A Picture is Worth A Thousand: Understanding the Importance of the Visual Web
Today, the growth of what is known as the “Visual Web” is rapidly outstripping the traditional internet. What this means is that images – photographs, memes, videos are becoming the preferred content on the internet, both in terms of uploads, and interactions. According to analysts 1.8 billion photos are posted every day, up from a little less than 300,000 in 2010.
This is particularly true in the area of social media apps. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Flickr, Twitter and others are either primarily visual platforms, or rapidly becoming more and more visual. It has been reported that Instagram, a strictly visual platform, has more users now than Twitter, which includes photos, but is also text driven. Facebook, always popular for photo posts, increased the photo limit per album from 60 to 200 in 2009, which has contributed to the rise of images on the web.
The growth of the visual web presents tremendous opportunities and challenges for marketers. For one thing, many marketing professionals have recognized that they must increase their resources dedicated to visual content, and that this content must be original and engaging, as pro-forma, or canned images are likely to be ignored.
Secondly, in addition to producing images marketers and brand professionals are looking to track the prevalence of their brands throughout the web. This means a need for new analytics to measure their brand’s visual impact throughout the important web-based platforms. A substantial amount of visual content posted on the web actually includes brand logos, both intentionally posted by marketers and then shared, and posted images in which the logo simply happens to be part of the image. So for example, logos that appear on clothing, coffee cups, or accessories, represent a brand’s overall impact that marketers would love to be able to measure. Additionally, posted images provide valuable contextual data about consumers and how they interact with the brand, by showing information such as: where the products are used, what activities consumers are engaged in and what other brands are found together.
That said, logo identification is particularly tricky. Many images and photos are posted with no accompanying text or hashtags, thus searches must be able to accurately identify the logos in a sea of visual content. Yet, a number of technology companies have launched platforms that enable marketers to do just that. For example, Tumblr has granted access to its images to a software company that is currently identifying logos within posts, to help marketers understand their presence on that platform
This is all very new, as the technology is just emerging. Contrary what many may believe, the ability to accurately identify logos within other images is fairly new. To many, it may seem that in fact this has been possible for a long time, but in reality the development of this capacity has been in the hands of scientists and PhDs for quite a long time. Further, it is well-known among experts that certain logos are very hard to detect, especially in the context of other images. For example, a Nike Swoosh on a shirt, might be very difficult to distinguish from the surrounding image. Thus some of the finer points are still in development.
Further, we see an even newer trend emerging, object identification – including logos in streaming content. The ability to track and identify objects on platforms such as YouTube and other streaming media will also have a profound impact on how brand presence is measured.
It is definitely not too early for marketers to start thinking about how they might want to measure their brand presence on the web through imaging. And a number of analytics platforms designed to search for and identify are already out there. This trend towards “visual listening,” is certain to grow along with the proliferation of images on the web. Additionally, the dominance of mobile is also contributing to the growth of the visual web, as people find it easier to take in images than text on relatively small screens, and the growth of mobile shows no sign of slowing down.
A few tips for marketers and brand professionals as they consider their strategies for the Visual Web:
- Don’t underestimate the growth of the visual web: It is expected to continue overtaking the text-based web, and any marketing strategies should consider that
- Understand the science behind the power of images. Researchers have found that the brain understands images much more quickly than text and it has been reported that images are processed 60,000 times faster
- Pay attention to new technologies that allow accurate logo identification – new platforms are popping up, and marketing people should get familiar with them to discover which services can meet their needs
- Understand how to use the data associated with images, such as where and how consumers use your products or interact with your brand.
- Start including the visual web as part of any overall marketing plan or budgeting.
In conclusion, images are so powerful, that it is possible to create a greater emotional resonance through their use, and thus a stronger bond with consumers. At the same time, brands can began leveraging their web presence to learn more about consumers, and understand their brand’s impact. It is clear that the visual web is going to be the leading trend in years to come.
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