Traditionally the internet has been characterised by a small percentage of online content creators and commentators, and a majority of spectators. The Forrester Social Technographics Ladder has been a well documented visualisation of this. A small proportion of creators have been shaping the face of consumer content online, but are we beginning to see a shift?
Twitter in particular has helped to turn non-bloggers into bloggers (and effectively creators), at a micro level. The 140 character limit, platform flexibility, and scope for sharing images have all helped to make it a popular and easy way for people to collect and share online content.
But with the majority of today’s connected adults being time poor, and attention being split across a mass of social and media channels—not to mention devices—we’re seeing an increasing appetite for platforms and situations that are enabling even quicker action. We might term this emerging behaviour ‘micro-microblogging.’
The take-off of photo sharing and photo tagging platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram, particularly among women, is proving to be one of the biggest drivers of micro-microblogging. What’s interesting about this is that it’s encouraging a form of semi-creative online behaviour. Not only are people viewing and liking images, but they are also taking, publishing and tagging their own photos. They are becoming content creators and commentators, and this is happening almost without people realising they're doing it. As a result, online behaviour around images in particular is getting more and more granular; people are showing a desire for getting closer to the pixel. We are in the midst of an image explosion.
It goes without saying that images are often the most eye-catching and valuable piece of real estate on a web page but they usually remain un-interactive, unexplored and underused. For brands, this can be such a missed opportunity, particularly in light of the shift towards micro-microblogging behaviour around images. A new study conducted by ROI research found that users are 44% more likely to engage with brands and companies if an image is involved. Furthermore, we remember pictures about 1.5 times more often than printed words. Have we reached a point where brands should be thinking more carefully about the way in which they are using online images, opening up ways for consumers to interact with their visual content in a richer way?
In this micro-microblogging era, where attention and time are at a premium, image tagging platforms create the ability for individuals to share and interact with snippets of information within an image. For example, you are reading an article online, and a detail within an accompanying image jumps out at you. Maybe it’s a Gucci handbag that you know your girlfriend would adore, and you want to quickly share just that part of the image with her via Facebook, tagging her within it.
We are entering an era where people crave the ability to do increasingly more interesting things with online images. Humans are very visual, and respond positively to imagery. A recent Harvard Business School study suggests that Facebook’s new Timeline layout has contributed to the fact that as much as 70% of all Facebook activity is based on photographs. Engagement rates on Facebook for photos averages 0.37% where text only is 0.27% (this translates to a 37% higher level of engagement for photos over text). The use of photographs in a company’s social interactions can directly increase customer engagement – that means brands ignore the phenomena at their peril.
For brands, thinking about how they can encourage their customers to do small things with an image, is paramount. We’re already seeing a paradigm shift in how some brands and publishers are using images within their website to create more of a journey of discovery, keeping their visitors on their site for longer. Additionally, as time goes on we’ll see brands showing a greater preference for real life models and situations, to help promote their brands more honestly. The rise in micro-microblogging is placing brand images under even deeper layers of user scrutiny and interpretation.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Photoblogging particularly is set to get even more granular over the next 12 months and beyond, and before long brands will need to be thinking carefully about their ‘image strategy’ and how this connects with their wider social media strategies. No longer can images exist in isolation. Bringing them into the slipstream of internet content will be the next big paradigm shift that we’ll see in this rapid evolution of the internet.