When you’re starting out in your career, there will come a time when you realize you’ve transitioned from someone who does what you do really well, and someone who is an expert. For me, that moment came when I stepped on the stage at Ad:Tech San Francisco and presented in front of 200 of my advertising peers.
The topic? Well, it was something I’m very passionate about when it comes to social media: the impact of visuals on your social channels. You see, over the past six years (from, really, the time brands began using social media as a marketing tool), social media has shifted from a text-heavy medium to one where brand experts let visuals do the talking.
Think back to the Facebook timeline of yester-year. It was simply a stream of words and your friends’ photos. Have that vision in your mind? Now, think about the new Facebook. Not only are photos a huge part of your own timeline, but they are a significant part of your newsfeed as well.
So how can brands adjust to this increasing importance of visuals in social media? Here are three best practices that I not only presented to my Ad:Tech audience, but have helped shaped how I approach social media.
Show. Don’t tell. There’s a reason why people say, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, you know. For example, if I’m Starbucks, and I told you “Frappuccinos are delicious”, you’d probably agree with me. But am I creating a brand experience for you? No. Instead, I would rather show you this image:
As human beings, we are designed to have an emotional response to most everything we see. If I show you a picture of Frappuccinos, you can create your own experience. Maybe this image will make you think “You know what Ali, Frappuccinos are good.” But maybe it will connect with you on a deeper level, one that Starbucks could never know. Maybe you’ll recall tasting your first Frapp on a hot day, or maybe you’ll remember taking a late night trip to Starbucks to grab one with your friends. No matter what you think about, it’s your experience to imagine.
Pick a theme. But you have to remember that obvious product placement is not a theme. Again, obvious product placement. Not. A. Theme.
One brand that has mastered the art of thematic posting is Forever21, a teen and 20-something clothing retailer. A look at their Instagram account description says all you need to know about their theme:
Follow us for peeks behind the scenes of our fun, fearless fashion world.
And on that promise, it delivers. Yes, all of the photos are on brand and, yes, even most of them include some product placement. But the important factor here is that the product is secondary to the brand experience. The behind-the-scenes theme is well thought out and executed, helping foster deeper relationships with a new audience.
My final takeaway? Think inside the frame, but outside the box. All of the social platforms have parameters that you must fit within. On Twitter, it’s 140 characters. On Instagram, photos must be perfectly square. Facebook? Yes, it has its dimensions and character limits, too.
But even though all the platforms have some sort of parameters (or a frame), it’s up to you to paint what’s in it. Using all the creativity you have at your brand’s disposal, come up with a way to make an impact in the social space. Your bold photo or different way of using a platform is your way of cutting through all the noise of social media, and making a lasting impact on the consumer.
One company that has set a standard for thinking outside the box on Pinterest is Peugeot. Peugeot Panama’s Pinterest page set a standard of thinking outside the box with its 2012 Pinterest puzzle campaign. They thought outside of the box (literally), sweeping images across multiple boxes.
Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to use visuals to your advantage. Sure, it may require some investment of time and money to get high quality images to use, but in the end, it will be worth it.
So, go ahead. Show. Don’t tell. Pick a theme. And think inside the fame, but outside the box.