Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

How to be visually social

Published in Mar-Apr 2015

How brands can use visual social networks to optimal benefit.

Text is out. Visuals are in. Or so go the social media network predictions of 2015 and beyond. The rise and massive popularity of image and video-friendly social networks such as Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and Vine are leading this trend and marketing spend will inevitably go where customers are going.

It’s no wonder that images are more popular than text when you consider how image-based social networks, such as Pinterest, are seen as harbingers of positivity, while text-based networks such as Twitter are often seen as instigators of negativity. Think about this for a second. When you want to find a cool product, you go to Pinterest. When you want to rant against a company, you use Twitter.

As attention spans become shorter, images convey more and faster. The fact is that visual-intensive networks convey more information at a glance: they often house inspirational/aspirational content; are short and digestible and therefore easy to consume; are highly shareable, offering increased potential for virality; are perfect to reach millennials; lend themselves to creative digital storytelling and they allow brands to compete in a non-saturated channel.

Here is what you need to know to get your brand instagramming or pinteresting like a pro.


The $35-billion photo-sharing company that was famously bought by Facebook. Every day 75 million people log on to their Instagram accounts to share and like photos. Instagram users comprise 49% women and 51% men. Teens and young adults make up the largest segment using Instagram at 41%.

How should your brand use Instagram?

1) Share branded content. Unabashedly showcase your brand’s products and services. Instagram is a fun app, so don’t get serious or boring on it. Mix up your marketing messages with fun, quirky and business-y images that combine to show a lighter side of your company.

2) Tell a story. Share a piece of your brand’s journey daily. An employee’s birthday celebration. A new product design being sketched. An office adventure taking place. Share whatever it is that hallmarks your brand and culture and tells your story.

3) Inspire or aspire. Use quotes and aspirational content to inspire followers. No matter what business you are in, you can put out positive feel-good content. Are you a restaurant? Inspire folks to eat better. Fashion house? Inspire folks to dress with style. A power company? Inspire people to conserve electricity. The limit is your imagination.

4) Show what is happening behind the scenes: Are you exhibiting at a trade show? Holding an office party? Working late into the night? Solving customer problems? Show your followers what goes on behind the scenes of the public image they see, so that they feel a deeper connection to your brand.

5) Run hashtagged contests: Hashtags on Instagram are typically how most people will find your brand. Join popular hashtags like #tbt (Throwback Thursday) to initially let people know you are on Instagram. Then run a hashtagged contest like Gulabo did with their #GoGulabo campaign to get people excited.

Visual-intensive networks convey more information at a glance: they often house inspirational/ aspirational content; are short and therefore easy to consume; are perfect to reach millennials; and they allow brands to compete in a non-saturated channel.


Pinterest is a virtual pinboard or bookmarking site for images and videos, founded in 2010. Pinterest has 70 million active users. 80% of Pinterest’s consumers are women. 80% of Pinterest users are in the 25-44 age bracket. The average Pinterest user spends 14.2 minutes per visit on the site and 52% use Pinterest to make purchase decisions in-store. Each pin generates an average of two website visits and six page views.

How should your brand use Pinterest?

The most popular categories on Pinterest are: Food & Drink, DIY & Crafts, Home Décor, Fashion, Travel, Technology, Fitness, Humour, and Inspirational Quotes.

1) Create multiple boards according to customer segments. Multiple boards cater to a diverse range of customers, with each board reflecting a different demographic. Whole Foods has boards titled Who Wants Dinner, Eat Your Veggies, Sweet Tooth, etc. You get the idea? Boards help keep images organised and make it easier for customers to search and find collections based on the board’s keywords.

2) Use rich pins. Rich pins provide more detailed background information and metadata on the image. For example, rich product pins link back to your site and keep pricing information updated. Remember, people want to see prices on Pinterest when making impulse buys, so do display prices because otherwise you will lose out on sales. Other types of rich pins include article pins (containing headline, author, etc.), recipe pins (ingredients, cooking time, etc.), movie pins (ratings, cast, etc.), and place pins (address, phone, map, etc.).

3) Don’t dump pins all at once. Pinterest is not like Facebook or Twitter where data disappears from news feeds and needs to be constantly updated to remain in view. Pins are cyclical in nature – meaning that pins will stay in view from a few days to a few weeks. So pin a few images daily and stay consistent to keep it fresh.

4) Use Pinterest for SEO. To optimise each image and make it easier to find in a search engine do the following: include links to your website, add descriptions to all your images, use hashtags, name your boards descriptively, complete your about section, use descriptive file names and image alt tags for all your pins.


Snapchat is the app that founded on diminishing attention spans and is a place where you can send photos and short videos and then set a time limit for them to disappear forever. Snapchat has over 100 million active users, who are primarily aged 13-24.

How should your brand use Snapchat?

1) Use ‘Our Stories’. Snapchat’s Our Stories feature consist of a collaborative timeline that allows users to add images to a specific story, such as an event or a product unveiling. Stories are public for 24 hours and can be viewed multiple times within that duration. This is one of Snapchat’s most used features for brands.

2) Share content that evokes feelings versus marketing messages. As the messages disappear soon, aim to create images and videos whose emotional impact lives on in the memory of recipients. This is one instance where not only does a picture speak a thousand words, it also lives in the memory a thousand times longer.

3) Send exclusive coupons and other stuff with an expiry date. Snapchat is a great way to leverage the power of urgency in marketing. Do you have a great sale on for one day only? Do you have a super deal that expires soon? If so, Snapchat could be a unique way to promote it. Especially since it will expire soon anyway, brands don’t feel like they are losing out.

4) Ask fans to take screenshots! If someone takes a screenshot of your snap, you will be notified. Why not use this feature to your benefit? Ask fans to screenshot your image and share on other social networks such as Facebook or Twitter to feel like they are doing something a little, errr, naughty.


With the tagline “a lot can happen in six seconds”, Twitter’s video app, Vine positions itself as the go-to short video loop application. It is available for both iOS and Android currently. All vines reside on and link to a user’s Twitter account. Vine has 40 million users who watch 100 million Vine videos every month. 12 million vines are uploaded to Twitter daily.

How should your brand use Vine?

1) Showcase your products being used. Got some cool makeup? Show how to apply it in six seconds. Got a hardware tool? Show how to fix up something with it in six seconds. Six seconds are great for showing quick tips and products in use – fast, easy, cheap and super-effective!

2) Make teasers. Vine videos are absolutely great for coming soon campaigns or launches where you want to build hype.

3) Event coverage. Want to show your audience a quick feel into what it’s like at this exclusive party or premier or tradeshow or conference? Vine is the way to go. Perhaps a quick video showing your CEO up on stage receiving that award for the best Vine video.

4) Crowd-sourced videos. Do you have a list of winners of your recent campaign that you want to announce in a unique way? Why not take their photo and use that to make a simple animated loop, aka a vine?

5) Unboxing videos. These are a perennial favourite for brands and their marketing agencies as they build anticipation and allow people to see what they can expect in a pre-packaged product.

All right, so there we have it.

A quick look at some ways marketers can differentiate their brands by using some of the cool new apps on the block. It’s no coincidence that these apps are all image, or video-focused, as visual content is currently reigning supreme. And they all provide common benefits for marketers; they capture the attention of the millennials and differentiate your brand by being on a platform that is exploding but not yet saturated. Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

Salma Jafri is founder and CEO,