How Brands Can Prepare for the Visual Future of Social Media

Why image analysis is essential to the future of social listening

Most brands rely on some form of text analysis for social media listening and monitoring. That way they can track brand mentions, sentiment, customer preferences, and much more. But what happens when social media starts to get filled with less text and more images? Brands need to start “listening” to images, not just text.
That’s exactly what Jenny Sussin, VP of Research at Gartner, sees for the rapidly approaching future of social media:

“We do expect multimedia posts to become the predominant type of post on social media. Even the text that accompanies those posts is getting shorter and shorter…It becomes increasingly important for companies to be able to understand what’s going on in those images.”

So what should brands that rely on insights from social media analysis do? Turn to image analysis.
Image analysis (also known as “computer vision”) refers to a computer’s ability to recognize attributes within an image. When applied to social media conversation this technology gives brands the power to analyze images the same way they would analyze text.

What can image analysis do?

It’s important to look at what social media image analysis can do now, as the technology has evolved significantly from early iterations even a few years ago. When images were first introduced on social media, brands were eager to analyze them, but early forms of social image analysis only looked at the metadata around the image file instead of the attributes within the image itself.
Now, image analysis can recognize multiple elements within a photo at the same time, including logos, faces, activities, objects, and scenes. What can brands learn with these capabilities? A lot.
Here are some of the top use cases for image analysis:

Never miss a brand mention
The simplest application of image analysis is to identify visual brand mentions, with or without an accompanying text mention. As many as 85% of social images including brands’ products and logos, don’t include a text reference to the brands within the image (LogoGrab). With logo recognition, brands can surface any social images that contain their logo, branding, or even specific products.

Identify visual influencers
The current way of identifying brand influencers is centered around solely around text and volume. How often does someone mention your brand or products? How many likes and shares do they get? How large is their audience? While those are all acceptable ways to measure influence, it’s far more important to identify influencers through the images they share instead of the text accompanying those images. Image analysis allows you to include visual metrics like how often a person appears in photos that are related to your brand when you are on the hunt for new influencers. 
Identify product issues
Image analysis lets brands go beyond marketing use cases to identify potential product issues or proactively reach out with support when customer post photos containing broken or malfunctioning products.

Track sponsorship ROI
How can you determine if your big sponsorship at a sports stadium, event, or other “offline” physical location was worth it? Previously, the only way to measure reach was to look at the audience in attendance or on TV. With image analytics you can track where your sponsorship branding is appearing in photos online to get a deeper view of the true reach of the investment.
See how people are using your product
When it comes to understanding how your customers are using your products, a picture is worth far more than a thousand words. Actually seeing photo evidence of how your products are being used, whether or not your brand/product name is mentioned, provides a powerful way to gain insights on anything from marketing strategy to product design. 

To hear more on the future of image analytics from Gartner and Crimson Hexagon, check out the video below:

For more on the importance of images in social listening, download our free guide: The Fundamentals of Image Analytics

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