Social media is a thing most of us either love or love to hate. The most popular social media platforms are constantly evolving and trying to one-up each other. It can be difficult to keep up at times, and often by the time we figure out and get comfortable with the system the next change rolls out.
Over the past few years we’ve seen a huge shift towards visual content, which has changed the way we receive information and interact with brands. Last year I provided tips for how to successfully integrate more images into your marketing plan without getting lost in the clutter. These tips are just as relevant (if not more so) today.
Visual content can no longer be considered a second tier marketing tactic. Most of us scroll past hundreds of social posts per day, many from brands vying for our attention, so it’s more important than ever to stay relevant and interesting.
Here are some of the biggest changes that affect visual social media:
The story war:
Both Snapchat and Instagram have always been primarily visual tools, but they didn’t really step on each other’s toes until recently. Snapchat had a good run being unique in the social world, but that all changed earlier this year when Instagram suddenly released an almost identical feature, also called Stories. If you’re unfamiliar with Stories, they are a feed made up of a person or brand’s recent photos and videos, shared with all their followers. Stories disappear after a certain period of time, usually 24 hours.
It’s unclear yet whether these new Stories will have much of an effect on original Stories, but there are several things for brands to consider.
- If your brand isn’t utilizing Snapchat but has a substantial following on Instagram, this could be an interesting way to reach your audience where they already are.
- If your brand is already popular on Snapchat, it may be redundant to start posting Instagram Stories. Even though it seems like all the major platforms are starting to look the same, it’s still wise to treat each account as an individual branch of your social strategy. Blindly posting identical content across every social media site is still considered lazy and irritating.
- Should your brand be using either version of Stories? We’ve said time and again, not every brand should be on every social media site. Consider your target audience and do your research before jumping into anything.
No, the famous Twitter bird didn’t get another makeover. However, a recent change has been met with an almost entirely positive reaction from users, which is a rare, almost unheard of occurrence. Twitter is no longer counting links and images in the maximum character limit. This truly may be the best news Twitter has ever given us.
This change was promised to us many many months ago and was slow to roll out, but now that it’s here it’s sure to make many people’s lives easier. If your brand was struggling to incorporate strong, eye-catching images due to the pesky character count rules, now would be a great time to revisit and possibly step up your visual content strategy.
Ads on mute:
It’s certainly not news that paid advertising is an option on just about every social media platform at this point. Ads are being woven into social media feeds more seamlessly than ever before. It’s becoming more and more difficult to spot ads because so much effort goes into targeting customers and visually “blending in” with the styling of each particular social media site.
Video ads are quickly creeping into our social media feeds and replacing static images. For marketers and advertisers, the downside of this shift is the extra level of difficulty in creating ads that fit in with the way most of us view social. Since around 50% of autoplay ads on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are viewed on mute, it’s no longer an option to rely on jingles and voiceovers.
Aside from embracing silence, advertisers are now focusing on stronger visuals in a shorter time limit. Video advertising on social media can be tricky, but if approached the right way it can be a valuable marketing tool. This is one area where it really pays to stay up to date on the latest social media trends and statistics, so you can meet your target audience where they are.
Visual social media never stops changing, and neither should your visual strategy. Many companies are spending extra time and resources to make sure they have a strategy that works. Do your research. Is your company on the right platforms? Do your visuals meet current design standards? The images that represent your brand are more important than ever, so treat them as such and keep an eye out for the next new thing. It’s always right around the corner.