To Understand Consumers, Look at Their Selfies

How social images can help you uncover emerging consumer trends and preferences

What do consumers want? Brands have been trying to answer this question with their ads, campaigns and products for decades. Social media provides the opportunity for brands to tap into what consumers are talking about on a large scale. Social listening and analytics help brands pull meaningful insights from billions of conversations.
Historically, brands have analyzed text-based consumer conversations, but that’s starting to change. Consumers post well over 3 billion images a day on social media, and image analysis technology has finally advanced to point where brands can start to “listen” to these images in the same way they listen to text-based conversations.
Now, brands are starting to recognize the huge potential of using social images as a source of consumer insights. Images provide so much more information than text can, giving big brands a more powerful way to understand consumers and what they care about.

A Dollar for Your Selfie?

Many brands know the huge potential that images have for providing consumer insights. Back in 2016, The New York Times wrote about research firms paying consumers to send selfies of themselves using specific products. Snapping a photo yourself brushing your teeth could earn you up to $1 from Crest.
Why? Because brands started to recognize all of the additional information they could extract from a simple image. How are consumers brushing their teeth? What are they wearing when they brush their teeth? What other products can be seen in the bathroom? The list of potential insights goes on and on.

“The selfies are a good way for companies to obtain information that people can’t or don’t articulate in focus groups or other traditional research methods.” 
-Ravi Dhar, Director of the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management

While the consumer research via solicited selfies is a great idea, the scale is limited by the number of respondents and the fact that participants know their photos are being analyzed.
What if you could find hundreds of unsolicited selfies of consumers brushing their teeth and identify the logos, objects, scenes, and facial expressions that appeared in the photos? That’s what social image analysis allows brands to do today.

Showing vs. Telling

Like the market research firms paying for selfies, the ability to see real people using specific products and how is incredibly valuable for consumer insights. Unlike text, images show how people actually use products and interact with brands in their everyday lives.
When it comes to understanding how consumers are using products, a picture is worth far more than a thousand words. Actually seeing photo evidence of people using a product, whether or not your brand is included, provides a powerful way to gain insights on consumer preferences and behavior.
Beyond just looking out for images containing your brand, you can look for objects, scenes or actions related to your products. For example, Adidas might be interested in consumer photos of soccer, even if the Adidas logo isn’t in the photos.

What they would care about is what are the most common locations where people playing soccer? What logos do appear most often in these images? What other interests do they have? All of these are questions that can be answered with image analysis technology.

Much more than just logo recognition

When image analysis was first introduced, it could only identify brand logos within images. Now, advanced image analysis technology (like Crimson Hexagon’s) can identify objects, scenes, actions and faces within images, providing insights far beyond how many times a your logo appears.


While image tech has advanced beyond logos, you still want track them. Logos still provide important context for where your brand (or competitors) are appearing, but now you can also get insights on what else is happening in the photo.


The ability to analyze objects opens the door to looking at product categories. Analyze the images posting containing hamburgers or coffee mugs or headphones to understand the where, why, and how behind the images on a large scale.


Scenes provide context for image analysis. Where are consumers drinking your beers? At the beach? At the bar? In a backyard? Image analysis can provide the answers. Additionally, you can look at the entire visual conversation around a scene. If your brand is related to the beach, get the big picture view of what types of images are people posting at the beach and what they are saying in the captions.


Like scenes, actions provide further context on your analysis. If most people are posting photos of your beer at the bar, what are they doing? Dancing? Playing pool? Additionally, you can perform an analysis around an action and other categories like the Nike logo, the woods as the scene, and running as the action to see who’s trail running in Nike gear.

See the big picture with image + text analysis

Yes, images provide the opportunity to uncover deeper insights in new and exciting ways, but that doesn’t mean text should be ignored. The only way to get the complete picture of consumer conversation on is to look at text and images together.

The technology behind image analysis is advancing quickly—making it much easier to scale.  Images show contextual, environmental, and emotional factors that you can’t get with just text.
For more on how image analytics can help your uncover consumer insights, download our free guide: Uncovering Consumer Insights From Social Media Data


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