While the explosion of data and information has been a topic of considerable interest in recent years, another phenomenon has received comparably less attention: The explosion of visual content. To put this growth in perspective, it is estimated that 3.8 trillion photos were taken in all of human history until mid-2011, but 1 trillion photos were taken in 2015 alone. And that’s without counting the number of people making, viewing, or sharing videos [YouTube alone boasts over a billion users worldwide], Vines [40 million users], and gifs.
The drivers of this explosion are not that different from the sources of abundance of other types of data. The rapid acceptance of smartphones and tablets (which enable users to both create and consume visual content), widespread availability of high-speed wireless networks, decreased cost of data for high-definition uploads, as well as the emergence of focused visual social networks naturally favors an expansion of video content. The old saying claims that a picture is worth a thousand words, but video ups the ante. According to Forrester Research, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.
Many of the successful recent entrants into the social media space, such as Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine, Periscope, and Meerkat, emphasize visual media. Platforms that did not originate as chiefly visual — Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter — are transitioning focus to emphasize the prominence and importance of visual content. Facebook now claims to be the largest video-sharing site in the world.
Brands are also expanding visual assets on these platforms. Nearly 60% of all digital impressions are now driven by images. Unsurprisingly, 70% of marketers are planning to increase their use of original visual assets this year, meaning these brands are not just repurposing images and video, but creating new visual content. Those who do emphasize visual content are rewarded with measurable impact on ROI and engagement metrics. Posts with visuals receive 94% more page visits and engagements than those without and elicit twice as many comments on average. Sixty-seven percent of consumers consider clear, detailed images to carry more weight than product information or customer ratings.
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