The Importance of Visuals in Social Media

A quote from Andy Warhol "I never read, I just look at pictures," with the Instagram logoIt’s no secret that social media has become populated with images, and for good reason. We rely heavily on visuals to communicate a message, tell a story, or simply to entertain us on various social networks. The old saying, “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” has never been more true or useful than when limited by 140 characters! But in all seriousness, images do carry a lot of power, especially for brands on social media. Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner reminds us that, “as humans, we connect emotionally to images more than video, audio or text. People make decisions and take action quicker when prompted by images.” As marketers, we understand how crucial it is to create content that’s eye-catching and can convey a complex idea very quickly to an audience. On social media, it means having only a few seconds to capture the attention of someone browsing their News Feed!

A Facebook post from Intel showing a phone growing in a garden.

Not only do images help content stand out, but social updates with images tend to receive more engagement and, in turn, reach. A study by Buffer revealed that tweets with images received 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets, placing that content in front of a much larger audience. Social Bakers examined the top performing posts made by more than 30,000 Facebook brand pages and found that updates with photos were shared the most, with photo updates making up 87% of total shared content (Source).

Because of this, it’s now common practice for brands to incorporate high-quality images into their social content in order to boost engagement on their posts and, therefore, increase organic reach. Social Bakers released a study on the correlation between reach and engagement and how the more engaging a piece of content is, the more impressions it will gain. This is not the only reason to include images, but after all, if the content isn’t seen in the first place, the message is lost in a sea of social updates.

A Facebook post from JustB showing that the viewers eye goes first to the image of pasta and then to the text in the update.

If you think about the last time you were on your favorite social network, chances are you were looking through your feed until something caught your eye. I’m guessing it wasn’t a text-heavy paragraph. Most likely it was a captivating image that stopped your fingers from scrolling. Many perceive this type of content consumption as suited for those with a shorter attention span, but the way we browse social media speaks to how we as a society are seeking out information quickly in an age where there are a massive flood of options. Visuals help us accomplish this much quicker.

Ever since social networks like Facebook or “microblogging” sites like Twitter emerged, there has been a trend towards creating shorter pieces of content. According to PewResearch, blogging by U.S. teens has halved between 2006 and 2010 and declined among Millennials. It’s no coincidence that this was during the mainstream adoption of sites like Facebook and Twitter. Of course, if you’re reading this, you know that blogging didn’t die off; it just evolved as part of the publishing ecosystem. Blogging has even become more shorthand, with the introduction of microblogging site Tumblr. This network has an image-oriented format and is now one of the top 10 websites in the U.S., with more than 20 billion page views a month. This just further supports the fact that more and more people are choosing to consume content quickly and they are using visuals to help do this.

An ad for Buffer's design tool Pablo

It’s safe to say that images and visuals will always be part of how we consume content. After all, 70% of our sensory receptors are in our eyes! It’s no wonder why our brains crave infographics or why social networks devoted to images have taken off in recent years. Think about Instagram, Pinterest, and even Snapchat. These platforms consist almost solely of images. Easy-to-use image design tools like Pablo and Canva are emerging to allow the creation of more visual content on social media. And over the years, we have made great strides in visual tools and technology that are dedicated to deeper experiences, like 3D or Virtual Reality. Just how far this love of visual content will take us is still a mystery, but one thing is certain, it will be easy on the eyes!

Photo Credit: NeoMam Studios

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