Images are driving online engagement in a major way. How can companies and marketers break free from the limitations of text-only search and capitalize on the opportunities presented by the increasingly visual Web?
In 2014, 1.8 billion photos were shared every day on social media. Do the math: That’s over 1 million images a minute. Largely due to the emergence and growth of services such as Snapchat and WhatsApp—in addition to what’s already shared across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook—it’s a trend poised to continue through 2015 and beyond.
In the end, this is a good thing. It’s a way for companies to capitalize on the opportunity presented by the increasingly visual Web: to better understand their customers, to boost measures of engagement, to monitor and track how their brand is being portrayed across social media channels.
Is the image being shared the one we want in the marketplace? How do we stack up against the competition? Are people fraudulently representing us or infringing on copyrights or trademarks? Are our products being used the way we intended? Are there better or more interesting uses that can inform our marketing or product development teams?
And what about customer service? Is there an opportunity to mitigate churn by proactively tracking and addressing complaints shared on the social Web?
While this rising wave of images provides an opportunity to glimpse inside the world of user-generated content, it does bring its fair share of challenges. How so? Say, for example, a customer posts a picture of a pair of shoes on Instagram with a glowing recommendation to his or her followers.
Sure, this is good news for the brand, which can then interact with the user by commenting on the photo or resharing the post on the corporate Instagram feed—but only if the company finds the post to begin with. Unless a hashtag or @ was included in the accompanying text description, there’s a high chance the post will go largely unnoticed.
The Limitations of Text
Herein lies the challenge: While companies have the ability to track social media via text, today’s conversation is increasingly visual. With an estimated 80% of photos with brands and products reportedly unfindable via text search alone, what’s a marketer to do?
This is a question [we are] on a quest to answer. Last [year] we acquired a company called GazeMetrix. An image-recognition and visual-listening platform, it provides companies with insight into when and where their brand is photographed across social media in real time.
I bring this up because there is a major opportunity in unlocking the value of visual content—one that until recently had not been tapped. Most brands today are missing out on crucial visual data about their customers on Twitter and Instagram, with few recognizing that analyzing captions, comments and hashtags aren’t enough.
In order to capitalize on the full opportunity presented by visual social data, we’ll all need to push beyond the limitations of text and come together to create tools that allow us to translate this rich data into actionable insight.
Does this mean text, comments and hashtags are meaningless? No. They’re still meaningful in their own way—especially in terms of search and engagement—but they’re only part of the puzzle, a challenge we marketers are all trying to solve.
Now that we have access to image monitoring tools that work without that dependence on text, it’s up to us as marketers to find the new realities and interesting ways to use the tools.
Editor’s note: this article originally appeared in AdAge.