The future of marketing is visual.
At least that's what about 3,000 marketers told online social media magazine Social Media Examiner in this year's Social Media Marketing Industry Report.
According to the report, marketers value social media marketing—especially visual marketing—more highly than ever before.
With 92% of marketers indicating that social media is an increasingly essential tool, there is also a growing trend towards using (or planning to use) visual content on more traditional platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, there has been an uptake in marketers using visually based platforms such as Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.
Marketers are now looking to create original visuals and videos to engage audiences, and there’s no question that marketers need to think about shifting their content strategy that way.
If you don't want to take my word for it, here are six findings from the report to back this assertion up:
One of the data points that quite surprised me was that marketers with longer experience in the industry rate the importance of visual networks, such as Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram, higher than their less experienced colleagues.
According to the report, marketers with less than 12 months’ experience with social media marketing select Facebook as their No. 1 choice of the platforms they use, followed by Twitter and LinkedIn.
For marketers who have been employing social media marketing for one to two years, Facebook and Twitter remain the top two choices. However, the use of YouTube rises from 37% to 63%, Pinterest rises from 32% to 46%, and Instagram from 15% to 26%.
When you start looking at the platforms used by marketers with more than five years experience, the move towards more visual platforms is even more marked. YouTube is now the fourth most popular platform with 74% of marketers active on it, while Pinterest is used by 66% of marketers and Instagram by 47%.
This suggests that younger marketers initially turn to the more obvious choices like Facebook and Twitter, but over time are discovering value in a wider range of social networks, with a distinct move toward more visually focused platforms.
The following chart shows where two groups of marketers—those who spend less than six hours and those who spend more than 40 hours on social media—focus their time. As you can see, marketers who invest more than 40 hours per week are much more focused on Instagram (46% more), YouTube (38% more), and Pinterest (37% more) than those investing six or fewer hours a week with social media.
You can see the clear shift towards visual platforms, particularly Instagram and Pinterest, with greater time invested on social media.
3. Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers are more visually focused than their Business-to-Business (B2B) counterparts
The report also found that B2C marketers are more likely to invest time in visual networks, particularly Pinterest and Instagram, than their B2B colleagues, who favor LinkedIn, Google+, and blogging.
Looking to the future, the report highlights marketers’ interest in visual channels. It found that 67% of marketers plan on increasing their YouTube marketing, while half of marketers plan to increase their use of Pinterest.
Forty-two percent of marketers plan to increase their use of Instagram (up from 38% in 2013). B2C marketers are significantly more likely (49%) to increase activities than B2B marketers (32%). More than a third of marketers (35%) plan on increasing their use of short-form video services like Vine in marketing, and the report states that, "considering how new short-form video is, this finding is significant."
Video is a large area of focus for marketers. Nearly three in four plan on increasing their use of original videos. The use of original visuals like infographics and memes is a key part of most marketers' plans in 2014, with 70% planning on increasing their use of visual images.
The report asked marketers which forms of content they most want to learn more about. Creating original visual assets took first place as the area marketers most want to learn about (68%), followed by producing original videos (60%).
This correlates with the increased interest in Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram as platforms over recent years, as well as the ongoing trend for moving towards visual posts we have seen within established platforms like Facebook and Twitter.