Marketing Evolution: Moving From Text To Images

The sheer volume of images generated on social media is staggering. Between Facebook and Instagram alone, consumers are generating nearly 2.5 billion images every week. Images are becoming so core to the social experience, that Facebook just revamped its feed to be more visual. Add into the mix Pinterest, Tumblr, Polyvore and Wanelo, and it’s clear that consumers increasingly prefer to communicate with pictures rather than words.

There are two primary sources of this imagery: consumers and brands. Instagram is heavily biased toward user-generated content — photos taken in the moment by consumers eager to share their lives. For example, Instagram users tag Starbucks in images over 10,000 times daily.

Conversely, Pinterest is dominated by images supplied by brands. Over 85% of Pinterest engagement comes from consumers saving images from the Websites/blogs of the brands they visit. Taken together, these platforms represent a powerful continuum of the things people want (Pinterest) and those things in action (Instagram).

Pinterest, in particular, is driving substantial results for brands. Unlike Instagram, images on Pinterest link back to brands. Those links have enabled Pinterest to become the Web’s third-largest traffic referral source. For numerous retailers and publishers, Pinterest has actually become their top referral source. The traffic converts, with average shopping cart sizes over 75% larger than Facebook. That's not surprising when you consider 70% of Pinterest users use the service to look for shopping inspiration.

Digital marketers will need to adapt to these new visual conversations in order to drive consumer engagement and revenue. But, like all things worth doing, this isn’t easy.

Despite their long histories, many big brands, particularly in the CPG, consumer electronics and financial services sectors, don’t have compelling repositories of visual assets readily available. In addition, visual conversations are hard to “hear.”

Current social listening tools are built to recognize keywords. On Pinterest, for example, only 11% of conversations contain brand keywords, making almost 90% of engagement essentially invisible to brands. Finally, unlike Facebook and Twitter, there is no easy and scalable way to directly buy reach via media spend on emerging visual platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.

So what’s a digital marketer to do to get started in this new world of marketing without words?

*Leverage user generated content -Encourage fans and employees to share their brand stories and ask for permission to highlight these photos.

*Don’t do it alone – Cultivate relationships with those that engage with you frequently. Provide these advocates exclusive content to share and invite them to collaborate on your visual presence.

*Make your site shareable – Integrate “PinIt” buttons throughout your site, and if you’re still using Flash, stop.

*Be authentic – Know your brand identity and your brand voice. Even if you don’t have your own content to share, make sure the content you do use fits your brand’s personality.

Every shift in consumer behavior brings with it both significant challenges and incredible opportunities. By adapting to this new behavior, you humanize your brand and migrate from transactional relationships with your consumers to emotional relationships with your fans.

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