Among the social media marketing changes predicted for 2014, visual media takes a front-row seat. Photos and videos have always spurred more engagement than straight text updates, but the evolution of web-viewing technology, along with some systematic changes made by social media platforms themselves, have sparked a new demand for visual content. For marketers reevaluating their social media strategies this year, it may be time to consider a more image-based focus.
Visual content is big – and getting bigger.
Visual content on social media has increased by leaps and bounds over the past year. Pinterest and Tumbler were the fastest growing social networks in 2013, and uploading photos is still the most popular activity on Facebook and Google+ (source: GlobalWebIndex). Twitter added video to its user options last year by purchasing Vine – and now, thanks to sponsored tweets, Twitter users can also see photos and videos directly in their feeds, instead of having to click a link. Facebook introduced video on Instagram shortly afterwards, which has since gained another 50 million users in just a few months. No matter what your industry, it’s pretty clear: visual content is becoming the preferred way for social media users to obtain and share information.
More visual means more engagement.
It’s no secret that text can get boring, even with links. Photos and videos can tell the same powerful stories at a glance, with much greater impact – they not only grab viewers’ attention, but also inspire more sharing. (Pinterest, in fact, drives twice the website referral traffic of Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google combined (source: Shareaholic)). And with all the recent changes social media platforms have made to their search algorithms and paid distribution, engagement is key to visibility. Facebook, Google+, and other platforms now focus on streaming “quality content” to their users, based on the amount of engagement activity. That means that the more clicks, comments, and shares your social media posts get, the higher relevance they’ll have, and the more people will see them – so eye-catching visuals are an important factor in boosting your reach.
Mobile makes visual easy.
Most tablets, iPhones, and other mobile devices now offer recording and editing capabilities that make it easier than ever to create visual media – and with mobile apps like Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat, it’s also a cinch to view and share. Nearly half of all mobile traffic already involves online video, according to Digiday, and that number will likely grow as mobile technology improves over time. What’s more, the convenience of mobile networking (which keeps getting faster and more furious) means social media users will come to expect the immediate engagement that photos and videos offer.
What does visual media mean for social media marketers?
The shift toward visual media opens up a host of new challenges and opportunities. Social media marketers will need to find more visually creative ways tell their brand stories online – and more importantly, to tell those stories quickly and powerfully to engage the right audiences. That may mean reevaluating the kind of story you want to share, the type of audience being targeted, or, for larger businesses, even the company culture as a whole. At the same time, though, visual content can be a great way to rediscover your values and image as a business, and build a more compelling voice for your brand.