Are you Ready for the Visual Social Media Revolution?



There was a quiet revolution that was going on. It’s still creeping up on us slowly through a series of different apps and through a variety of social networks. We’re using it all the time, but we’re not consciously aware of how big this is all going to be.

We are now all merging onto the highway of visual social media.

Two Types Of Social Media – Which One do You Focus On?

There are now two classes of social media in my mind. There is text based social media, and then there is visual social media. Both complement each other, yet both are distinct in many ways.

The trouble is that many people are still only catching up to text based social media. Baby boomers are learning to create blogs, they’re learning to use Twitter, and starting to grasp the concept of text based social media.

But that’s the problem. We’re moving past that already and moving into the age of visual creation.

Think About Where You Were Five Years Ago

Think about where you were five years ago when it came to social media marketing. Where was your business on Facebook, or Twitter? Did you jump on early enough to take advantage?

I would imagine that your business would be so much different if you had been part of that revolution early on.

But the cold harsh reality is that people don’t want to read as much. Even though, ironically, I’m going to write a long post about it.

Instead people are choosing to communicate in visually dynamic ways. And this visual style of communication continues to grow and dominate the social media landscape.

Most traditionally published books focus heavy on texts but there is a slow and steady growth in business books that use visuals to explain concepts. A good example is the Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, which doesn’t rely on just text to explain business processes and systems, it explains it in a visual manner.

Business Model Generator

The Problems With Text Based Social Media

The problem with text based social media is that it can only go so far.

One hundred and forty characters to share thoughts on Twitter seems so limiting. Or having text messages that get misinterpreted because the reader reads it the wrong way can be incredibly frustrating. We’ve all had that happen to us at least once.

Instead we’re looking towards a future that is using visuals and pictures, that explain how we feel at a moment and then watch those visual messages disappear within seconds.

Snapchat, a mobile app that allows people to send photos and videos that disappear after being viewed, has over 50 million users according to Forbes. The mobile app is especially popular among teens, and those in high school. When I did a talk in front of 35 people about Pinterest, I asked how many people had heard of Snapchat, and only two raised their hands.

But the future isn’t just in selfies, and sharing videos of ourselves. Mobile chat app Line which has been incredibly popular in Asia, and has over 360 million global registered users as of November 2013, and they’re looking to reach 500 million by the end of 2014.

While Line offers free text messages, what makes this mobile app popular and profitable are their virtual stickers. Cartoon characters that can be used to express an emotion.


For me, I didn’t understand the appeal of using Line, until my girlfriend insisted that I download it and communicate with her using the app. I have to admit, sending virtual stickers is much more fun than sending regular ol’ text messages.

If you think the idea of sending virtual stickers is rather silly, or doesn’t seem appealing, you may be interested to know that at the time of this writing, virtual stickers that are about the movie Frozen which costs a $1.99 to download, is the top seller for its in store app. And at number three, which really surprised me, is for Star Wars Imperial.

Do You Know Where the Future of Social Media is Going?

Seriously ask yourself where you believe the future of social media is going? Will it continue to be text based, or will we move into visual digital story telling?

Will we move towards a society that relies less on words, and more on pictures to explain everything?

In the last 4 years Pinterest has risen to have more than 70 million global users. Those numbers were reported back in July of 2013. A year has almost passed, so I wouldn’t be surprised that they are at 77 million users, and that’s an extremely conservative estimate.

Facebook was smart to buy Instagram, and for them it was worth every single dime. Now they’re at 200 million mobile users, creeping up on the likes of Twitter. Instagram has become vital for many fashion retailers in engaging their fans.

A brand like Starbucks that has over 2 million followers has done an amazing job in using Instagram to share amazing photos.

Very few, if any successful networks that have come out of the last five years have not been related to pictures, yes, social sites like Medium, which focuses mostly on text blogging, may be bucking the trend, but it’s definitely not getting the traction that visual social networks like Pinterest, or Snapchat are getting.

Social Shopping is About Visual Media

If you think that visual media has to be huge to be successful, I suggest you take a look at visual social shopping sites like Wanelo and Polyvore. These social shopping sites are encouraging people to share the clothes they like.


What makes Polyvore extremely interesting is that it allows for users to make collages. While the site focuses mainly on décor and clothes, it would be interesting to test out whether a mancave version would work out.

People are spending money on Polyvore. According to Rich Relevance, Polyvore users that went to a shopping site had an average order value of $383. Pinterest was a far second at $199.

Shopify did a study that looked at the average order values that came from social networks. And what may surprise you is that the top three average order values came from visual social networks. Polyvore came in first, Instagram second, and Pinterest third, with average order values of $66.75, $65.00, and $58.95 respectively.

Traditional Social Media is Changing

Traditional social media networks have also changed so much, Twitter understands the power of visuals. With preview of pictures on Twitter, they’re clearer and bigger, and receive more retweets. Twitter released a new feature that allowed users to upload multiple photos, and show off four photos at once.

This has lead to some creative visual tweets. Here’s one that was created by General Electric.

It’s not just the 140 character social network, it’s also Facebook. Facebook made an update to their design, and visuals that lead to news articles making a big splash and covering more of the Facebook newsfeeds on desktops.

As more and more people are using mobile, the use of clear visuals is even more important. It was because of cell phones that many designs of websites have moved to having big texts and clear visual divides.People need to see things clearly in order to be able to digest information on a smaller screen.

While our brains may not be able to process all the visuals that are going around us, it is processing a lot of visual information very quickly. Every time it sees a word, it’s processing that particular word, every time it sees a picture it’s able to process not just that word but what’s associated with it.

Think About How Your Brain Works

Think about your brain for a second. Think about the last time you met someone and forgot their name. It could have been a simple name like Denise. Yet the moment we associate a picture with the name, Denise may be remembered as a picture with D + Anise ( a type of food). This way it helps you remember the person’s name.

We may grow easily tired of reading one thousand words. I’m sure many of you are getting a bit of an eyesore reading this article right now. But chances are, if I showed you one thousand beautiful pictures your eyes wouldn’t be tired and your brain would be stimulated.

As a Pinterest marketer, it’s going to be hard to say whether Pinterest is going to be around for another ten years, after all they control the visual social network and if one thing that history has taught us is that users on social media are extremely fickle, and increasingly fragmented. They may enjoy Friendster or MySpace for a few years, and then they may enjoy Facebook.

But here’s the new social media reality, if you’re not educating yourself about creating engaging visual content, or creating pictures that get people to click back to your website then you’re going to be losing out in about five years.

Simply because you’re giving your competitors that advantage. You’ll be helping out your competitors. Let’s be brutally honest. Engaging pictures just won’t go away. People are now more demanding for GREAT visual content.

Just like the art of writing a good headline has been a staple since the days that story telling started.

I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to miss out on the new wave of social content. I don’t want you to be one of those people that missed the boat the way you may have missed the boat with Facebook, instead I encourage you to ante up and learn how to create better visual social media content, because it may not seem like it does today, but I a guarantee you it will make a difference in the future.

Canva Welcomes Chief Evangelist

On a last note, Canva, an Australian startup, which allows people to create amazing visual templates, announced that Guy Kawasaki was their Chief Evangelist, and the wonderful and positive Peg Fitzpatrick will be leading Canva with their social media strategy. If power names like them are backing up Canva, maybe the future is already here.

Avatar photo

Written by Vincent NG

I’m a social media marketer, particularly for Pinterest, It all started back in 2010 when Pinterest was in beta. It was the fastest independent website to get 10 million unique visitors in the U.S. This really struck a chord with me, and it was then that I knew that Pinterest was going to be a powerhouse in the world of digital and social media marketing.