They say a “picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, that sentiment hasn’t changed just because the world has moved online. And a recent study by the Pew Research Center has shown that the social media channels growing the fastest are those that focus on photos, images and everything visual. Facebook remained at 71% usage in 2014, while image-focused channels like Pinterest and Instagram saw users grow by 33% and 53% respectively.
With brands using everything they can to catch customer attention, it’s tough to tell the difference between something worthwhile and something regrettable. Here are 3 of the most common approaches brands take to image-content development.
The One Post Stand
These are the posts your mother warned you about. They’re visually stunning, stop you in your newsfeed tracks and have spent way too much time in the creative weight room. These are the goat memes of the world. You know the second you see them you’re going to give them a shot. You click, laugh hysterically and move on. When your friends ask you about it, you can’t remember the brand’s name, what it was about or why you even gave it the time of day. As enjoyable as it was, the end result is a missed opportunity for the brand to make a more meaningful impression.
This image series captures your attention with simple conversation and charm. You know this brand is better than its predecessor, but aren’t yet sold on its staying power. You decide to share a post with your friends as you hold your breath hoping they don’t chastise you for the introduction. The campaign is fun and memorable, but unfortunately it’s a one-trick-pony. Beyond the campaign, you realize the series is as good as it’s going to get.
The Worthy Engagement
These are the images you’ve been waiting for. A brand that truly understands your desire for humor and substance. These are the Everlane’s of the world, drawing you in with clever creative (http://on.fb.me/1zoEWEE), then connecting with you, intellectually (http://on.fb.me/18CyUHT). Each interaction is new, yet familiar – bringing you closer to true brand love. And what separates this brand is its ability to keep you interested campaign after campaign. It’s in it for the long haul, and so are you.
So how do successful brands come up with such strong visual content? Here are three best practices to keep in mind when developing your imagery.
Be sure that everyone who sees your image walks away with something other than “it looks cool.” Close the gap between you and your customers by telling them about your brand, the products you offer or how you’re different from your competition.
That’s not to say every image has to be filled with copy and corporate specs. Even the right lifestyle photo can stand alone as a powerful communicator. Unless you’re a major established brand that doesn’t have much to convey in the way of new product information, odds are you can find something educational to talk about.
When you see a brand like Coke, which has had the same product lineup for years, you are educated the second you see the logo, meaning they can spend the remaining 99% of the image real estate making you smile – which aligns perfectly with their “Open Happiness” campaign. But for the majority of brands out there, you’ll need to put more weight on closing the gap to drive brand affinity instead of affinity for a single execution.
The question you should ask yourself is, “Could any other brand do this?” If the answer is “yes” then your budget probably isn’t working hard enough for you. Having original image content means your channel is the one place to find it. As self-explanatory as that sounds, you’d be surprised how many brands use social images to regurgitate the same information that appears in 100 other places.
If that’s the case, your content just became the junk mail insert that goes straight from the mailbox to the trash.
With declining organic reach, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract an audience, so don’t make it easy for the few fans you do reach to dismiss your content with the notion of “I’ve already seen that.” Find a unique perspective to add to existing content or create a new story all together. The more original your image content, the better chance you’ll have of creating a value proposition for your channel.
There’s almost nothing worse than seeing a great piece of content from a brand, then realizing it was an anomaly. Like your new favorite song, you think, “Please don’t let this be the only hit from them.” You are hopeful that new discoveries will lead to a long-lasting source of similarly impressive content. Brands that commit to the ongoing effort of producing high-quality content will be successful in changing brand perceptions, while those that create one-off flashes in the pan will have a much tougher time convincing customers that their commitment to products isn’t equal to their lackluster attention to marketing.