1returnIn a highly interconnected world, in which we are flooded with information and our daily life is tightly organized, creatives decided to refocus on the essential by considering inspiring images that tell a story, evoke emotions and integrate the latest lifestyle trends.

Visual communication is definitely a current trend, not only in social media, as we see image-driven platforms like Instagram, Pinterest or Snapchat gain momentum. But while many companies still tinker with their social media strategy and integrate Facebook in the marketing mix, the train is steadily driving on.

Anyway, Evan Sharp, co-founded and Chief Creative Officer of Pinterest, definitely managed to showcase a great success story with the company he launched 6 years ago. Just recently, he emphasized that Pinterest is not a social network, rather a visual bookmarking tool, but users probably couldn’t care less about this definitional fineness, as they pin, share and follow with great enthusiasm.

Only three years after establishing the network, Pinterest had more than 70 million users according to a study by the French market research company Semiocast. It’s proof that Sharp focused very early on a trend that is only now gaining momentum - visual communication.

The brain can process images faster than text

The reason for this development is supposedly the enormous increase in content and concurrent decreasing attention. Who wants to stand out from the crowd in the future must therefore face up to visual communication, because pictures are an excellent tool to convey information, messages, or simply emotions. Not to mention that our brain can process images much better than written information.

What images are suitable for the social media strategy of a company depends on the perspective: For instance, B2B companies probably want to position themselves as an attractive employer with high-quality photographs, while B2C companies like Starbucks, Coca-Cola and others have such a strong brand that they can even display their own products.

In particular branding goals, such as a high brand loyalty, can be achieved easily with image-driven social media, while employer branding is the top priority for B2B companies, and large online shops generally try to stimulate the purchase through appealing product images that lead potential customers to their online shop.

Business objectives must be linked with the visual content

What’s important is to link business objectives with the visual content, which is easier said than done. At least it seems that so far only a few companies succeed in dealing with image-driven social media marketing, as visual content has to ultimately show a positive impact on sales and the brand image. But without an adequate investment, the picture language cannot be realized in practice. Although the production of images and videos is now comparatively low, budgets still have to be provided as staff is needed to maintain the channels, too.

Today’s businesses seem to have recognized the signs of the times and want to show visual presence. Consumer-focused businesses are presenting themselves in photo networks already for quite some time, but finally B2B companies are increasingly seen there as well, and platform developers are reacting. Hence, “Promoted Pins” have been launched, native ad units that help to reach more people on Pinterest. For now, however, advertisers in Asia can only herald their interest in getting priority access to Promoted Pins, as the offer is still only available to US and UK -based businesses at this time.  Anyway, on Instagram, businesses can by now advertise and we can expect many more opportunities to emerge soon.

However, till the early adopters are making up a mass business out of it will likely take some time. Right now, most companies still try to get to know the new platforms for marketing purposes and mainly test its functionality to present themselves. Posting ads is only the next step.

My advice is to focus initially just on one or two channels and run them consistently. Furthermore, best practices tips should be taken into consideration, since it is important to clarify legal issues, such as whether certain people can be displayed or if there are trademarks involved, or corporate policies to respect. Finding the right person to maintain the visual channels, who has passion and fun doing it, isn’t easy either. The task of the management is theerefore to integrate the image-driven social media strategy in the company's overall strategy and to monitor the results. Of course, a social media guideline is indispensable. I could continue with a long list of suggestions and representations, but why spoiling the fun? Jump on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride!

By Daniela La Marca