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Micro and visual content = maximum impact

Visual, real-time content must move up the agenda

I said something in a meeting this week, it’s pure opinion to be honest, but I think I can back it up and wanted to post about it this week:- “brands that can leverage real-time, visual content will find themselves market leaders.” Would you agree or disagree?

A move to visual content since 2012?

Ever since Pinterest and Instagram started to get traction with consumers (2012 I'd suggest?), we’ve seen pictures literally become a 'thousand words', and savvy marketers have been quick to get visual content to the front of their social media and search marketing agendas.
I also remembered a great Altimeter report, again from 2012 that revealed a deep confidence that marketers saw the importance of visual content, social and mobile. We’d have to say that was well founded as it turned out?:

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Equally, this 2012 research revealed that, amongst a lot of other insight, 44% of users are more likely to engage with brands posting imagery in social channels, over those that don’t. That’s 2012, we’ve come along way in two short years. This quote is useful to summarise the case:

“Blogs were one of the earliest forms of social networking where people were writing 1,000 words… When we moved to status updates on Facebook, our posts became shorter. Then micro-blogs like Twitter came along and shortened our updates to 140 characters. Now we are even skipping words altogether and moving towards more visual communication with social-sharing sites like Pinterest.” Dr. William J. Ward, Social Media professor at Syracuse University (2012)

The rise of micro, visual content

Since the observations above in 2012, we’ve seen visual content evolve faster than we’d imagined. Micro content, including short form video via Vine and Instagram, Snapchat and the established might of Facebook and Twitter, all provide means of visual communication and social sharing to the consumer, and with that consumer behaviour change marketers are having to get involved, albeit pretty slowly, considering?

So here I repeat my statement: “brands that can leverage real-time, visual content will find themselves market leaders.” All I’m saying in addition to the above evidence is that the visual content needs to also be of the moment as well, real-time - that relevance requires visual content and it has a deadline. I’ll spare the repetition of Oreo’s 2013 ‘dunk in the dark’ masterclass, and link here if that’s new to you. If it is, where have you been for a year!?

So what should brands do?

Glad you asked, because that’s what we’ve been discussing this week, and I’d like to share our thoughts and hear your reactions:

  1. Mobile audience. I know, again, boring, mobile matters. Yet it bears repeating, your customer or consumer is on the end of a mobile, most likely glued to it. They can create and consume content on the fly. Imagine where we’ll be as computing power increases, and Gen-Y moves into the workforce. Right now, strategic planning for most of us must but content + mobile right at its centre.
  2. Talent and process. You’re going to need lots of this, whether in-house and/or agency. Creating quality visual content is a fundamental way to earn a disproportionate share of consumer attention. That Oreo case study happened because talent and process combined under open leadership with a real-time mindset. They sought to be relevant. It’s unlikely that campaign led thinking from the 1960’s will serve us at all from here on, and nor will “hiring a journalist” either.
  3. Visual imagery and high production values. Average content, visual or otherwise, won’t cut it. Your consumer is already looking at better stuff than most brands are creating. A 10 year old can film and edit video on a smart-phone, so what does that tell you about where the bar is? No, it’s higher than that.
  4. Build your brand a platform. With consumers spread across a range of websites and channels, your brand platform (the combination of your owned and earned media) needs to be broad, to have consistency and quality, in order to be relevant. You’re going to have to ‘show up’ in more places, on more days, with relevant content.
  5. Real-time conversation. It’s tempting to think that, with uncapped budget, you could ‘blast’ the market with your amazing video. Not really. It’s not practical or affordable, and nor is it relevant. We know social media is two-way, this requires you create content that serves at the right time, on the right outpost, and that’s ‘of the moment’. Being customer-led is no longer the option it may once have appeared to be.
  6. Micro-content. High quality short form content is now the new standard for savvy brands. Easy to consume, a pleasure to look at it, and fleetingly relevant - about as good as you can hope in social? But build a process to make that possible everyday. Imagine the power of that? It’s good enough for Coke.
  7. Content strategy. I think this is the key to making it work, otherwise there’s just too much to think about, and too much budget to waste. For efficiency of scale and consistency of message, content must be well equipped to travel across devices, platforms, formats, and media. Developing a content strategy that is made of modular content. When images, headlines, body copy, charts, photos and graphs can be assembled and reassembled to serve different functions on a variety of platforms and channels (e.g. swapping out elements to create appropriate messaging for a web site, Facebook and Twitter, as well as Instagram, Vine and YouTube). Brands and messages will have the consistency and resonance required, to rise above a the noise and stand out consistently.
  8. Commercial sanity. It’s important to test new types of content across your owned and shared channels. To understand what works for you and your audience. You can also work with your influencers to co-create content with them or get your new content in their hands to share with their networks. Measure what happens, improve - at least nothing changes in this respect.

What do you think, what would you challenge or add to on the list above?

By Danyl Bosomworth

Dan helped to co-found Smart Insights in 2010 and acted as Marketing Director until leaving in November 2014 to focus on his other role as Managing Director of First 10 Digital. His experience spans brand development and digital marketing, with roles both agency and client side for nearly 20 years. Creative, passionate and focussed, his goal is on commercial success whilst increasing brand equity through effective integration and remembering that marketing is about real people. Dan's interests and recent experience span digital strategy, social media, and eCRM. You can learn more about Dan's background here Linked In.

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