More Than Words - Harnessing The Language of Images Across Social Media Platforms

With the rapid rise of visual language, it is becoming increasingly important for both researchers and brands to understand how to unpick and analyse this new vocabulary; deconstructing the discourse, to stay ahead of the curve.

The author(s)

  • Alice Ellen Ipsos Connect, UK
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The challenge for brands and media owners is ensuring they deliver the most impactful content and campaigns on the most suitable platform at exactly the right time to engage consumers. Successful campaigns inspire audiences with beautiful imagery and tell culturally relevant stories.


Visual vocabulary has exploded across our screens over the last few years. Whilst reading words is still fundamental for how we communicate, a picture really can tell a thousand words, and this opens up even more opportunities for brands to communicate with consumers.


This change in communication is reflected in the rise of image-focused social media, together with the way that existing social media channels are used; and in turn, how consumers communicate with each other, as well as how brands communicate to consumers. Emojis are swiftly becoming the fastest growing language across social media channels with 6 billion emoticons or stickers being sent around the world every day on mobile messaging apps. Emojis are used in almost half of all sentences on Instagram and are now used by Facebook as supplements to the ‘LIKE’ button.


The relatively recent shift to a more visual, two-way conversation has meant that social media platforms are forcing brands to learn a new visual literacy to continuingly connect with their audiences. 


So, what do brands need to do in order to be successful across the full range of social media channels?

  1. Tailor content to fit the platform: remember, the use of social media is constantly evolving and each platform fulfils different needs for consumers. Think platform and need state first to ensure content is always relevant and cuts through the noise of competitors.
  2. Harness social media platforms in creative visual ways to effectively communicate with consumers: tap into the ever increasing visual vocabulary trend by ensuring images are powerful, inspiring, current and consistent in look and feel. Think both globally and locally when creating content, in order to remain culturally relevant.
  3. Tone of voice can differ by platform, but brand values and personality must remain consistent and authentic: as mentioned previously, Instagram is not Facebook or Twitter, and a brands’ tone of voice must reflect how consumers are using the platform. However, consumers do need to be able to glance at a brand and recognise its personality immediately in order for it to stay top of mind.
  4. Avoid getting lost in a sea of algorithms by investing in a social media strategy and partnering with Influencers: capturing audiences’ attention is only going to become increasingly difficult across platforms. The first step is to take social seriously within your business, dedicating resources to build a strong, and future-facing social media strategy. Then, if budget allows, don’t’ forgot to harness the power of the Influencers who impact the zeitgeist of social media usage, but be sure to allow them the creative freedom to push the boundaries for your brand. 

The author(s)

  • Alice Ellen Ipsos Connect, UK

Media & Brand Communication