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November 7, 2013

Instagram’s Big Win Proves Visual PR Matters—Five Reasons to Get Your Visual Web Efforts Up to Speed Now

By Brian Pittman

Instagram’s success is a wake-up call to PR pros. According to a new Simply Measured study, “71 percent of the world’s largest brands have adopted Instagram, which now rivals the brand adoption of Google+ and Pinterest, making it the fastest growing social network worldwide,” reports Inside Facebook.

What’s driving this? The rise of the visual web and Instagram’s recent 15-second video offering—coupled with the fact that Instagram is tailor made for mobile (i.e., just shoot and share from a smartphone). Put simply, photos and video epitomize mobile-friendly content. That why over 90% of all Internet traffic and 50% of mobile wireless traffic is now video.

The upshot: If you’re not yet integrating visuals them into your mobile PR and marketing plan, you’re quickly falling behind the curve and missing opportunities to reach wider audiences. Read on for insight from recent PR University panelists—including Sarah Skerik, VP, Social Media, PR Newswire/MultiVu and Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social and Evolving Media, Business Wire—into why visuals matter. This should help overcome pushback from management about allocating budget to visuals:

1. Visuals matter—our brains love them. Photos and video drive engagement for a variety of reasons, said Ehrlich during a recent PR University webinar. “Visuals work because humans learn in one of three ways,” she shared:

  • Reading
  • Doing
  • Watching

“Smartphones certainly impact multimedia creation/sharing,” added Ehrlich. What’s more, “that’s why billions of photos and videos are shared daily.” (For more on visual learning, check out this Cisco PDF “Multimodal Learning through Media: What the Research Says.”)

2. Visuals matter—online influencers love them. Skerik added that today’s online influencers (i.e., bloggers and others you pitch) are constantly looking for visuals—and you earn a leg up on coverage if you can provide them in formats they can plug-and-play. It’s all about the “care and feeding of digital influencers,” she said. She offered this quick recap of what makes digital influencers tick:

  • Multimedia components are their favorite treat (i.e., pics, videos, infographics).
  • “They require regular doses of good information to survive. 
  • Exclusives make them purr.
  • “They thrive on attention (e.g., re-tweets, likes, shares; in-person opportunities).”

3. Visuals matter—mainstream media outlets love them. Bloggers aren’t the only ones hungry for visuals, Skerik continued. Mainstream media is also on the prowl for photos and video to accompany stories. In fact, many newsrooms now require mandatory iPhone photography and video training—as the following Chicago-Sun Times memo pulled from Facebook illustrates:

4. Visuals matter—search engines love them. “Aside from people, digital influencers and mainstream media, search engines and social media also like visual content,” Skerik said. In particular, search algorithms increasingly value visuals.

Tim Peters, who blogs at Biznology, recently put it this way in his “Why a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Clicks” post: “When Google starts to put its money—and its search engine results pages—behind something, you know it’s a trend worth watching. What Google seems to have learned is that consumers click on items with images more frequently than those without.” He referenced these two recent Google announcements in support:

  • “The search giant just introduced Local Carousel, including a stream of images to the top of local search results—above the first paid listing and the first organic result, pushing additional organic results well below the fold,” wrote Peters.
  • “AdWords has launched an AdWords Images Extension beta, including images as part of advertisers’ paid listings.”

5. Visuals matter—press releases love them. Finally, press releases that include multimedia—photos, videos, infographics and downloadable files—see nearly ten times the views than traditional, text-only releases, according to PR Newswire research:

Vanderbilt University’s Melanie Moran agrees that visuals drive press release reach and engagement. In a recent webinar, she added this additional perspective and tip:“Make the different components of your news release ‘portable’ so they can stand on their own. Examples include  video, photography, infographics and pull quotes,” she said. Here’s a recent example:


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