Amplify your social media with great visuals


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It's a fact that social media posts with pictures and other visual elements get more engagement. Learn best practices with this white paper from Elon University's Masters in Interactive Media

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Amplify your social media with great visuals

  1. 1. Producing social media engagement through visual content Written by Arielle Aurrichio and Craig Zdanowicz
  2. 2. Introduction We are in the midst of the digital era, where 73% of all Internet users in the world are active on social media1 . We have seen a significant shift in how people are retrieving content – from news stories to product advice. Companies now have the opportunity to interact with the masses and increase brand awareness for free. The most popular social media outlets include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest. These popular platforms mean it is in- creasingly important to use visual content to engage with users. Visual content is king now because: • Rapid growth in the use of devices like smart phones and tablets • Widespread access to high-speed internet • The rise of visual media networks like Instagram and Pinterest Although this presents a great opportunity for content marketing, businesses must use these tools properly. A successful content marketing campaign meants that the content engages the audience. Posts including visual content result in 94% more engagement and page visits than those with non-visual content2 . Choosing and creating effective visual content for social media is vital to accomplishing your company’s content marketing goals. Know your audience Before you can create effective visual content, you must understand your audience. Internet users under the age of 50 are likely to use social media, but it is important to know that 83% of Internet users between the ages of 18-29 are active on these sites1 . Each social media plat- form has different demographics, which need to be taken into account when making decisions about visual content. WHITE PAPER / PRODUCING SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT THROUGH VISUAL CONTENT 2
  3. 3. FACEBOOK • Women are 10% more likely to use Facebook than men • 84% of adult Internet users between the ages of 18-29 use Facebook • Between 2011-2014, there has been a -25.3% decrease in teen users (ages 13-17), while users over the age of 55 have increased 80.4% TWITTER • Virtually no gender disparity in Twitter users • Majority of users are between 18-29 years old • African-Americans are 12% more likely to use Twitter than Caucasians GOOGLE+ • 63% of Google+ users are male • 45% of Google+ users are between 18-24 years old • Almost half of Fortune Global 100 companies are active on Google+ Instagram • Women are 6% more likely to use Instagram than men • Majority of users between 18-29 years old • African-Americans are 12% more likely to use Instagram than Caucasians PINTEREST • Women are four times more likely to use Pinterest than men • Adults under 50 dominate the site demographic • Very little variability in the race and ethnicity of users WHAT is engagement? Before discussing how best to drive engagement through visual content on social media, we must first define engagement. To use social media effectively, you must reach out to your au- dience in a way that prompts them to interact with your brand. Engaging with your audience regularly can determine the success of your social media campain as well as what resonates with your audience the most. Engagement can start as a one-on-one conversation between company and consumer, but can lead to a much larger outreach. Not only can you determine what content is being enjoyed by your users, but choosing the right content can lead to your audience sharing your brand with their audience. Engagement opens up possibilities for your audience to provide feedback, purchase products, gain insight on your brand and share your brand with others. WHITE PAPER / PRODUCING SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT THROUGH VISUAL CONTENT 3 These are the demographics most likely to use each social media platform1,3 :
  4. 4. Facebook Twitter InstagraM Google+ Pinterest Like: Gives positive feedback. Comment: Direct remark on post/page Share: Re-publish content Tag: Mentioning a user or brand in post Hashtag (#): Word or phrase used to identify a topic Favorite: Gives positive feedback. @Reply: Direct re- mark about a tweet RETWEET: Re-pub- lishing content @MENTION: Mentioning a user or brand in post Hashtag (#): Word or phrase used to identify a topic Like: Gives positive feedback. @mention: Mentioning a user or brand in post Hashtag (#): Word or phrase used to identify a topic +1: Gives positive feedback. Comment: Direct remark on post/page Share: Re-publish content Tag: Mentioning a user or brand in post Hashtag (#): Word or phrase used to identify a topic Like:Gives positive feedback. Comment: Direct remark on post/page Pin: Re-publishing content Hashtag(#): Word or phrase used to identify a topic TYPES OF ENGAGEMENT starting to engage To gain a better understanding of how you should engage with your audience, and what goals to set, the most important thing you can do is listen. Before the rise of social media, business- es, for the most part, have sent one-directional messages. Now we have a platform where in- teraction is possible and where a vast amount of user-generated content is