So much more than places for coffee lovers and wedding planners these two picture-led platforms often fly under the radar. Try them. Do. Here's a few ideas how.
Remember the days when we used to laboriously take photographs on our disposable cameras, take them to the shop to develop, wait a few days, go back to collect them, sigh because half your auntie’s head has been cut off, put them in a box and never look at them again?
Now, with superior smartphone cameras and the ability to upload your images straight on to your chosen platform, there is an endless world of possibilities. I love sharing images on my personal social networking sites, and there are also countless opportunities for businesses to utilise this technology in their marketing plans to transform customer and stakeholder engagement.
Why are images so effective? Well, if I told you I ate a burger last night, you probably wouldn’t be particularly interested (while silently wishing that I’d talk about something else other than food). However, if I showed you a photo of the burger I ate last night, I’d get more of a reaction. If I tell you I’ve got a new dog, you’ll be more interested in seeing photos than hearing my ramblings. A photograph can transport you to a place or experience and helps you to identify with the topic discussed. I often look through my Florida photos when I need cheering up… it wouldn’t be quite the same if I sat down and read some enthralling text about Walt Disney World. It might be a cliché, but a photograph really is worth a thousand words.
My favourite visual social media sites are Pinterest and Instagram. Although Pinterest is a foodie, interior designer and wedding planner’s dream, it’s also useful for a multitude of different fields. Your Pinterest profile is made up of different ‘boards’, and each board has a topic chosen by you. You then ‘pin’ images to your boards, which link back to the website they’re hosted on. Wouldn’t it be useful if your local council used Pinterest to update you on schemes in your area? They could have a board for each village, or a board for each school with details on performances, parents’ evening and so on. And perhaps charities could use Pinterest to promote their past, present and future fundraising initiatives. Pinterest showcases your images and infographics as well as promoting your website, and you can arrange everything into categorised boards where people can quickly find out what they need to. Your business will grow when people ‘like’ and ‘re pin’ your images, and you’ll soon see a rewarding return on investment.
Instagram is another obsession of mine… a simple concept, but totally addictive. Take a photo, make it look pretty, add relevant hashtags, upload. Instagram has fantastic potential for businesses and the retail sector in particular has embraced these opportunities. Your business could run a monthly competition which involves asking customers to photograph themselves using one of your products or using one of your community hubs. Customers then upload this to Instagram, using a particular hashtag, and you’ll choose the best monthly photograph and offer a small prize. Or you could simply use Instagram to showcase a day in the office, to show off your latest development or to share snapshots from your events. Your most avid followers will ‘regram’ your photographs, building your followers and creating a buzz. Oh, and contrary to popular belief, it is not obligatory to post photos of your Starbucks takeaway coffee on Instagram every morning.
Photographs are the quickest, most visual and most effective way to communicate and they’ll get people talking about your brand. It only takes ten seconds to let customers know about your latest initiative, and a further two seconds for them to share with their networks. Why not give Pinterest and Instagram a try to see how they can revolutionise your customer and stakeholder engagement strategies? I promise you’ll soon be as addicted as I am!
Bethan Davies is Communications Officer at Community Housing Cymru Group.