The “Visual Vocabulary” of Social Media

Social Media Week NYC - Buzzing with Energy

Social Media Week NYC – Buzzing with Energy

By Karen Hendricks

One of the prominent themes woven into last week’s Social Media Week NYC was the increasingly growing use of photos on all forms of social media. Images now comprise 40% of the internet and 70% of all social media channels. Wow.

A few more statistics:

  • In our lightning-fast-paced society, people process images 60,000 times faster than text.
  • During a recent survey, two out of three people said images are more powerful than text.
  • Six in ten people report they are taking more photos than ever before, thanks in great part to cell phone cameras.

What does all this mean, for those of us involved in Marketing and Social Media?

Images are compelling: Our eyes can certainly “read” images faster than text; our eyes are drawn to images. Photos can trigger emotional responses. A picture is worth a thousand words. Social media strategists even know which colors our eye prefer–a recent study of Instagram photos revealed that blue-tinged images receive 24% more “likes” than red-hued images.

Feedback from social media images is valuable: Major companies, including retailer Nordstrom, are adapting their marketing campaigns based upon direct feedback from images on social media including the number of “likes” or “pins” garnered by photos of new fashions. Nike is even designing custom shoes based upon fans’ Instagram photos.

Images need to be put into context: What are we losing as we shift (from text to visuals)? Answer: Context. Images, although powerful and emotional, can be taken out of context. When we post images, it’s up to us to provide an accompanying message.

It doesn’t mean we don’t read anymore. Yes, images are the driving force of social media. On Facebook, more people engage with photos than text posted alone. The entire concept of Pinterest is based upon the pinning of images. But “combining text and visuals is much more effective,” according to Will Palley, Trends Strategist for Marketing Communications giant JWT. The length of text shared via social media depends on the time of day. During the workday, brief is better. But on weeknights or weekends, when people are relaxed and have a bit more time, successful communications can include more details.

We still love a great story. Storytelling is still a “very deeply basic human interaction,” shared Ji Lee, Creative Director for Facebook. It’s just that more and more of our stories shared via social media begin with a compelling image. And that’s changing the dynamics of news-gathering organizations everywhere. “One of the biggest challenges to journalists today is adapting storytelling techniques to a visual standpoint,” explained Jim Roberts of Mashable. Journalists need to tell stories that grow out of a great visual.

Ownership is an issue. The idea of intellectual property changes per generation. While people of all ages seem to know that text is copyrighted and owned by the writer, there is a learning curve with images. Many people think they can just “grab” them from the internet or social media. Millennials, or Generation Y, perhaps due to their freeness in sharing photos on Instagram, especially do not recognize that photographs do indeed belong to the photographer and should not be used without permission. (All photos in this post were indeed snapped by the author!)

Panel Discussion - "Reading is No Longer Fundamental: The Shift Towards Visual Vocabulary" - #SMWJWT

Panel Discussion – “Reading is No Longer Fundamental: The Shift Towards Visual Vocabulary” – #SMWJWT

Credit for these social media insights and tips are thanks to two workshops primarily:

  • Social Media Week NYC’s Reading is No Longer Fundamental: The Shift Towards Visual Vocabulary
  • Social Media Week NYC’s The Changing Face of News Consumption Hosted by the WSJ

Social Media Week, February 17-21, featured more than 800 events in eight cities, drawing more than 25,000 attendees total.

Social Media Week NYC took place at Highline Stages, 15th Street.

Given the topic, I have to include one more visual! – Social Media Week NYC took place at Highline Stages, 15th Street.

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2 thoughts on “The “Visual Vocabulary” of Social Media

  1. Pingback: Websites, Social Media for Artists: Make them Visual

  2. Pingback: Instagram Images: Social Media Eye Candy | Hendricks Communications, LLC

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