being posted each day. You can improve your brand and reach a wider audience if you are attuned to the conver- sations your customers are having online. Take a look at the conversations people are having about your brand online. This can be ac- complished by a simple Google search, or a specialized user-generated search tool such as Social Mention ( Another important tactic for determining how to engage is simply analyzing your competitor brands, and how they use social media to engage with their audience. By looking at competitor social media channels, you can determine what type of content is getting the most attention from users. Becoming familiar with what conversations are being had by your target audience should shape what types of visual content you choose to create and share. But first it is important to know that engagement takes a different form on each social media channel. Let’s take a look at what engagement looks like on the major social media platform. Engagement Strategies Hashtags The hashtag is a powerful engagement tool for branding and campaign manage- ment. Hashtags are an incredibly easy way to organize conversations – they make content discoverable, increasing overall reach. It also allows for companies to determine the types of conversation taking place around specific topics. WHITE PAPER / PRODUCING SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT THROUGH VISUAL CONTENT 4
  5. 5. Comments and @reply This type of engagement involves a user talking directly to your brand. It indicates that users are looking to join in some type of conversation – which can range from feedback to suggestions. Comments and @replys are important for mutual en- gagement and can be seen by members of your audience and the commenter’s audience. Likes, +1s and Favorites This tends to be a popular form of engagement on social media be- cause users don’t have to post or re-post any sort of content. Although it doesn’t lead to expo- sure, companies can determine what content resonates with their audience, helping to inform decisions on content strategy. Mentions and Tagging Mentions and tags are a way for users to endorse your brand. This form of engagement is particularly important, because it results in exposure to users who may not be following your brand. Shares, Retweets and Pins This type of engagement involves users re-publishing your brand’s content and can be vital in determining what content interests your users. Shares, retweets and pins also result in exposure to a new audience. benefits of engagement Engaging with your audience online opens up new opportunities for reputation management. Social media has become an extremely popular platform to post opinions about everything, positive or negative. Your brand is no longer only what your company defines it as; it’s what your audience defines it as. Engagement allows for your business to be informed of its online reputation – and to further interact with users to maintain customer loyalty or mend a bad experience. Interacting with your audience online makes it easy to gain direct and indirect feedback. En- gagement will allow your brand to determine what is important to your audience – learn ways to improve customer relations, analyze ideas your brand’s community is putting out there, and gain important insights about your product or service. If you engage with your audience successfully, your brand has the potential to reach beyond your targeted users and your brand can gain significant exposure. An increased level of en- gagement with your brand’s content will increase the number of people who see it. Choose importance of visual content Within the major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest) visual content, across the board, results in significantly more engagement than non-visual con- tent1,3 . Why? Because visual content is social-media friendly and easily sharable. Social media users want as much information as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. Visual content makes this possible, since ideas can be expressed quickly. It stands out amongst the textual clutter that exists on non-visual sites like Facebook and Twitter. In the digital age, a pic- ture really is worth a thousand words. WHITE PAPER / PRODUCING SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT THROUGH VISUAL CONTENT 5
  6. 6. SUCCESSFUL visual content: FACEBOOK • On Facebook’s top 10 brand pages, the most engagement come from photos and videos4 • Videos are shared 12 time as often as links and text posts combined4 • Photos are liked 2 times more than text up- dates4 SUCCESSFUL visual content: TWitter IMPORTANT STATS AN EXAMPLE Coca-Cola, one of Facebooks top 10 most successful brands, uses visual content and other post charac- teristcs to drive engagement with their fans. These types of posts should serve as inspiration for how to let visual content drive engagement with your brand. Joining the video with a hastag, a call to action and an incentive to engage makes this post extremely successful. IMPORTANT STATS • Tweets including images result in 200% more engagement5 • Tweets using are 94% more likely to be retweeted6 • Other high engagement content types are tweets of, and content6 • Tweets containing Instagram content are 4x LESS likely to drive engagement than images6 AN EXAMPLE This use of visual content is creative because it uses imagery in a playful manner, referencing a popular movie. Note that this tween only works because of the picture. WHITE PAPER / PRODUCING SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT THROUGH VISUAL CONTENT 6
