How Visual Networks Are Transforming Social Media

Social media, which has proven to be a very powerful way for brands to build authentic connections with their audience, is going through a metamorphosis.

Social Media 1.0 was about the quest to acquire fans on Facebook at any cost and in any way. It turned out that most of those fans were neither brand advocates nor prospective customers. To make matters worse, Facebook introduced its Edgerank Algorithm, which filters out up to 84% or more of all content, making it even more difficult for brands to reach those relatively few Facebook fans who actually mattered

The first set of social media experiments was filled with missteps, but a lot of good lessons as well. Social Media 2.0 is about quality and relevance, not volume. It’s happening via images, hashtags, user-generated content and curation -- and it’s taking place on new public, visual and inter-connected interest-based networks like Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Polyvore, Houzz, Vine and WeHeartIt.

Unlike Facebook – where most of the engagement happens on brand’s posts – in Social Media 2.0, brands are being talked about whether or not they have already joined these visual networks officially. Savvy Social Media 2.0 marketers are taking advantage of these organic conversations, hashtagging and reposting of trending images about their brands.

Big Data and social analytics are emerging as the technology for marketers to understand these organic Social Media 2.0 interactions. The public and visual nature of these networks gives marketers the opportunity to mine this interest graph and turn it into intent. Unlike a relationship-oriented and closed network like Facebook, interest-based networks are built around taste, intent, and personalized content discovery. Big data on public, visual networks is making it possible to know everything about a brand’s audience, fans and customers. It provides 360-degree intelligence about their product, category, and brand interests as well their competitor loyalty.

Fueling Social Media 2.0 is the rise of image-centric networks where consumers participate publicly. The Web is changing from a collection of text and links to a hyper-visual web of tangible things and objects. Because images are easy to produce, consume, share and collect, they democratize influence and breed a new tribe of highly engaged brand advocates and influential users. Users don’t have to be celebrities to cast influence: They just have to have taste. And taste is intent.

The public nature of Social Media 2.0 networks also means advocates have become just as important as Influencers in driving reach and amplification. In the case of Pinterest, advocates are users who are repinning images, reblogging content, and hashtagging brand photos. Turning advocates into followers should be a brand’s #1 social media priority, as it can yield multiples in lifetime value.

These visual networks are very tight knit and interconnected; content from one network spills over to others and spreads even further. Curated images are pinned on to Pinterest, spread via repins, and then show up on Tumblr, where they spread via reblogs. Users upload photos on Instagram, those photos spread via hashtags and then spread via reblogs on Tumblr. 11% of all the Pinterest pins are from Tumblr. WeHeartIt (another visual network) is the top referred domain on Tumblr. 80% of all pins are repins on Pinterest, and 91%+ of all the blogs are reblogs on Tumblr.

Social Media 2.0 is a lot more about learning from organic interactions, images and posts and reusing those trending patterns by becoming better publishers of engaging content. It is about segmenting your influencers and Advocates and building relationships with them by reposting or liking their content. Giving back to the audience and participating in a 2-way conversation is the way to build and scale communities on the visual Web.

2 comments about "How Visual Networks Are Transforming Social Media".
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  1. Maryanne Conlin from RedRopes Digital/4GreenPs, September 12, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.

    Excellent insights! Brands can make it easier to reach consumers organically - just not by initiating conversations...but by harnessing the power of brand advocates!

  2. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, September 13, 2013 at 4:51 a.m.

    +1. Very Good Post. The basic issue is that the people who are the best customers for your social marketing are not the same as the best customers for your product and your messaging needs to reflect this. Your best brand advocates and influential users are not your best customers. This makes social marketing different from e.g. search advertising or email marketing and concepts such as "customer journey" are less useful.

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