What’s with all the Internet Eye Candy?

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We obsess over sites like Tumblr, Fab.com and Pinterest. But why? And why you, a business owner, should pay close attention.

You’ve probably heard the chatter about the newest internet craze: Pinterest. Similar to other social networks like Tumblr, Fab.com and Instagr.am, users can share images from around the web that embody their interests and goals; a form of self expression. Some people have coined this movement as “social content curation”, which is supposedly the next big thing on the internet.   

Why do these sites become so visceral? Gigagom explains that sites like Pinterest provide a way for us to create a representation of who we are on the internet, a collage of our interests and aspirations. But what’s more important to the success of these sites is how we respond to those images. To understand this we have to first look into how we interact with the internet:

  1. We can only experience the internet using sight and sound; the fastest way to trigger an emotional response is to create a unique blend between the two. A great example is a viral YouTube video or Internet meme. Why do these pieces become so widely popular? They contain the two elements that prompt us to push the “like” button impulsively: visuals and sound. These basic factors affect emotions and attitudes, leading to more responses.
  2. Web users have a short attention span. And given that social media users are constantly bombarded with a feed of friend and news activity we have even less room for concentration. If a piece of content isn’t interesting in the first few seconds, we’ll likely move on to the next piece of content. Images create an instant response. Just check out these animal photos and tell me you don’t have a knee-jerk reflex to laugh or cry.
  3. Did you know that 93% of communication is nonverbal? Our brain deciphers images simultaneously, while text is decoded sequentially, one word at a time. This is why we’re able to process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Graphics expedite and increase our level of communication. They increase comprehension, recollection, and retention.

So its no surprise why image sharing or ‘social content curation’ is the new internet sensation. But why should you care? Well if you’re a business, it’s important to know how people use your site and where the web is going. Knowing that your customers respond quickly and more emotionally to images is extremely important if you’re trying to market a product or service.

NPR does a great job of this. They leverage Tumblr to engage readers with an enticing image which leads them into the main the article. Their Tumblr strategy gives users a different way to interact with their content rather than simply posting articles on a traditional news site.

So how do you apply this knowledge to your business and online marketing plan?

  1. Create an engaging and immersive experience. Consider how your average blog post or website could be heightened by adding an alluring photo.  Knowing that photography will elicit a quick emotional response, your website, blog posts and other social media posts should be accompanied by a photo when possible.
  2. It’s a little known fact that links are most frequently posted on social networks but have the lowest interaction rate compared to other types of content.  Photos, on the other hand, are posted less often and have the highest interaction rate. This is no coincidence. Pictures draw users in visually, are easily digestible and can elicit an emotional response quickly.  To increase your interaction levels, invite users to read your content with an attractive photo and share it across various social channels.
  3. If you’re selling a tangible product (like shoes), it’s essential to support the purchase at all points throughout the user’s experience. Consumers are restricted to using only two senses when purchasing online, whereas in a physical store, can rely on all five to help with the decision.  Give your users motive to make the purchase by providing rich product photos. This will give your customers a chance to connect in a deeper way resulting in more confidence to buy your product.
  4. Do you have very complex information or statistics regarding your service or product? Rather than laying out this data in the traditional manner, consider using an Infographic. Since online users have very little time to spend analyzing data, it’s imperative to include supporting images to make your points clear. Add color and illustrations that aid in scanning your content.  Doing this will give you more interactions and shares.

We have very little time and attention to spare, so it’s only logical that websites would evolve to be easily digestible. What better way to do this than to serve up images rather than large chunks of text? It’s the reason why Pinterest is in demand. And there’s more to come; this trend will continue in the future since other businesses are following suit. Do you think companies (like NPR) are successful with their image strategy? What other ways could a business leverage our emotional response to images?

*Please, please, please! Keep in mind that relevant, quality content targeted towards your audience wins every time. A top-notch image strategy will create the initial appeal but won’t keep them coming back for more.

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Sheena Rajan Avatar

Author: Sheena Rajan

I'm just a tiny project manager in the BIG world of business; with a concentration in the digital space. I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Google+ and/or LinkedIn and check out my resume and portfolio.

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