Digital is becoming increasingly visual for both brands communicating with their audience and for users sharing content amongst their social networks.
Going back to the early stages of user generated content, blogs were one of the original forms of sharing. However as users flocked towards facebook, posts became increasingly shorter until there was a gap in the social space for ‘microblogs’. Enter Twitter. With a concise 140 characters, information could be shared at an increasingly rapid rate.
Over the past year, social networking has continued with its ever changing transformative nature to the point that 140 characters now seems excessive. After all, a picture can say 1000 words. Pinterest’s and Instagram’s entry and impressive growth means we’re sharing less text and more imagery. August comScore data revealed US smartphone users visited Instagram more frequently and for longer periods of time than they visited Twitter, highlighting mobile’s importance for sharing our experiences.
Changes in social networking are impacting offline markets also. For example, the camera market in the UK is in strong decline as smartphone manufacturers have DSLR capabilities firmly within their sights. Seemingly, sales of digital cameras have declined as much as 29% since 2006, to a value of £598 million in 2011. Not surprising when you look at the likes of the iPhone 5. Its camera boasts 8 mega pixels and the ability to shoot 240 degree panoramic photos. Bitter rival Samsung’s Galaxy S III, focuses on its camera’s ability to take 8 continuous photos ensuring the users captures ever moment of the action.
The trend of injecting colour to our social updates seems likely to continue long into the future with the recent release of a preview of the impending relaunch of MySpace. Justin Timberlake has taken the once failing social network by the reigns and turned it into a far more eye-pleasing visual playground, which looks destined to succeed if the reality lives up to the preview.
There are some brands that haven’t been afraid to engage users across this proliferation of visual media. General Electric asked users to share images that inspired them on Instagram using the hashtag #GEinspiredME. This allowed them to collate a vast array of user generated content symbolizing what inspiration meant to them. GE now has over 138,000 followers on the social network and uses the account to showcase the inner workings of the manufacturing lines and people behind the brand.
It’s not just the biggest global brands harnessing these networks. Pretty Polly, recently reached out to engage with users asking them to share their dodgiest socks in return for discounts of 10-100%.
So what’s next?
The likely progression is from sharing images to sharing videos as visual representations allow us to better portray our identities. The majority of new devices, from mobile phones to smart TVs, entering the market are capable of shooting hi-def video at 1080p allowing us to better convey our environments. Or in the case of the recent Red Bull Stratos event, the lack of an environment for Felix Baumgartner, where over 8 million people watched the daredevil jump to Earth from the edge of space.
As we move towards 4G mobile networks the possibilities of what we share becomes even greater, it just might take some time before we’re comfortable seeing ourselves in HD.