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Visualizing the next trend in social media

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We are a visual society. According to Dan Hill’s book Emotionomics, 80% of our brains are dedicated to processing visual imagery. Our tendency to gravitate toward the visual for knowledge and entertainment helped push YouTube to the top of the search engine list, second only to its parent, Google. The preference for information presented visually has also grown with the increased use of mobile technology, such as tablets and smartphones.

So it comes as little surprise that visually driven sites, such as Tumblr, Pinterest, Gentlemint and Houzz have taken off, that Instagram is coming to Android users and that Facebook is introducing a new look that emphasizes images.

Here’s a breakdown on the social media movement toward the visual:

  • Facebook’s new Timeline format encourages users to “tell your life story” by populating your vertical timeline with images, videos and posts. The result is a personal profile filled with highlights and photos that is visually pleasing and easy to scroll.
  • For company Facebook pages, Timeline offers the opportunity to show the story of your brand, by back-dating images and posts, showing the evolution of logos and highlighting milestones.
  • According to iTunes, 15 million iPhone users are familiar with Instagram (instagr.am), the free app that allows users to create profiles and upload pictures that can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. The app is soon coming to Android, meaning that anyone with a smartphone and the app will be able to take beautiful, professional-looking photos.
  • Tumblr (tumblr.com), a short-form site that is designed for the visually inclined or anyone with a short attention span, now boasts more than 46 million blogs and unique visitors increased more than 200% from 2010 to 2011. 
  • Pinterest (pinterest.com) is a site that allows users to “pin” images and categorize them on their online “bulletin boards.” Users can follow other “pinners” and be followed, like pins, comment on pins and re-pin others’ pins. Though still in its beta stage since its 2010 launch, Pinterest has more than 10 million users and generates more referral traffic than all other social media sites except Facebook.
  • Brands are creating Pinterest pages to connect with targeted audiences (women comprise 80% of Pinterest users) and drive traffic back to their site. Better Homes & Gardens has more than 25,000 followers on Pinterest, compared with less than 22,000 Twitter followers.
  • Gentlemint (gentlemint.com) is being touted as the “Pinterest for manly things,” and its popularity is growing, with several thousand users and a waiting list that is even longer. Users post content that other users comment on, like and share through other social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Popular posts get pushed to the top of the site.

A recent AdAge article encouraged marketers to have an image strategy in place in order to capitalize on pictures and engage with target audiences. This makes sense for brands that can sell their products and services with an image but it may not be as straightforward for b-to-b brands.  While a picture may be worth a thousand words or likes, an image strategy makes sense if that’s where there target audience is, the audience can be engaged and the engagements can be converted to leads. Otherwise you’re left with beautiful photos and no one to appreciate and share them.

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