Why Your Customers Love Photos

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Boxset evangelists, or just good ol’ fans of high quality TV drama, may recall the following words uttered by Proposition Joe during season one of the Wire; “Look the part be the part”, he hollers.

Its game day in Baltimore, and the characters occupying the poverty-stricken projects have put their drug-dealing and criminal enterprises on hold to observe the great tradition that is the Eastside/Westside basketball derby.  In spite of the sweltering heat, Joe has opted to manage from the side-lines dressed in a suit and tie, complete with blank clipboard, for that added display of gravitas.

He is being mocked by his counterpart Avon Barksdale for seemingly trying to act like a legit NBA coach when he retorts “Look the part be the part mother-@#$%&!”.

I’m aware that paraphrasing a fictional East Baltimore drug dealer may be an odd way to kick-start this post but it’s a nugget of wisdom that rings true for humans whatever the context.

That scene took place before the advent of the internet as we know it, a time when pagers were still in vogue and pages were just pieces of paper. But when it comes to social media, particularly the pictures we share, Prop Joe’s mantra is increasingly at the centre of our actions.

With each tweet and upload we are enshrining our every effort; like a beautifully constructed online citadel that serves as a 24/7 glimpse into the depths of our souls.

Except it’s a profoundly shallow glimpse. We are far too self-aware creatures to really grant people that kind of personal access. Johnny from work doesn’t brag about the things that ail or oppress him, rather he chooses to show us the much-coveted highlights that make his day seem ten times better than it really is.

For B2C businesses, possessing a level of knowledge regarding why your customers behave the way they do online is paramount to targeting them successfully. Allow me to cite some statistics from this 2014 Go-Gulf infographic which reveals the myriad of reasons people upload content to social media.

    • 84% share as a means of supporting causes or issues they care about – example: #nomakeupselfie or #dancingman
  • 73% share in order to connect with people who have the same interests – example: #fitfam
    • 69% share because it allows them to feel more involved in the world – example: #InternationalWomensDay

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  • 68% share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they believe in – example: #MarriageEquality or #beliebers
  • 49% share information on products they like hoping to change opinions or encourage action – example: #bootea

Just as actors learn their lines, we too are dealing in the currency of entertainment, albeit we have total creative control, portraying the protagonists in the self-directed story of Me, Myself, and I.

Okay, maybe in some obtuse corner of the web there’s a dude posting a minute-by-minute photo stream of his latest panic attack. He’s probably using tear-stained selfies and POV shots to capture the minute details of his individual trauma. But that guy isn’t the norm!

Instead social media enables us to delete our darker, less glamorous moments and frame our identity in the most favourable way possible - imbued with polaroid-like warmth and glossed over with a rose-tinted filter.

Unsurprisingly we puff ourselves up with the idea that the photos we are sharing matter, measuring our success by a tally of likes and comments.

But on a personal level the images we’re sharing are important. The appreciative comments a gym fanatic receives after posting their latest workout selfie will usually help motivate them to achieve their fitness goals going forward. Likewise, if a foodie receives positive feedback on one of their meal pictures, they’ll want to elicit a similar response the next time out. We get hooked on the uplifting affirmations that come from sharing images.

With visual content dominating the social media landscape like a colossus, companies have to consider how much information about their audience can be garnered from the analysis of text-driven content alone.

Yes, text-based content still clearly engages with the people.  Social commentary is much more vibrant and certainly more democratized; but when it boils down to it images will always steal the limelight for a number of reasons.

  1. Our brain is hard-wired to respond emotionally to an image. Images have the power to resonate with human beings on a deeply emotional level.  If an image is used smartly it can provoke a sense of real feeling, be it a warm memory, elation, or unadulterated hatred. They have the power to be genuinely timeless.
  2. We have short attention spans. Humans bore easily. It’s not as romantically intertwined with the human brain as the last point but it’s equally as true. When you consider the fact that we have such an array of media competing for our attention, an image is a neat way to feed our mind the information it needs in a fast and digestible format.
  3. Engagement. Images have separate metadata to the rest of your post. If it’s set correctly then you provide yourself with an independent search result linked to the same location, which helps your search optimization.

Evidently social media is a deep ravine of content, ripe for exploration.  Using computer vision and machine learning Beautifeye has the ability to extract data about your audience - why they share the images they do – and transform that into actionable insight.

Data-driven marketing campaigns that tap into this intelligence have the ability to cut through the noise and connect the brand to the consumer in an enthralling manner. You just need to focus on the right images,  ones that chime with your audience’s ideals.

Written with the help of James Vickery.