The phrase ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ may be a cliché, but it’s certainly true on social media. Visual content on these platforms easily outstrips posts without any images or video in terms of popularity. As a result, smart small businesses using digital media are making their efforts as much a feast for the eyes as straight marketing talk.
SMEs were quick to catch on to social media, realising early on the marketing potential of the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and more recently Google Plus. But social platforms designed for sharing visual imagery and moving pictures – Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Flickr – are booming. And even those sites that are more text-based report that users increasingly prefer posts with pictures attached.
- Almost 45 per cent of people are more likely to engage with a brand that uses visual content on social media channels rather than any other type of content, according to a 2012 study by ROI Research.
- Facebook estimates that videos are shared 12 times more than regular text and links combined. Photos are liked twice as much as text.
- About 42 per cent of all Tumblr posts are photographs.
- YouTube sees a staggering 100 million users take some sort of social action on its platform every week.
- Photo and video posts on Pinterest garner more traffic than Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Stumbleupon.
So, it’s not just beauty that’s in the eye of the beholder – it’s winning brands, too. Communication online is becoming ever more immediate, inspired by Twitter’s easily-digestible 140 characters. Now, social media users appear to be bypassing words altogether, and expect to see in a moment what a post conveys. And ambitious SMEs are becoming more visual in response to this trend, not just telling, but showing what they do in order to attract customers and sell their goods and services.
How visual is your business?
Certain types of company lend themselves particularly well to a visual approach.
- Retailers. If you’re not already using images as part of your retail shop’s social media efforts, you’re behind the curve. Consumers want to see what a dress looks like on a model, or how a product might be used. Research suggests that 69 per cent of Pinterest users have found an item they’ve bought or wanted to buy browsing the site. In other words, many social media users are already in the mood to shop and spend money, so they’re a captive audience to a digital-savvy business owner.
- Product-based businesses. If you manufacture goods, you have a strong visual story to tell. Increasingly, consumers want to know what inspired a design, where materials come from, or who the team is behind the objects they buy. Weave a narrative using images showing the production process, or if you source products from elsewhere explain the buying choices and process through pictures and video.
- Service providers. You might run a hairdressing business, a children’s nursery, or a restaurant. These and many other service-based firms have great potential for visual story-telling, be that the video testimonials of happy customers, pictures showing great examples of your work, or tips on how to tackle related tasks at home.
Even businesses that don’t obviously lend themselves to images can get in on the act. Dentists could give tips on how best to clean or floss teeth. Some innovative funeral homes are using social media to post obituaries of people with pictures and video, or, like T & I Stockman in Brixham, Devon, share images of recent and unusual funeral corteges. In summary, if your customers are using social media, you need to consider how you might, too.
How to make social content more eye-catching
There are a few simple tips to creating the type of visual content that will draw social media users to your business.
- Keep your eyes open. It sounds obvious, but you may have to think differently to be on the look-out for pictures or videos that tell a story about your business. Always be alert – and with a digital camera to hand.
- Create your own images. There’s nothing wrong with reposting pictures from elsewhere – though you should credit sources, and be aware of copyright – but you’re more likely to create a buzz with original content. Film video tutorials so viewers can benefit from your professional know-how. Take photos of your products, staff, workplace, or snatched shots of what you do in the day-to-day. And improve on your amateur efforts with sites such as PicMonkey, which make photo-editing easy.
- Get customers to work for you. Almost everyone carries a powerful stills and video camera these days – their smartphone. Ask clients and followers on social media to share any images that might relate to your enterprise. It could be a manicure your salon created, a beautiful kitchen fitted by your building firm, or one of your products in use in the real world. Encourage entries with a monthly competition, offering a voucher or prize for the best post submitted.
- Find your voice. Even though you’re embracing the visual world, it doesn’t mean that you should forget words altogether. Add snappy captions, keywords, hashtags, and descriptions to images and videos. Images say a lot, but sometimes a little explanation goes a long way.
As with all social media, choose the right platform for your business. Pinterest, for example, is famous for being very popular with women, and nine out of ten Instagram users are under 35. And tailor the visual medium to your audience, too. The ROI research suggested that women respond more to pictures, while men prefer video. So, a beauty business that attracts more female customers may favour stills over video content.
The visual cortex is very powerful and allows viewers to consume an enormous amount of information in an instant. But the amount of imagery constantly uploaded to the web also means that there’s a lot of competition out there, and the potential for image overload. Make sure that your content is genuinely arresting, and offers something new so that it doesn’t get lost in the mass of pictures posted every day. Set yourself apart. Remember to be useful. Then, the rewards of a strong visual social media campaign could be your business’s for the taking.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net