The social-visual revolution has arrived. Images are the new words — simple, sweet and to the point. Where we once needed 140 characters, a single image will now suffice. And within this visual-centric movement, images with words (ironically enough) are particularly popular. According to a recent article in the Social Media Examiner, adding text to your photos is the #1 way to get more people to share your pics on social networks. Have you noticed a recent uptick in the number of inspirational quote images or funny photo memes in your news feed? Well, now you know why.
Pins on Pinterest with text overlaying a visual also tend to perform best on the channel. Why? Because they are simple and easy to share. There’s no need to write a caption, as the image literally speaks for itself. The same trend is seen on StumbleUpon: On this platform, basic infographics (whether informational or humorous) prove to retain Stumblers’ attention longer than a website or article with heavy verbiage. Detavio Samuels, EVP and Director of Client Services at GlobalHue, helps to explain why this is:
“Pictures have also become a short-form way of communicating lots of information quickly and succinctly. The need for publishers to get to the point quicker than ever came about as humans became more pressed for time and content became more infinite. For publishers, it was evolve or risk losing their audience, and the only thing shorter than a tweet or post is a picture.” (http://www.fastcompany.com/3000794/rise-visual-social-media)
The move toward quickly seen, easily digestible content is playing out in videos, too. The general population cannot focus on a five-minute YouTube video without pausing, multitasking or exiting the video they started watching three short minutes earlier. So rather than spending precious advertising dollars on long commercials that won’t hold a viewer’s attention past 15 seconds, brands have started creating and promoting simple, branded, highly shareable images. At the end of the day, our attention spans are extremely short, especially within the photo-generating millennial audience that tends to dominate the social sphere. (Hopefully, you’re still with us!)
This shift to visual content extends beyond social. An interesting example is Nilkanth Patel’s creation for the Bicoastal Datafest of 2013, which is now the site www.doescongressreallysuck.com. Also known as the DCRS Project, Patel’s site opens with a brief summary of the case and, from there, immerses the visitor in an interactive map. Users are able to peruse and digest the content of each container at his or her own pace. The beauty of the DCRS Project’s infographic is that it is interactive. Patel’s innovative idea of taking information, condensing it, and simplifying the content to unlock the real potential of the data is an on-trend move in the right direction.
A similar example is the Cheese & Burger Society (http://www.cheeseandburger.com/). Believe it or not, the site is one of the most visited pages through StumbleUpon, and its sole purpose is to promote Wisconsin cheese. Yes, cheese. The interactive and visual experience celebrates cheese by showcasing a vast gallery of hamburgers, enticing the viewer to keep clicking away while they ponder — and most likely act on — the idea of getting a burger to sate their post-browse appetite.
Even designers from The New Yorker have begun using infographics as a form of visual journalism to report current events. This is an interesting development because many articles are too lengthy or in-depth for the average reader. But, by transfiguring news into a graphic, the viewer can digest the content in a shorter amount of time. As Fast Company’s Cliff Kuang confirms, “We are just at the cusp of all this changing. In the future, you’ll see an increasing editorial infographic wave; there’s something coming.” (http://columnfivemedia.com/fastcos-cliff-kuang-on-infographics-and-the-infographics-industry/)
So how can one effectively keep pace with this shift toward visual content? For starters, it involves doing more than merely populating your page with pretty pictures. The images you post must be informative, instructive, thought provoking and inspiring. They should narrate a story, evoke meaning, invite the viewer to explore the content and — above all — be supremely shareable.
A special note from the authors: If this blog was too long to keep your attention, check out this infographic. It’s perfect to share!