Big Data and Social Analytics: Communicating with Images

Over the past few years, images have persisted to be a constant theme in social whether it be the explosion in the popularity of apps like Instagram and Snapchat or GIF and meme/emoji keyboards. In a recent interview, Evan Spiegel (CEO of Snapchat) was quoted stating “photos are no longer just a means of capturing a moment they are a means of communication.”
However, I believe this is not necessarily a new behavior. It is only new in the sense that technological innovations like photo sharing apps and emojis have both amplified and catalyzed the behavior. They have made image based communication efficient again. If we take a step back into history, some of the first forms of communication were image-based; early Paleolithic cave paintings and hieroglyphics are two such examples. In the book “A History of Graphic Design” by famous graphic designer, professor, and historian Philip B. Meggs it was stated that the shift to text-based forms of recording information occurred primarily due to the need for efficiency and speed in fields like accounting. Writing down that John Smith owed you $10 for a bushel of apples was far easier and than drawing it.

Prehistoric hunter


Camera enabled smartphones and emoji keyboards are beginning to remove this barrier of inefficiency. A simple frowny face is far easier to use to communicate sadness when compared to writing “I’m really sad right now”. Our brains can also process the information in an image more efficiently. MIT researchers found it takes the brain only 13 milliseconds to process the contents of an image.
Even as children we first begin to understand language not through the written word but visually through images. I’m sure many of us can recount memories of browsing picture books as youngsters or perhaps perusing such books with loved ones.



We are visual creatures and I believe this to be a core human behavior. As such I believe the trend in photo-based conversation will continue to accelerate in growth and become even more predominant in social. At Crimson Hexagon our mission has been to provide deep insight into consumer conversation and opinion at scale. We understand and believe in the power of images and the insight they can unlock. We have invested heavily in this area and will continue to do so we can further solidify our position as innovators in this space.
For additional insight into image recognition technology and social data, watch the recording of our image analytics webinar with guest speaker Susan Etlinger from Altimeter.

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