Social Media: an Image Speaks a Thousand Words

The rules of social media marketing are rapidly evolving. Businesses are constantly strategizing how to best reach current and new fans while generating new content and staying ahead of technology trends. What is the most effective way to engage fans in a cost effective way?

The answer is images. According to a 2012 study by ROI Research, pictures and videos accounted for 49% of the most enjoyable content for social media users. Attention spans are short; people are on the go; and social media engagement is increasingly accessed through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Readers want instant gratification and easy-to-digest information. A good image is eye-catching, always ties back to the ethos of the brand and is not necessarily product-focused.

Triumvirate: Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest
With Facebook’s multimillion-dollar acquisition of Instagram, those two entities now share the top-tier with Pinterest. What do they have in common? Ease and popularity of sharing images on the go. Facebook has the upper hand due to its structure of free newsfeed content paired with sponsored content such as ads. However, Instagram’s simple user interface cuts through the noise of Facebook and focuses on the image as the source of content, as opposed to an accompaniment to a lengthy status update. Pinterest is unique in that it allows users to view multiple images at once in an attractive, organized screen layout.

As of now, Instagram and Pinterest do not have advertising options for brands, like Facebook, however, integrating instant shopping capabilities directly on the social media site is an upcoming trend, according to Gideon Lask, CEO and founder of BuyaPowa.

Make Your Fans Drool
In the ROI Research study, 43% of social media users said they “like” or follow anything relating to food. Food brands have a large opportunity to share and interact with their fans due to the highly photographable and interactive nature of their products.

Where a food company may have posted recipes on their blog in the past, now they can use Pinterest and Instagram to share pictures of their products and recipes and still link back to their main blog pages. Fans can now instantly gain access to that information instead of having to wait for a new blog post to arrive in their inbox or go to the company’s actual website. That immediate access lends to spontaneous sharing of posts and that is how a brand can go viral. Even traditional media like food magazines are embracing digital social media by giving their editors Instagram and Twitter handles to post pictures of meals at trendy new restaurants and food events.

"Visual social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr are fantastic for publications like Food & Wine because we have so many gorgeous, delicious-looking food photos to share. On Instagram, we love to post images from the F&W Test Kitchen, restaurant outings and parties to give fans insider access to our brand. Food does incredibly well because it's enticing and a topic that inspires such enthusiastic engagement," explained Alex Vallis, Digital Features Editor at Food & Wine.

The 80/20 Rule
If you have ever tried to create an ad on Facebook you have surely run into the myriad of rules relating to choosing demographics, setting a per click budget and now, how much text is allowed alongside an image. In part due to the rise in image use in sponsored posts and ads in the newsfeed, Facebook has imposed an 80% image, 20% text policy that your submission must pass in order to be approved for posting.

Using a grid tool to assess the image, Facebook can either approve or reject your image on the spot. Text overlay on a photo (below) counts towards the 20%, but logos on your products do not. To learn more, click here.

While the 80/20 rule can be frustrating, Facebook may be on to something by trying to keep images from looking too ad-like. They know their users’ habits better than any other website, so they understand how long people spend on each post and what type of content earns ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ and what does not.

Remember, “Visual fantasy sells product,” according to a recent Fast Company article. “Brands can use visual content on their social media to increase engagement and inspire sharing and viral marketing.”

-- Shoshana Romer