Boost your social strategy with our favorite visual social media tools

• 2012-12-17 Dec 17th, 2012

Ever since Facebook made Timeline for Pages mandatory, we’ve all noticed the increasing importance of using images for social media storytelling. It’s no wonder that visual tools like Instagram and Pinterest are getting more and more successful each day. We think of photo sharing as a very powerful viral behavior – people are more compelled to say something through an image than craft a witty status. And marketing-wise, developing a strategy that deploys creative channels will help you show a different side of you to your network of fans. Plus, visual social media tools are fun and easy to use!

Here’s a list of our favorite visual social media tools and how brands can use them to get successful results:

1. Pinterest

I’ve been a fan of Pinterest ever since it shook up the social network market, and it has proven time and again to be very reliable as a branding tool. Pinterest has also become a major sales driver over the past months, topping Facebook in the number of online purchases it triggered. Its quirky visual appeal has led many others to adopt a more clutter-free way of showcasing their information: even eBay and The New York Times have taken the pinboard approach. The fashion brand Asos, for example, is creatively using Pinterest’s pinning feature by asking users to unscramble online puzzles.

In a digital world of people who define themselves not by their network of friends and acquaintances, but by their interests and passions, here’s how Panasonic leveraged the power of visual content. They created a ‘Pin it to win it’ contest that reached 10,000 entries, and they didn’t even use their own Pinterest Brand Page. Instead, they gave one of their products as a prize to be offered by a media publisher for women. This is no different than a media partnership with a magazine, only this time it was carried out in the digital, social media world.

The action that was required to enter the contest (choosing the best picture of the year and posting it online) is perfectly integrated with the specific channel they used. This way, you don’t have to ask users to mail a coupon or make a phone call. They’re already on Pinterest, doing what they love most – pinning – and you’re asking them to submit a photo that’s special for them, without having to leave their preferred online space. It’s a great example of targeting the right demographic in their own environment.

2. Instagram

When it comes to visual tools, we can’t leave Instagram out. Another whiz-kid of the visual age, this platform is the go-to place for people and brands to share beautiful photos on the go. For a nice example of how this network can spice up your social media strategy, take a look at how one restaurant built up the buzz around its brand by creating a virtual menu with the help of its customers. While highlighting their best products, they also empowered clients to have an impact on their favorite restaurant’s brand image. They correctly identified a typical behavior of their core target (to show off great meals and also, to review the places they visit) and used it to benefit both parties.

You might think that tools like Instagram are more suitable for businesses with an obvious visual component, like fashion brands or restaurants, but here’s a great way Chobani uses Instagram to create conversations around their yogurt and the way people use it in their daily lives. (Yes, it’s still food, but how many different ways can you photograph one single product and still be funny and interesting?)

3. Tumblr

Before Pinterest and Instagram even came into the picture, Tumblr, “the creative people’s platform”, was already making waves. To this day, Tumblr is still one of the most popular social networks in the world. With over 170 million monthly visitors worldwide, the simple, easy-to-use visual platform is definitely here to stay. Posts go viral in no time, and this particular platform helped establish the GIF as “our generation’s most recognizable form of digital media.”

Many publishers (like NPR and Quartz) are using Tumblr to complement their content on other media outlets. Telling your story on various platforms enhances the chances of getting people’s attention in a space they feel comfortable with. Let them choose where they want to follow your updates. Look at how MTV did this with this year’s Movie Awards: Tumblr was used for spreading important moments of the night as animated pictures, Facebook was used to spark discussions about the winners and Twitter became the tool for gathering real-time votes.

4. Google Hangout

The visual isn’t just about pictures anymore. The new kid on the block when it comes to video content is Google Hangout, which not only allows up to 9 people to chat simultaneously, but also lets companies broadcast live talks, Webinars and even customer service sessions. Take a look at how NYT (yes, them again) is using this feature to cover breaking news and initiate discussions on health care, foreign policy and many other important topics with readers around the world.

Hangout on Air is a great tool to use when you have a large viewership and a lot of content producers whose ideas you can share, but what do you do when you’re not a big content producer? Cadbury used the same video feature to host online meetings for chocolate lovers, while the White House talked to people about refinancing options for their mortgages.

These are just a few ideas to make you think of innovative ways to present your company to the world, but we’d love to hear other tips on using visual content. There are a lot of platforms we can use to give a spin to our brand’s online presence – not all of us are able to create a visual tool of our own: for example, Ikea created Shared Space for their customers, allowing them to collect ideas for their home and, moreover, to showcase their creativity to other members of the network. It’s like having a home-made Pinterest!

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