Should brands devote more attention to analysing visual social data?

16th Jun 2015

Social listening analytics tools may well be a bludgeoning marketing (a $17 billion one by 2019, according to some forecasts), but Forrester research suggests brands are too intent on focusing their social analysis on what consumers are saying, and are missing crucial insight around the images they are posting.

The report, You Are Missing Social Content authored by analyst, Allison Smith says visual social networks such as Instagram and Pinterest are now more engaged platforms than traditional networks, but that brands often fail to give data analysis the same gravitas for both types.

Indeed, Smith says that while brands have a made a good fist of analysing social media through spoken sentiment, they almost always have “undeveloped visual listening capabilities” because of the following reasons:

· They don’t have enough resources dedicated to social media strategy

“Vendors that sell visual marketing and analytics tools cite this as their first clue that a brand isn’t ready to venture into the visual social web; one vendor even called it a “red flag”,” says Smith. “It’s simple: When a brand takes social seriously, it proves it with full-time, dedicated headcount. Anything less and the brand cannot handle visual social content.

· They don’t think their consumers use visual networks

“Many brands or CI leaders think this, but only some are right,” Smith adds. “Visual networks are extremely popular with tweens, teens, and young adults, so brands that target a different demographic sometimes believe there is no value for them in visual networks. But we have found that when it comes to Instagram, marketers who lack quantity (of followers) make up for it in quality (of insights). Engagement rates on Instagram are 4.21%, versus just 0.07% on Facebook.

· They don’t cultivate a visual brand

“Sure, some industries don’t lend themselves to consumer “selfies” that show the product in context. But most brands, products, and experiences have something to learn from visual content. That same insurance company could, for example, pick up a “mention” in the form of a display ad that happens to appear in the background of another image.”

The report adds that there are many instances when an image is posted on a social network related to a brand and the user’s loyalty to a brand or product, but gives no mention of the brand itself and is never picked up by the social analytics team.

Unlike with spoken sentiment analysis, Smith states that the solution to picking up visual social insights should not be driven by technology in the first instance, but instead by immersing the brand more regularly in visual social networks, and encouraging employees to be ‘champions’ of posting visual brand content.

“All new initiatives need an advocate, visual social perhaps more than most,” she explains. “If your company is conservative and tends toward traditional marketing and analytics methodologies, you may face some doubters. Show them the results of your initial exploration, as well as some really successful visual brands, like Urban Outfitters and Nike, to help them see your vision.”

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