The Rise and Growth of Visual Social Networking

I would like to start by quoting a popular Tweet by @instagram (not associated with the actual product) that has been retweeted over 2,100 times since it was first published on April 16: “Myspace Died, Facebook Is In Critical Condition, Twitter Is In The Waiting Room Chillin’ & #Instagram Is Being Born!!!”

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Well, this is obviously not true, especially since Facebook has already bought Instagram. However, the change of perception is noteworthy. The last couple of years have been paving the way for new “image or visual-based social networking”. The signs for this are all around us and we hope you haven’t missed them. However for those still catching up, read on.

A quick run through of important factors that point to rise of visual social network:

– Photo sharing, commenting on pictures have been popular features on Facebook since the time the networking site came into existence. A general scan of statistics shows that over 250 million pictures are daily shared on Facebook.
– Google Plus was introduced with an interface that supports high-resolution images.
– The rising popularity of infographics in the blogging world over the last year.
– Pinterest team started development in December 2009 and launched it beta version in March 2010. According to a report published by Shareacholic in January, Pinterest generates more referral traffic than Google Plus, LinkedIn and YouTube combined.
-In January 2012 comScore reported the site had 11.7 million unique users, making it the fastest site in history to break through the 10 million unique visitor mark
– Facebook introduced timeline for personal and business pages. This is a very intuitive and image-based interface.
– Recently, Facebook purchased Instagram, another image-based networking platform, in what is known to be one of the fastest and biggest payouts for a startup.

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Now, keeping in mind the somewhat drastic rise, a few questions come to mind. Is this a fad? What is the future of image-based networking?

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While most experts in digital and the social media sphere are raving about timeline and social networks such as Pinterest, there are also sources that have shown some amount of distrust.

Here is why I believe this emerging trend is not a fad.

  • The lazy brain theory: How many of us are addicted to social networks and still complain about information overload? There is only so much that our brain is going to process and images are making it simpler to pass as well as receive information. This is the same reason infographics are become so popular and why intuitive products such as iPhone and iPads have been so well received.
  • Pinning or posting a single picture is a lot quicker then typing a tweet or updating your status.
  • If you are in the merchandise business, it is more visually appealing. For example, if you are a fashion major, you can keep pinning pictures to the right category pin boards. If you are a food blogger, you can add images in your collection of pictures of dessert. This doesn’t involve much content writing, only a bit of organizing. This is especially useful if you are a small business and cannot afford social marketing firms.
  • For a while now marketers have been trying to solve the problem of how to capitalize on their fan base and convert them into buyers/users. This might be their answer. A rightly placed high-resolution image can inspire an instant purchase. For instance, this DIY iPhone cross stitch kit or this lace dress may generate instant impulsive purchase decision or these interiors may generate an instant query for the interior designer.
  • Marketers are already finding their way around Pinterest, while it has taken Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook a while to make their commercial pages available and get brands to capitalize on them.
  • Pinterest has not yet made any announcements for a separate business product. However, if you look for information on how to use the online pinboard, you will find a lot of articles and blogs on it already. A product that is easy to use for marketers is also easy to use for consumers.

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My examples/arguments are mostly written with Pinterest in mind, as we are yet to see what Facebook intends to do with Instagram. The initial growth might subside or slow down, but the visual social networking is here to stay.So, according to you will this trend continue? We would like to hear your opinion about it.

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