As the digital media landscape continues to change, visual platforms have continued to dominate the social sphere as users become increasingly keen on capturing and sharing photos. Picture sharing platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest , Flickr and Snapchat have created valuable opportunities for brands to connect with their audiences through images and videos. In a time when more than 90% of buying decisions are influenced by visual factors, how can brands harness the power of these platforms and turn pictures into pounds?
As with most social networks, visual platforms are not necessarily a place to sell products directly, but instead a key channel to initiate and prolong conversations with consumers. Given that 75% of buying experiences are based on emotion, these platforms provide an arena in which to incite sentiment through visual insight. They give brands the opportunity to showcase the creative journey behind a product, and illustrate the thought process that helped bring it to life.
Pinterest, the “visual discovery tool” has rapidly become a leading network in the visual community. Its 70 million users create online scrapbooks where they can share, curate and discover new interests in a show-and-tell format. This social scrapbook format lends itself to creative industries such as the arts, photography and crafts, and is inherently popular among consumer brands such as ASOS, Hunter and Anthropologie. The mood-board interface and largely feminine-orientated content is reflected in its demographic: 70 percent of users are female, making it one of the most gender-imbalanced platforms. Though Pinterest ultimately aims to connect the world with the things and interests they love, the ability to click through on user ‘pins’, linking product imagery directly to purchase pages, make it an invaluable traffic driver. This lead generation feature has led to it overtaking Facebook for UK referral revenue.
Even more popular than Pinterest is Instagram, the photo-taking, editing and sharing app whose 150 million monthly active users “capture and share the world’s moments”. With an average of 55 million photos shared per day, it is clear why brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, Nike and Timex are using Instagram as a key communication channel. Instagram has recently matured from a largely selfie-dominated platform to a storytelling medium, giving brands, as well as individuals the opportunity to use pictures to get noticed. Its filters make it a popular platform for consumer-driven photos. Brands can use this user-generated content to appoint engaged individuals as advocates, in order to amplify their brand message through a new, more personal dimension.
Hungry consumers need regular feeding, and so for a visual platform strategy to really succeed, brands must deliver a regular stream of high-quality, relevant content to keep users watching and engaged. It also needs to be native – optimised for the platform it is designed for. Leveraging insightful, appropriate content also gives brands the opportunity to position themselves as a thought leader in their field, which can help them build credibility in the eyes of users, as well as their peers.