Visual marketing: What should we be focusing on in the age of digital empowerment?

On Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, WhatsApp and Snapchat alone, more than 22,000 images are uploaded per second by consumers the world over.

But few brands are making the most of the visuals relevant to their products, even though this benefits everything from brand trust to engagement and revenue.

The age of digital empowerment has brought about huge changes in consumer behaviour and consumer-generated photos are just one element of this.

But we know marketers can succeed and thrive if they adapt to these changes by implementing an earned content marketing strategy. Below, we explain how.

Consumers control the conversation

Social media is an integral part of all our lives, meaning brands aren’t just what they say they are anymore. Consumers have a loud clear voice that influence how others perceive them and can lift a brand up or possible stall its growth.

Now that consumers control the conversation, brands can either contribute to the narrative or simply watch from the sidelines.

Creating a hashtag is one way to join the party and instigate consumers to post photos that provide great marketing collateral.

Hashtags can be displayed everywhere from direct mail, catalogs and billboards to online assets such as banner ads and social media, functioning as a connective tissue between channels and a means for consumers to discover and interact with the brand online.

When it comes to coining that short but powerful hashtag, make it memorable without being generic. You want a hashtag to tap into people’s emotions while avoiding cancelling out any connection to your brand — plus, imagine trying to find marketable photos among all the images tagged #happiness on Instagram.

Your hashtag should also be on-brand for the long term; even if it’s campaign-specific, consumers may continue using it well after the campaign has come to a close.

Take Calvin Klein’s perennially-popular ‘I _ in #mycalvins’ as proof that the half life of a hashtag can be pretty long. So do your research well, and ensure all stakeholders are comfortable with your choice.

Consumer content performs

Once you have shared your hashtag with the world, what happens next?

Showcasing examples of ‘ideal’ consumer-generated images across owned channels provides guidelines for consumers on what kind of visuals you’re after, as does including some pointers or encouraging snaps that reflect the brand lifestyle.

With the hashtag in action and guidelines in place, great visuals are then bound to come pouring in.

The wealth of engaging visuals created by consumers is vast, and finding hidden gems that are both visually appealing and commercially viable can be time-consuming.

Marketers have their work cut out more than ever before when it comes to filling disparate channels with authentic imagery to lead the consumer down the path to purchase

But with the right technology that combines machine learning and human decision making, sourcing and activating consumer images across brand assets, social media and traditional channels is easy.

At Olapic we don’t just determine which images are on-brand and which aren’t. Our machine-learning algorithm, Photorank ranks them according to their potential to drive conversions in an e-commerce environment. Photorank is proprietary and based on more than 45 different visual and contextual patterns.

Pics that score high on Photorank have shown to perform up to seven times better than marketer-selected photos.

Last but not least, it is best practice for brands to request permission from consumers to showcase their photos.

The response is overwhelmingly positive and people are quite excited that a their favorite brands have taken notice of them. As a result, this builds strong brand advocacy and loyalty.

Consumers take longer to purchase

70% of consumers rely on three or more channels when conducting product research according to Blue Nile Research.

That’s why it’s unsurprising that a recent report from the Content Marketing Institute has highlighted the top priority for B2C content marketers as “creating more engaging content.”

Marketers have their work cut out more than ever before when it comes to filling disparate channels with authentic imagery to lead the consumer down the path to purchase. But by leveraging consumer-generated photos – in ways appropriate to each channel – the lion’s share of the work is done.

  • Share the love: The official brand accounts on social media should be constantly re-tweeting and re-gramming consumer-generated visuals. This makes for a public celebration of the content creator as well as the brand
  • Show your pride: Visuals should be showcased on the brand website, where they can populate the homepage, a gallery, the detail pages — wherever
  • Shout from the rooftops: Consumer photos can substitute professional imagery on ads and other digital placements. Leveraging earned content in media can complement your brand creative and perform as well, if not better, due to its innate authenticity
  • Anywhere and everywhere: Earned content can also live on traditional channels like print catalogues, television advertisements, and even billboards or taxi cabs

The rise of social media has changed the visual marketing game more than anyone could have ever suspected.

The vast quantities of photos posted every day are at the disposal of marketers across verticals, and are indispensable for those who want to ‘zap the gap’ by filling channels from social to billboards with authentic, valuable and meaningful content.

Any brand hoping to cater to today’s highly demanding consumer must take this into account: consumer-generated photos — those accurate depictions of products in day-to-day life — are essential for satisfying the customer’s craving for authenticity.

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