Monday, 30 December 2013

Image'ing all the people

Social media marketing is becoming an ever more visual creature. While the likes of Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat provide a terrific outlet for agencies to create unique and imaginative content, consumers are also hard at work on their behalf, sometimes without even knowing it. 

Images uploaded to social media sites can declare a person's interest in a product, similar to the way likes, tweets and comments can. Snapping selfies with your favourite brand of ginger biscuits isn't just providing a visual treat for your admirers, it's supplying a business with a nice free endorsement. What if the PR professionals could measure and analyse visual data, such as who is discussing what picture of which brand, as effectively as they can measure text?

Enter Curalate, the "only marketing and analytics suite for Pinterest and Instagram." Like other analytics tools, Curalate allows users to discover, track and measure engagement with their products and services. The twist here is that instead of crawling through URLs, keywords and hashtags, Curalate can automatically discover which people are posting about a product, even where the product is not explicitly mentioned.

Sure, there are other analytics tools for Pinterest, but Curalate is touting an unparalleled "pixel level" of visual identification (i.e. it can spot a "pin" in a haystack) and has gone to great lengths to ensure interaction with consumers is as intuitive as possible. 

Marketing agencies currently making use of Instagram and Pinterest are likely to be familiar with the almighty power of consumer engagement. Thankfully, the Curalate dashboard allows companies to dive straight into their fans' conversations and start interacting. This is a business win/win: The punter receives a lovely, personalised message from their favourite T-shirt designer, and their friends can see how cool and hip Hertfordshire Skull Apparel Ltd really are! (Though, if they existed, appearing "cool and hip" might be a big ask!) 

The PR and marketing implications of this tool are huge. Social media "scientist" Dan Zarrella argues that Facebook photos create more comments, likes and shares, than videos, links and text do. Combine this with Shareaholic's blog that states Pinterest "outpaced Google Plus, LinkedIn and YouTube combined" for share of referral traffic for businesses in February, (and beat Twitter in a straight head to head) and it seems that understanding the target market in this visual sphere will become invaluable to marketing agencies in the future.

The power of the written word is waning. A mere declaration of fondness is incomparable to the marketing effectiveness that a humble smartphone shot can hold. Is the writing on the wall for, er... writing?

Probably not. But shared images are becoming valuable currency, and Curalate can count what is being spent. And, if nothing else, it's providing businesses with yet another way to "cu-relate" to their consumers.