An emerging social media trend is creating fresh ways for companies to engage with customers. With the rise of the visual, social web, clever brand ambassadors and marketers are breathing new life into contest marketing. Yes, I said contests. Kind of like the little black dress of marketing programs, the visual web gives the contest platform a major shot in the arm. Brands are tapping into this new trend to reach new audiences and gain personal insights and expressions for authentic engagement.
Instagram, Viddy, Pictu, Doodle.ly, Pinterest, and Ustream are some of the budding companies representing the growing popularity of the visual web. According to PR Daily News, Pinterest is now the third most-popular social network in the U.S., while photo-sharing platform Instagram recently surpassed 80 million users. Partly why companies are seeing such strong adoption to campaigns conducted through these social networks is because people are able to express themselves more freely and creatively through multiple types of visual media. By coupling this artistic self-expression with brand-engaging activities, people can start to feel a powerful connection to the companies and brands that have invited them to participate on a visual, creative level and then share their work.
Communication styles are also shifting. Institute for the Future's (IFTF) study on kids' and teens' play patterns revealed that we're experiencing a transition in how they update their statuses visually, using photos or videos more than characters or text. They're actively seeking these new effects to make their communications stand out. As noted in the adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words," a profound idea and belief can be conveyed through just a single still image.
McDonald's, one of the leading sponsors of the London Olympics, used Instagram to communicate various messages throughout the games. The company used pictures to tell its stories in new ways and encouraged fans to do the same. The director of social media at McDonald's noted that brands are seeing increasing levels of engagement around pictures compared to text, supporting IFTF's findings.
The growth of social -- thanks to the increased ease of sharing and the tools to inspire creativity -- enriches contest marketing to a degree that hasn't been achieved prior to the existence of social networking. Contests offer a way for brands to deepen engagement with their consumers, while igniting the consumer's natural human urge to compete, giving them the recognition they crave. When consumers submit a piece of their work, they're organically invested in the brand. Additionally, contests on the social web are far more viral with the ability to spread the word about the campaign and brand quickly across multiple marketing channels.