  7. 7. SUCCESSFUL visual content: GOOGLE+ IMPORTANT STATS • Posts containing images receive 94% more +1s that non-visual con- tent7 • Posts containing video receive 28.6% more +1s that non-visual con- tent7 • The most popular activity on Goo- gle+ is photo sharing7 SUCCESSFUL visual content: INSTAGRAM AN EXAMPLE H&M is an example of a brand that uses Google+ successfully. Google+ is particularly good at show- casing visual content. H&M promotes engagement in this post by offering a special behind the scenes viewing of their New Icons campaign. This estab- lishes a personal connection with followers and offers them interesting content to share. IMPORTANT STATS • Use of hashtags tends to result in an increased engagement per post8 • Images with textures result in 79% more likes than those without8 • Images with high lightness result in 24% more likes than darker images8 AN EXAMPLE A hot topic for success on visual-only sites include aes- thetic content. Aesthetics are important on this platform, but Free People does an ex- cellent job at using visually pleasing photos as a vehicle to drive engagement. They involve their followers in their posts by prompting them to post photos about Free Peo- ple - an excellent strategy for brand promotion on Instagram. WHITE PAPER / PRODUCING SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT THROUGH VISUAL CONTENT 7
  8. 8. SUCCESSFUL visual content: PINTEREST IMPORTANT STATS • Pins including prices result in 36% more likes9 • Brand images that don’t show faces result in 23% more re-pins9 • Images with multiple dominant colors result in 300% more repins9 AN EXAMPLE Again, Pinterest is a social media platform dominated by visual content, so many content strategies are concerned with aesthet- ics. While the importance of visual aesthetics on visual social media platforms should not be understated, HGTV is very suc- cessful in combining other elements to generate content that us- ers will want to engage with. In this example, HGTV incorporates “how-to” visual content, which is very popular with Pinterest users. They have also included a hashtag and a link. Including these types of elements in Pinterest posts is important, since this social media channel is successful in directing traffic to websites. Types of visual content Visual content comes in many forms on the web. Social media platforms have evolved quickly, and the support for different types of visual content has increased significantly. It is important to have variety in the kinds of visual content that your brand posts on social media because different users will engage more with certain content . Each type of visual serves a different purpose and can lead to different kinds of engagement. A photo or video may be more successful in telling a story while an infographic would be bet- ter suited as a tool for education and displaying important information. Before creating visual content, evaluate your goals and determine what message you want to relay to your audience. photos Used to showcase products, stories, teams, behind the scenes activities, and sneak peaks of projects videos Used to show tutorials, how products are made, and showcasing your process memes Used to share humor and connect with audience Infographic Used to educate and inform audiences gifs Animated images used to show short clips without having to embed video WHITE PAPER / PRODUCING SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT THROUGH VISUAL CONTENT 8
  9. 9. Visual content has become a vital tool in prompting engagement on social media. We are be- ginning to see a change in how people are consuming their content online. Users have a desire to obtain and understand content quickly, as opposed to spending the time reading lenghty, text-heavy articles. This change is precisely why visual content is now hugely important on so- cial media platforms. Visual content, across the major social media outlets, tends to result in the highest rates of engagement. It gives brands the opportunity to tell stories, showcase prodcuts and services and interact with their audiences like never before. It is hugely important for companies utilize these free online platforms by carefully choosing and creating visual content. Producing engaging visual content is not as easy as it may seem. Brands have to invest a great deal of time and resources to achieve social media success. A major takeaway here is that your business must get to know its audience, and what is important to them. Once you know what conversations your targeted users are having online, you can start to develop a plan for producing effective visual content. It is vital for your company to set realistic goals engaging in social media. The rise of visual-only social sites showcases just how important, and engaging, visual content is to social media users. It would be a shame if any company were to miss out on the interac- tive oportunities that sharing visual content on social media holds. The old adage is especially relevant today...a picture really is worth a thousand words. Conclusion WHITE PAPER / PRODUCING SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT THROUGH VISUAL CONTENT 9
  10. 10. resources 1. 2. 3. 4. ing-Social-Media-Engagement-INFOGRAPHIC.aspx 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. by-275/ WHITE PAPER / PRODUCING SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT THROUGH VISUAL CONTENT 10