on small mobile screens, as many shoppers use their smartphones and tablets to interact with visual e-commerce sites.
Of course, the social Web is not a one-way street, so marketers won’t be the only ones posting images of -- or related to -- their brands. In a social world, consumers post millions of brand images to social sites every day. A consumer may take a photo of a pair of Adidas sneakers in a store and post it to Instagram; post a photo of a Crate & Barrel couch they just bought on Facebook; or share a catalogue image from Anthropologie to Wanelo.
More ominously for brands, consumers sometimes post brand images in negative contexts when they are unhappy with a product. To stay on top of consumer-posted brand photos, brands first need to find them. To do so, they need advanced image recognition to find their trademarked, altered, or related brand images across the Web. (Social media analytics tools aren’t enough, because these tools mostly monitor text-based image tags, instead of actually searching for similarities in images at a pixel-level.)
Brands know they must morph into publishers to win the content marketing race. A good place to start is with distributing and monitoring brand images across the social Web. Because in today’s frenetic world, images can convey a brand message in an instant and engage consumers in a visual, memorable way. When it comes to content marketing, pictures really are worth a thousand words.