When Facebook recently announced that its newest update would put a greater emphasis on images, the migration from a text-based to a visual social web gathered steam. Already, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and other image-driven social sites have attracted millions of users engaged in posting, pinning, and browsing colorful and catchy images.
But while images are clearly the future of the social web, few brands have yet to create robust visual marketing strategies for social media. Many marketers are now adept at creating and measuring text-based content for their Facebook and Twitter feeds and blogs, but how many have created plans to leverage brand photos and other visuals for social marketing? With Pinterest and a host of shopping-friendly clones, such as Wanelo, on the rise, and Facebook's decision to highlight images over text posts, isn't it time every brand created a comprehensive social image strategy? If you aren't distributing, measuring the impact of, and monitoring the use of your brand images online, you're missing out on the most engaging and powerful way to connect with consumers.
To get you started, here are five tips to create a branded social image strategy.
Take stock of image inventory
The first step is to do an inventory of all your brand images -- logos, packaging, campaign images, official photos, etc. It may take awhile to find all these images, but most companies will be surprised at the wealth of visual assets they possess. Then, decide which images tell your brand story in the most compelling, visual way and group all of these images together for use as part of your social marketing program.
Create a distribution plan
Next, identify the websites and social networks that are crucial to your social marketing strategy. You probably already have active Facebook and Twitter accounts, but does your brand pin actively on Pinterest? Have you explored Wanelo? What about Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, and other popular image-sharing sites? Create a plan of where you'll post your brand images, and task those responsible with creating social content such as tweets, posts, and social campaigns with incorporating far more images into their updates.
Track social image metrics
Just as with all social content, you should use analytics to track the flow of your brand images across the web. The first thing you'll want to measure is how, where, and by whom your images are being viewed and shared -- to see patterns in consumer engagement. You'll also want to measure which images generate the most buzz and sharing, and which images fall flat. Overall, you'll need to quantify the same metrics you do for text-based social posts, measuring the impact your social image strategy has on overall marketing ROI. Find out if your social analytics software can measure the impact of images across image-based social sites, from Facebook to Pinterest, Instagram, and beyond -- and if not, find one that does.
Use image recognition software
Most social analytics technologies still track images based on text-based tags -- but that is not enough today. On the image-driven social web, your marketing department will not be the only entity posting your brand photos; billions of consumers are continually uploading images to the social web. Many of those images will include a photo of your products or logo, will be trademarked brand images, or altered forms of your logo or other brand visuals. Use advanced image recognition technology that does pixel-level comparisons on shape, color, format, and context to identify where your brand images are being shared, altered, posted, or viewed.
Stamp out misuse
Images are powerful, which is why they are great brand marketing tools. But images can also be used as powerful tools to damage your brand's reputation. Sometimes, consumers post original or altered brand photos to express discontent with your products or company, or they post your brand images in negative or compromising contexts. Unlawful use of your brand images can cause lost sales, customer dissatisfaction, and brand dilution. That's why a critical part of your social visual marketing strategy is to use image recognition to find negative instances of your brand images, and then take action against perpetrators or engage disgruntled customers in a positive dialogue.
Consumers have spoken; they want to interact with your brand on the social web via engaging, shareable images. Image-based brand marketing is here to stay, so it's time for every marketer to create a robust visual strategy for the social web.
Stephen Shepherd is general manager of LTU Technologies.
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"Hand reaching images streaming from the deep" image via Shutterstock.