Come October 6th and Instagram will have completed 4 years of existence. From a humble community of a million odd iOS users since 2 months of its launch to 75 million ‘daily’ users in July 2014, Instagram’s rise in use and popularity is not only unprecedented, but also indicative of a crucial future trend – Visual Social Media.
To Throw around Numbers
On a more peripheral note, check these stats. Pinterest, almost as old as Instagram too now has just about 50 million users. It has clocked more user-engagement in recent times than Twitter and Facebook. Launched in January 2013, Twitter owned video-sharing service Vine managed to rake in 40 million users within 8 months of its launch. Launched as a rival to Vine, Instagram’s video sharing feature too is showing quick, if not rapid growth. 62% of major brands had shared at least one video in Instagram within a few months of its launch and are generating more user-engagement than Vine due to Instagram’s huge native user base. While the good ol’ Youtube now clocks over 4 million video views per day!
Visual Social Media is so fast catching up as a trend that digital marketers would be hard-pressed to rethink their marketing strategies for the future. Visual Content will dominate the digital space in the future. For brands and business, this is going to create a massive chance to personalize and take their products and services right to a potential customer’s mind. Remember, our mind processes visuals 8 times faster than words.
Storytelling has increasingly become a preferred form of user engagement in recent years. Until some years ago, brands were left hiring freelancers to write long-form essays for them. Users being presented with a brand or product story barely had the time or inclination to go through it all. Visual Social Media sites have made story-telling easier. More importantly, Visual Social Media sites have made story-telling interesting and fun. What would be a dreary DIY article until the late 2000s, has today become a series of quick images to find on Pinterest.
This competition has pushed established leaders like Facebook and Twitter to give more space to visuals too! Twitter has had developer cards (that allow for full scale images and even gifs to be embedded in a tweet) for a while now, while Facebook automatically fetches images from a page once your paste or type its URL in the status box … thus putting visual content on the rise and on its path to dominance.
Another major advantage of using Visual Content for marketing is that Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, etc. allow you the opportunity to crowdsource visual content for yourself. Ever since Starbucks joined Instagram (Starbucks is the biggest and most popular brand in Instagram), it has made it a point to let users know that if they click a picture of their beverage at Starbucks and tag Starbucks in it, there’s a good chance they may feature on the Starbucks feed. As a result, a search for the #starbucks hashtag will give you a crazy amount of user-clicked photos of Starbucks beverages, store interiors, exteriors, even parking lots. Talk about owning a hashtag!
Crowdsourcing your content works best with Visual Social Networks because you get ready content to begin with. This saves you the pain to go to a professional photographer or illustrator. Less resources. Less expense. More benefits. Secondly, with crowdsourced visual images your brand speaks for itself. That regular, normal people are using your brand and are happy about it gives your brand a authentic thumbs up.
The Leverage Leap
Posts with a visual accompaniment receive nearly 90% more click than a simple ‘text & link’ post. According to a Wishpond survey, Facebook posts with visuals receive twice as many comments as a normal plain text post. These numbers are not surprising since a visual immensely increases the connect between a user and a story.
What brands and marketers need to understand (and embrace) is that users will continue to jump onto the “if it looks good, it should be good!” bandwagon fairly often in the future. For brands to pull in more attention, visual content for marketing is the only way forward!