When social media became a marketing must, Facebook ruled the roost, but even before the outrage over their diminished organic reach began, the conviction that advertising on the platform was effectively reaching Millennials was waning. Meanwhile, Twitter allows for unprecedented real-time personal interactions between consumers and brands, but the network is difficult to get right, and some brands are still trying to figure out how to master something as essential as hashtags. While social media marketing is more essential than ever, it can be unclear to many how best to participate and just where they should be. So what’s next? In the last few months visual social sharing platforms have begun to introduce native advertising into their communities, and for the first time visual marketing, using a series of snapshots to tell a brand story, is becoming an option. The next iteration of social marketing puts brand messages into a snapshot, communicating to young consumers in the way many of them prefer—with little to no text at all.
As we said in a Q&A with rising visual sharing platform We Heart It, we are gradually moving towards a more visually represented world, celebrated by Millennials who use image sharing services as a way to expressively share the world around them, and represent who they are. In March, when asked what social networks they actively post content to, 31% said Instagram, 26% said Snapchat, and 15% said Pinterest. Engagement increases among Millennials under 18 years old: 37% say they post actively to Instagram, only 4% fewer than those who say they post actively to Facebook. These image-based platforms have seen a rapid rise in popularity thanks in part to Millennials’ visual communication tendencies. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that advertising on visual platforms is being touted as the future of marketing. Here’s what you need to know about the visual platforms both leading the charge and testing the waters of Snapshot Marketing, and the keys to creating successful visual campaigns on each:
The Early Success Story: Instagram
Instagram just introduced advertising six months ago, and allowed a select group of 15 brands to participate, but the network has already claimed success for advertisers on the platform, and pulled in a $40 million ad deal with Omnicom. Promoted ads have reportedly received engagement rates 400% higher than organic posts on Insta, and follower counts for those brands participating have almost doubled in some cases. The Instagram Handbook for Brands gives tips on the “secrets of captivating imagery,” and the keys to success seem to be to present high-quality images that also appear as if a regular user could have created them. Those that are too “staged” are not as embraced by young consumers, who are looking for a feeling of continuous authenticity on the platform.
Taking the Leap (With Caution): Pinterest
Last fall, Pinterest began experimenting with paid advertising via its Promoted Pins program, which allowed a select number of brands to have their Pins appear at the top of search results and feeds. This month, the program expanded, and Snapshot Marketing is officially becoming a part of the platform. A wide range of industries are participating in the push, hoping to capture the 25- to 34-year-old (mostly) Millennial women who make up Pinterest’s user-base. While carefully shot, but authentic-looking content is ruling on Instagram, Pinterest allows for a slightly wider range of image types thanks to the platform’s origins as an internet pin-board. Kraft will be running mostly recipes that incorporate their products, which is already a popular content type on the platform.
The Marketing Newbie: We Heart It
We Heart It is an image-based social network for visual expression that connects over 25 million monthly users through visual communication, 80% of whom are 24-years-old or younger and 70% female. They launched their own native ad program just last month. Ads on the platform are being “pinned” to the top of users’ feeds so that, unlike Instagram where ads are pushed down a feed as new images are posted, brand images remain visible and ad exposure rates are increased. Because users on We Heart It often post “inspirational” or “aspirational” images of brands and products themselves, the battle to fit in is already half fought. Snapshot Marketing on the platform needs to be highly attractive and shareable in order to be effective, and their reputation as a place to share “beautiful, inspiring, and expressive images” will most likely inform the kinds of ads that We Heart It guides brands to use.