It’s no longer about text-only, but also visuals. In fact, over three billion photos are shared daily on social media with only an estimated 85% of these including text references to the brands included in the images. For this reason, marketers who aren’t analysing images are missing out on a huge source of insight into how customers are engaging with their brand.

The image generation

With over half of the world’s population active online, and over 3 billion people now using social media each month, it’s safe to say that technology, and social media, have become an intrinsic part of our day to day lives. With hundreds of dedicated apps for editing photos out there, there’s a clear shift towards pictures over text in today’s digital world. According to Gartner, “Even the text that accompanies those posts is getting shorter and shorter…It becomes increasingly important for companies to be able to understand what’s going on in those images.” However, analysing images en masse is still a relatively new concept to marketers.  

Marketers are largely adept at picking up keywords and topics from text-based social and online content. However, to truly understand what consumers are saying, it’s time to speak their language – through imagery. This is where technology can help. Through automated image analysis, marketers can now quickly and easily scan through vast pools of visual data to uncover new insights about their customers — their preferences, interests, habits and more.

A picture is worth a thousand words

From identifying and categorising brand logos to facial recognition and monitoring emotions and actions, technology can help businesses make sense of the billions of images that are posted online. Premium vodka brand Grey Goose provides a great example of the power of image analysis. When it tracked the conversation about its brands on Twitter using text mentions, the company found that its audience was almost three-quarters male.

However, image analysis revealed a hidden but important secondary audience. 22% of people talking about the brand were females who posted images including the Grey Goose Logo with no text reference to the brand. This group would have been unidentified and overlooked without image analysis, a clear example of the insight and engagement opportunities the technology opens up for marketers.

From information to insight

So now we know that a huge amount of important information can be gleaned from images, but with well over three billion photos shared daily on social media, manually analysing all of these would be impossible. Thankfully, technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) has evolved alongside image recognition, allowing brands to automate the analysis of the content contained within images the same way they would analyse text. Machine learning means that logos, objects, scenes and facial expressions and actions can now be identified and categorised to help marketers better understand how the audience is engaging with their product. This means that marketers can derive meaningful insight from information and use these findings to make informed business decisions and stay ahead of the competition.

Connecting the bridge to information

While social media conversations, whether image or text-based, provide huge volumes of consumer insight on virtually any topic, it is important for marketers to note that this data source alone does not tell the whole story. There is a risk that the views of general consumers or the social media savvy subset of a brands’ customer base does not accurately reflect sentiment amongst its wider audience.

With this in mind, smart marketers will look to aggregate different types of consumer insight to gain a more holistic view of what matters to their customers. Public online data sources, such as reviews and forums, make up a high percentage of online conversation. For example, almost two-thirds of conversations about credit cards take place on Reddit. Marketers ignore these sources at their peril!

Finally, businesses themselves hold a wealth of insight about their customers, gathered from surveys, call transcripts point of sale transactions and CRM data. This enterprise data can help marketers connect the dots between what customers say and how they behave. By weaving together all of these sources of insight, with image analysis as a critical part of the mix, marketers can build up a powerful and holistic view of their customers. This makes for more relevant, targeted and, ultimately, successful campaigns.