(Originally posted in Spin Sucks)
For this year’s back-to-school season, TOMS launched a contest aimed at increasing visual engagement on Pinterest.
#TOMS Give Back-to-School encouraged people to create a pinboard and pin their favorite outfits using only items found on the TOMS website.
While primarily known for shoes, TOMS wanted people to see they could wear the brand from head to toe.
To compete for the $500 TOMS gift certificate, pinners created a special board for the contest and tagged every pin with “#TOMS Give Back-to-School.”
TOMS scored huge brand awareness and sales during the contest as pinners posted beautiful pictures that spread across their personal networks.
The TOMS campaign shows the expanding influence of visual social media sites, and in the coming years, more brands will take part in this growing trend.
Why Visual Social Media Takes the Cake
Pinterest has more than 70 million users, which may not seem like a lot compared to the billions at Facebook, but, unlike users of other social media sites, Pinterest users become more active over time, not less.
This makes sense when you think about the draw of pictures.
The Internet is overloaded with text, with every company in the world creating text-heavy blog posts.
With so much to read, people are looking for simpler media to consume.
Pictures are processed more quickly and remembered longer. They can also tell your brand’s story more effectively than 1,000-word blog posts.
(Hence: A picture is worth more than 1,000 words.)
When it comes to social media, posts with images get 39 percent more engagement than other posts.
And, in some inexplicable way, it’s been proven that users will not only remember your picture, but they’ll also associate your brand with similar pictures in a different context.
That’s reach you could never get with words alone.
Customers also love images because they’re editable. Everyone wants to express himself, and when users can share a brand’s content but also make it their own, it’s a win-win.
The beauty of visual strategy is that consumers can’t help but be drawn to the visual feast.
How Brands Can Get Visual
So, how do you make like TOMS and take advantage of the benefits of visual?
Like all other content, visual sites such as Instagram and Pinterest require some strategic thinking and a well-executed plan.
One of the worst things brands can do is throw up mediocre images, hoping to draw attention.
Here are some important steps for brands to take when crafting a visual social media strategy.
Define your brand visually. Don’t just think about your products. What colors, patterns, and images represent who you are as a brand? Make sure the images you use tell a story of either the brand or the user.
Think broadly about your visuals. Not every pin or Instagram photo has to be (or should be) focused on your brand. Capital One and American Express both maintain pinboards for brides, world travelers, and bucket-list creators. These images are inherently shareable, regardless of a user’s affiliation with the companies, which makes it easier for the brands to spread organically.
Use segmentation to your advantage. Segment your audience by demographics, interests, and values. Each of these categories can provide insight into the types of visuals your audience prefers and where it likes to see them. For example, users who are into “beauty” might also follow certain celebrities that you can incorporate into your campaign. Users who are “green” might appreciate holistic health advice or eco-friendly gift ideas. Use segmentation to branch out and go broad, as mentioned above.
Pay attention to top content for your audience. Through content tracking, you can also discover what kind of content your audience is sharing and publishing most, then create visuals around that content. Infographics are a great option here, putting information into an easy-to-understand yet still visually appealing format.
Know your grassroots influencers. Also called brand ambassadors, these are the people who are naturally spreading the word about your brand. Target these influencers by creating more of the content and visuals they love, but also by engaging with them personally. These people are the ones who will convince less enthusiastic users to love your brand, so make sure you love them.
The rise of Pinterest and Instagram is undeniable, and more brands are beginning to realize the power of images in marketing.
Winning brands will be the ones that create the best and most compelling visual social media strategies that engage all kinds of users.