Images are everywhere – and worth not just a thousand words, but a thousand tweets, or texts, or anything not visual. Life is fast-paced and social images are part of – and a result of – that pace. Why type or Swype when an image says everything and more?
But are you analyzing images? If not, how much of the conversation are you missing? Considering that in 2014 social users posted an average of 1.8 billion photos to the internet daily, the obvious answer is “a lot.”
That number has undoubtedly risen, and every photo not included in your social analytics is an opportunity missed.
Our “What Is?” series continues with the importance of image analytics, and options for brands to bring this technology into their data operations.
Why Image Analytics, and Why Now?
The social landscape grows increasingly visual by the day – if you aren’t including that visual data, everything you think you know about your audience is off.
Consider the growth of image-centric platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest, and the way this growth has encouraged other platforms to include options for sharing visuals from images to videos to stories.
This is a trend that’s happening – do you want to be last to embrace it?
Here’s a mind-blowing stat: An estimated 9000 photos are shared every second. Now imagine the number of those photos that include brand products and logos – without any mention of them in the text. In many social images, a popular brand may be represented in a post, even it isn’t the point of the post. That information is valuable – especially for understanding the lifestyles and passions of your target audience.
This doesn’t just affect your audience analytics. It affects competitive intelligence, product development, influencer strategy, and more. Not to mention, such images help organic reach, or may point to influential partnerships you can use to extend that reach even further.
Looking at the hashtags, the social user above is obsessed with fitness, motivation, body building, positivity, and more. The photo is of half of a duo of Bulgarian athletes sharing their fitness journey on social media. So you know where they are, and what they’re about, but none of the information mentions MusclePharm’s Combat protein powder – even though the image shows one of the members of Crewoverload cradling a canister and calling it his “little baby.”
These guys have more than 20K followers, so Combat might want to know they’re Crewoverload’s brand of choice.
You must include images in your social analytics. And you can.
The Foundation of Image Analysis
Image analysis isn’t a far-off technology – it’s already used every day by most people without their even realizing it. Whatever you use to backup photos on your phone – Google Photos, for example – is already categorizing your images, whether you asked it to or not.
Go ahead and do a search sometime, and you’ll be stunned at the accuracy your smartphone has to tell you which pictures are of the zoo you visited with your nephew versus your boss’ retirement party.
Facial recognition isn’t limited to crime dramas – your phone already uses that too.
Image analytics takes that technology up a notch, categorizing images from social media, and sorting them according to everything applied to text: gender, age, facial expressions, objects, actions, scenes, topics, sentiment and brand logos.
And we’re just at the beginning. When you consider how far social analytics has come in a few short years, imagine where image analytics will be as technologies like AI, AR, VR, etc. become more prevalent.
We already use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to power our image analytics – and whatever is next on the horizon you can be sure we’ll innovate as needed to include it.
That’s the least you can ask in a social analytics platform – that it commits to grow as technology does, versus relying on third-party solutions to keep up.
So, Do We Still Need to Analyze Text?
Of course! Just as images are posted without accompanying text, there are still instances where text is the main focus. Consider blogs, news articles, and reviews – text is still the bulk of the equation, but when you combine text and image analysis, your data become that much more powerful.
Image analysis adds another layer, just as ability to decode emojis and natural languages does for text. And just as sentiment adds context to text, it now does that for images as well.
And this is a huge advantage in a number of ways. For instance:
- Images transcend language barriers. You may not speak Mandarin, but images are universal. That’s a boon for global brands, or those looking to expand geographically.
- Images offer quicker accuracy. There’s a lot less to decipher or question with images. It’s all right there. Where social text is often limited character-wise, images are limitless.
- Images are personal! And social data and sentiment is all about getting personal with consumers. Nothing brings you closer to your audience than the glimpse into their lives provided by the images they share.
Don’t Brands Have Enough on their Plates?
It might seem there’s no end to the new technology brands are told to urgently embrace. Some brands are barely sold on the notion of social analytics at all – while those that understand the importance of social still aren’t using it in all the ways they could. Or they have trouble convincing stakeholders of its value.
