Marketers Turn to the Visual Web

Jun 26, 2013

Article ImageWe are a busy people; bombarded with jobs, kids, soccer games, laundry, mowing the yard, paying the bills... the never ending cycle of everyday life. This isn't news to anyone. Because we are constantly in motion, even our entertainment has to move quickly and be bite-sized. For this reason, content is seeing a transition into the visual realm - as opposed to text-based -- across many platforms.

"We, as a people, are inundated with information constantly and we've become lazy internet users," says Tara Rawlins, owner of RAW Marketing, LLC. "We want to see something appealing, short and easy to read. This is why [visual mediums] are increasing in popularity."

When it comes to visual content a few social media players have a leg-up on the competition: Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. Pinterest is likely the first platform you thought of. "The appeal is very visual," says Bob Gilbreath, cofounder and president of Ahalogy. "It's an awesome exploratory interface. On mobile you've got four pictures at a time, and you just scroll endlessly so it's very relaxing in terms of the user experience."

But it isn't all about ease-of-use when it comes to platforms like Pinterest. Often it's about the coveted long tail. While a Tweet is ephemeral, all but disappearing in the blink of an eye, Pins go on seemingly forever. One Pin begets another Pin, and a popular and informative image will make the rounds for months or years. The half-life of visual content often far outlasts that of its text-based brethren.

"Pinterest pins have a strong potential to drive long tail traffic well into 30 days and beyond because the platform is navigated in a variety of ways," said Sharad Verma, CEO of Piqora, in a statement.

Gilbreath concurs, "Definitely one of the benefits of Pinterest is its an evergreen way of sharing content. You've got the initial share, then the repins, then everyone that's pinned the item can go back to it weeks or months later. They're collecting pins on their board so you do see a good long tail of traffic."

Jamie Duklas, an internet marketing specialist, is well-versed in Instagram, still is a relatively new medium for marketers. Duklas points out that hashtagging is one of the most important aspects of marketing on Instagram because users often search for pictures using them.

Duklas also says that being aware of the medium you're using is also important. "A wide cityscape may not be the best option [for an Instagram post]," he says. "It's important to realize that the picture will be viewed on a 3 x 5 inch frame, so use appropriate, zoomed in photos that will be eye-catching on a small screen."

Rawlins has plenty of experience marketing on Facebook and, while many marketers may be new to utilizing the visual aspect of this platform, Rawlins has been doing so with her marketing firm for quite some time. "The tactics that we've used for several years now has been to include photos and video whenever we could," Rawlins says. "Studies show that a photo-based posting gets 54% more comments and shares than something with content alone."

Additionally, Rawlins points out that Facebook recently updated the rules and bylaws regarding image-based postings. In order for an image to be approved for a promoted post, text must cover less than 20% of the image. For example, if someone adds "Click, Like, Share" to an image and it covers 50% of the image, Facebook will deny it as a promoted post.

These experts offered some advice and tips for utilizing visual platforms:

  • Rawlins recommends that you are careful not to violate any copyright laws. Whether you're using someone else's image or another company is using yours, it should be watermarked or credit for the image should be obvious.
  • In that same regard, Duklas says that branding should be discrete in order to provide an authentic experience for viewers, making sure that branding is small enough to not be distracting.
  • Duklas also insists that marketers be relevant by posting photos that work best on the particular medium in use. In addition to the size and cropping of the image, the style is different for each medium. For example, behind the scenes type images are best used on Instagram, whereas Pinterest users are looking for something a bit more elegant. "Instagram gives you about 20 different filters right there on your phone, take an in the moment picture, put a filter on it, put a funny hashtag on it, and it can be a really good Instagram post," Duklas says.
  • According to Gilbreath, you really need to have a critical mass of activity on Pinterest to be successful. "There are a lot of brands out there that are pinning only one thing a day, or one thing a week," he says. "You might as well not use Pinterest at all. It's kind of like, would you play your TV commercial one time a day on one channel? On Pinterest, you need 10 to 15 updates a day, spread throughout the day."

Our busy lifestyles are leading to a transition to visual content. While the written word certainly isn't obsolete, marketers know that it's best to get your hands into as many platforms as possible, including the visual realm, in order to achieve success at spreading a brand.