Text is quickly becoming a secondary avenue for social sharing. Images are taking its place. Just look at the most popular social phenomenons of recent months. Pinterest now drives more referral traffic to blogs than Twitter. Intsagram is all about images and they just got snapped up by Facebook for $1 billion. Reddit (which is largely image-based) is steadily becoming mainstream. We are clearly headed to a social media culture which is dominated by the visual content rather than written content.
Some pretty smart folks have been hinting at this for a while now, such as marketing evangelist Jeff Bodzewski, who says it like this:
The question is a larger one as it indicates a shift from the proverbial “soundbite culture” to one now driven by a preference for a singular image. The explosion of Pinterest, Instagram and Reddit demonstrates how an increasing number of people – our target of course as marketers – prefer the first piece of new information to be an image until they take the action to learn more by reading. Even a superficial review of Facebook, Google+ and Twitter posts will show consumer engagement is notably higher around images than text-based updates.
To back this up, one only needs to look as far as Facebook and their mysterious EdgeRank algorithm. If you’re not familiar with this, it is the complex methodology Facebook uses to determine what you see in your news feed. You can read more about it here. Anyway, EdgeRank has always placed a higher value on visuals. If you post an image or a video on Facebook, you have a much higher chance of this content being displayed on the news feed than if you only posted text.
The reason for the rise in visuals is somewhat disputed. I believe it (obviously) came about due to the natural progression of technology. First, Internet connections are getting faster, thus making it easier to display images on mobile devices. Second, just about everyone now carries a decent digital camera in their pocket thanks to the smartphone revolution. Lastly, people are getting overloaded with text. With so much content being thrown at us, we’re sick of reading everything all the time.
Just look at the progression of social gaming. A year ago, Words with Friends was the hottest thing on the block. That is largely text-based. Now, everyone I know just happens to be playing Draw Something, which is all about the visual and creative side of things.
So then, now that I’ve outlined my argument for image-based engagement, what can you do to capitalize on this within your social media marketing strategy? It’s simple: Post more images! Of course, moderation and variety is key and you don’t want to focus 100% of your marketing efforts on photos and illustrations, but definitely ramp up your visual output on major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Also, if you’re not already pinning, get started! While Pinterest might be a fad, the concept that they have unlocked will be around for a while. Take advantage of their unprecedented growth while it’s still hot. The same can be said about Instagram. Share your Instagram photos on Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. It doesn’t take that long to do and the results will surely be worth the effort.
At the end of the day, have fun and remember to always deliver what your audience wants rather than what you think they want. Keep a close eye on your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and see which types of images your fans and followers are responding to. Then, deliver more of that.
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