As you must with all social data, you’ve got to show the proof in the pudding. And to do that, you’ve got to have a handle on all the ways image analytics tools further your brand. If they’re going to invest in a suite of tools, they need to know what they’re getting for the spend, right?
Here are some points you can share:
1. Image Analysis Offers Greater Accuracy
We already know accuracy is paramount to the usefulness of social data. Without it, there’s no point in bothering. Social analytics is no longer about number of mentions, but quality and context of mentions.
But now those mentions can – and must – include visual mentions. Image recognition allows image analysis tools to identify your logo in social posts, letting you know when your brand is “mentioned” visually.
But it’s not just about your logo. The ability to analyze objects, scenes, locations, etc. means you can look at images related to your category. For example, any image that features a cup of coffee – or the specific logo of your brand or a competitor.
2. Makes Sentiment Analysis More Complete
Text posts rely on NLP to convey context beyond the words. Now you can do that for images as well.
With posts identifying your brand visually, any text (like a hashtag) adds sentiment context, but so does the expression on a consumer’s face, for example.
That analysis extends to posts that might tag your brand without providing any other text clues. If the image is doing the talking, you have to be able to “hear” what it says.
Finally, you can also readily spot and analyze user-generated content – one of the biggest indicators of brand passion out there.
3. Helps Identify Better Sponsorship Partners
Brand sponsorship opportunities are a great way to increase awareness and earn a little consumer love by association – but only if you partner with the right organizations and events.
How do you know whether it’s worth putting your ad dollars on the line? By looking at engagement surrounding brand sponsorships. This is another way logo recognition comes into play.
When you see a competing brand’s logo splashed across the backdrop of a step-and-repeat, look at the engagement for that particular event to know if it’s worth a similar partnership for your own brand.
Or measure real-time campaigns in the same way, to see how much engagement and exposure your brand is getting, even while not the main focus of the event.
4. Assesses the Value of Potential Influencers
Image analysis can point out influencers you’d never find another way. Both celebrities and non-celeb influencers sharing images of their lives reveal opportunities beyond the obvious.
Consider this Sutton Foster post on Instagram:
The intent of the post is to share a real-life moment of a busy family headed out for a day at the lake – in a car that might be too small for all the gear required for a small child and a couple dogs in the mix.
But the UPPAbaby car seat logo is prominently in the shot – creating an opportunity for the brand to gain from the Broadway and TV star’s extensive, and devoted, fan base.
5. Lets Brands Understand How, Where and When
Consumers may post about a product purchase, finding a great price, or the result of a customer service situation. But rarely do they take the time to write about the way they use products. Instead, they tend to show this via lifestyle posts on social, as many of the posts above illustrate.
Could there be better information for a brand to have? Not only does it – hopefully – indicate brand love just to be visually mentioned, but you can understand how consumers use your products, and why. That tells you a lot more than a simple brand mention.
And if the visual mention is negative, it’s just as important to know that as well.
Social analytics is a complex puzzle, and every piece matters. Images – including video thumbnails – are a massive part of the social landscape, and their impact must be counted as you surface for insights.
Image analytics is relatively new, but not so new you want to wait to add it to your arsenal. You need every edge you can get to keep ahead of competitors, and understanding the visual side of the coin might be just the thing that puts you out in front.
This has been part 6 of our Social Media Analytics Guide for 2018, designed to keep you in-the-know on the tools, metrics, and skills necessary to compete in an increasingly global arena.
Read the other parts of this comprehensive series by clicking below:
- What is Social Media Analytics and Why Is it Important?
- What Is Social Media Monitoring?
- What Is Social Campaign Analysis?
- What Is Social Sentiment Analysis?
- What Is Social Listening & Why Is It Important?
- What Is Image Analytics?
- What Is Audience Analysis?
Ready to see how our image analytics work as part of our comprehensive social analytics platform? Get in touch!