How Visual Social Media Impacts Business


Human beings process images 60,000 times faster than they process text says Sharad Verma, the CEO of Piqora, (a company which supplies analytics for visual web applications). With the increasing popularity of Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Flickr, it is especially important for Communications professionals to understand and embrace the Visual Web. Nielsen’s U.S. Digital Consumer Report (Feb 2014) reports that 65% of Americans own smartphones and spend over 34 hours on average a month on one of their 4 devices. No wonder that there are more digital photos than ever being posted online. And who doesn’t want to learn a better way for our messages to reach and be recalled by the intended audience?

Mobile Social Media Use - Source: Nielsen US Digital Consumer Report Feb 2014

Mobile Social Media Use – Source: Nielsen US Digital Consumer Report Feb 2014


  1. Flickr is credited with being the first of the visual social media networks. It was released in 2002 and bought by Yahoo. As of the end of 2013 Flickr had posted 8 billion photos.
  2. Instagram in 2010 and Pinterest in 2011 offer great photos and short text. Instagram also added short video to up the ante.
  3. This infographic from Loren Baker on “The Explosion of the Visual Web” summarises the growth of the Visual Web and projects its future.
Instagram logo: Source: Instagram

Instagram logo: Source: Instagram



Visual social media is an exciting development within the sphere of social media. Here are some ways visual social media have affected communications:

  1. The users of visual social media seem to want to be associated with the images they post and re-post. This looks like endorsement to me. And we know peer to peer endorsement is valuable to message markets.
  2. Everyone seems to be displaying their products in a grid design. This trend has reached beyond retail and many services sites. Companies have bought into the idea that this grid design makes them look modern and relevant according to Eliza Kern on Three Truths of the Visual Web we can learn from We Heart It.
  3. Grid options give people the option of “endless scrolling” like Pinterest. Note that two the visual social media applications Wanelo and We Heart It are also using endless scrolling.
  4. Pinterest has over 50 million unique posts every day, The rise of new sites which basically do the same thing Pinterest does says that there is an identifiable behavior among the teen and youth audience which is “re-posting.” Seems to me like an opportunity to circulate content!
Grid layouts - Source:

Grid layouts – Source: Three Truths of the Visual Web we Can Learn from We Heart It by Eliza Kearn


Visual social media sees an increase in use prior to holiday seasons. Pinterest claimed a 25% increase in use and “Christmas gifts” is one of their top searches. Online shopping exceeded in person sales in the US in 2013 and Verma of Piqora offered some insight here:

  1.  Visual social media is willing to trade the benefit of open and accessible databases for privacy. The number of private posts are limited. Verma claims this is because the sharing on visual social media is based on connection through objects as opposed to deep dark thoughts on Facebook.
  2. There are no cultural or language barriers on image posts – images bridge the gap very effectively.
  3. Businesses can do more in generating content than circulating product images. Barneys used Instagram to unveil their long awaited Christmas store window display.
  4. This medium allows testing. Verma referred to it as a “large focus group.” Great idea to gauge customer feedback before going live and avoiding costly do-overs when a product or service is actually out on the trade.
  5. Visual social media is “nicer” as there is less space for controversial topics and personal attacks. Unfortunately I don’t share the same opinion as it may just be a matter of time before the trolls adopt image based bullying or other unpleasantness of the sort But in the meantime, we can enjoy the relative Eden.
Barneys Christmas window on Instagram - Source:

Barneys Christmas window on Instagram – Source:


Virgin America airline: Source: Virgin America

Virgin America airline: Source: Virgin America

A Yellow Pages article suggested using infographics , short video and catalogues for small to medium enterprises to capitalize on visual social media. Here are some other tactics from which other businesses have employed:

1. Capitalize on the increased real estate – yes you have your website and Facebook page. Now there’s something else to add which can be fun and quirky as well.
2. Create a great experience for your customer and they will talk about it. Virgin America likes to spring surprises on customers like free cosmopolitans on a flight Customers enjoy sharing their fun experience through Instagram. CEO Richard Branson also uses visual social media apps for shout-outs.

Highlighting customers - Source: Social Media Examiner

Highlighting customers – Source: Social Media Examiner

3. Reward customers – Topshop in the UK rewards customers who look at their products and read descriptions as codes for discounts and giveaways are in the text.

Topshop - Source: Topshop

Topshop – Source: Topshop

4. Engage through contests – Sony had users on Instagram post pictures which they associated with love at #Sonylove. The response was huge and Sony walked away a winner

Contest #sonylove from Social Media Examiner

Contest #sonylove from Social Media Examiner

5. Promote your events – give people visuals of the place and location. Cover the event through posting images


  1. This helpful social media checklist from offers good advice on how to make visual social media work for you.
  2. Here’s some help for actually creating visual social media content
  3. Still need convincing? Here’s information on how images improve your social media marketing.
Visual social media checklist - Source:

Visual social media checklist – Source:



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