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Six Ways to Prepare Your Brand for Social Media's Visual Revolution

by Nick Westergaard  |  
April 3, 2012

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Several social media updates are favoring visually rich brands
  • To prepare your brand for the social visual revolution
As social media continues to evolve, one reality is coming into focus: Brands are becoming more visual.

One indication is the emergence of new kids on the block, such as the image-driven social network Pinterest. Another is the recent updates to more established social platforms, such as Facebook's Timeline. What's clear is that brands without a solid visual vocabulary will be left behind.

"Visual" can be a loaded word. When we refer to a visual brand, do we just mean a brand with a good logo? Of course not, though it would be hard to imagine a visual brand that wasn't anchored by strong imagery. Rather, a visual brand has a strong visual identity, a clear visual vocabulary, and an eye for visual storytelling.

What does that mean? And, more important, how can you be sure that beyond simply being social your brand is ready for the visual revolution as well?

Social Media Changes That Favor Visual Brands

First, consider the following updates and launches of social platforms over the past year that enable brands to make a significant visual impact.


Depending on what you've read most recently, Pinterest is either one of the fastest-growing social networks (it grew 52% in February alone according to comScore)—or it's just another shiny new thing. Regardless, Pinterest is a hot new platform with exceptional growth, and what makes it popular is the visual component. At its core, the network isn't anything more than a social bookmarking system. What's different is that it's image-driven and visual.



Though not making nearly as many waves as Pinterest, Instagram is quickly becoming a cult favorite. In 2011, the photo-sharing application was named the App Store's App of the Year. Although many dismiss the mobile-only, easy-photo-filter app as just a fun tool for hipsters to take funky photos, brands such as General Electric and Ben & Jerry's are finding traction using the network as a visual storytelling platform.

Facebook Timeline

Boasting the world's third largest online population, Facebook is the 600-pound gorilla in any conversation about social brands. It's no surprise, then, that the giant just sent a wave of visual updates down the beanstalk. With Facebook's "Timeline" update, brands can enjoy several new features that rely heavily on bold graphics and visual storytelling: the cover photo, the timeline itself, and larger images on wall posts (RIP thumbnail graphics).



Twitter, Foursquare, and Google+

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Nick Westergaard is chief brand strategist and founder of Brand Driven Digital and the author of Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small.

Twitter: @NickWestergaard

LinkedIn: Nick Wesergaard

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  • by HCG corporate designs Tue Apr 3, 2012 via web

    very true, good post!

  • by Cathy Burrell Tue Apr 3, 2012 via web

    Great article. I am a writer, and don't believe that people will shun good writing in favour of pretty photos, BUT...I also believe that a compelling/relevant photo can convey a message to people in ways that a thousand poorly written words cannot. Viva le Revolution! I'm excited to see the changes...

  • by Tea Silvestre Tue Apr 3, 2012 via web

    I always say, "We eat with our eyes first." If your stuff looks like crap, people aren't going to pay any attention to you. It's so important to REALLY work at using images.

  • by Eric Schultz | Bloom Digital Media - USA Tue Apr 3, 2012 via web

    Hi Nick! There's no doubt Pinterest is trending to be the hottest social media branding opportunity...and since it offers a store front right inside there's no doubt the businesses and branders are following...thanks for the insight.

  • by Tue Apr 3, 2012 via web

    Good post, thank you. It goes to prove that the old saying "A picture tells a thousand words" has become very relevant today.

  • by Nick Westergaard Tue Apr 3, 2012 via web

    All - Thanks for the great comments! Cathy - I agree that I can't imagine writing being replaced entirely however I think it will have a bit more competition in terms of the path to creating content. Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  • by Diane Stresing Wed Apr 4, 2012 via web

    1. Phrases like "the giant just sent a wave of visual updates down the beanstalk" prove writing is still important - way to engage!
    2. Storytelling, storytelling, storytelling. It's not new; it's how we learn just about everything. Good words + good pictures = Great story.
    3. Making words and pictures work together (using the tool of the day, whatever it is) = communication.

    Quite worth the time to read - thanks!

  • by Nick Westergaard Wed Apr 4, 2012 via web


    Thanks for the 'beanstalk' compliment. I actually spent some time monkeying around with that metaphor. Glad to know it stood out. YES - on storytelling. So much of what we do now needs to tell interesting stories and yet few know the basics of telling effective stories and communicating. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

  • by David Lamoureux Thu Apr 5, 2012 via web

    You're making me feel embarrassed about my site. I need to expand my brand's visual lexicon. I do it vigorously for my clients, but not enough for myself. Good post.

  • by Leslie vanWinkle Thu Apr 5, 2012 via mobile

    Great article. Writer here coming from the multimedia world and WOW are we at the brink. I'm thrilled to be launching into the unknown - more tricks, more fun!

  • by Ken Wilson Thu Feb 14, 2013 via web

    Great piece, Nick. As a proponent of using visuals to enhance, not replace, the spoken and written word, I agree with several of the other comments here. I'm recommending your post to our readers over at the SmartDraw blog.

  • by Nick Westergaard Thu Feb 14, 2013 via web

    Thanks Ken! I really appreciate you taking the time to read, comment, and pass the word along. Cheers!

  • by Virpi Oinonen Sat Dec 14, 2013 via web

    Illustrations, comics, infographics and other non-photography content can also be a really good way to do visual content marketing. This is especially true if you need to communicate abstract concepts (try explaining financial concepts with photos!) or you want to seem friendly and approachable (hand drawn content especially has the power of making a brand more human).

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