social media conversations are shifting from text to pictures, making images the new language of fan engagement. Consumers are talking about the products they want and the products they buy. Practically every phone has a camera, so snapping a quick shot of the shirt you're trying on in a dressing room, or sharing a panoramic image of your brand-new kitchen, is easier than ever.

This transition is taking place for one simple reason: Images drive an emotional reaction with an immediacy that no other medium offers. This conversation is happening across all social media platforms, and if brands aren't part of that conversation, they are missing out on a huge opportunity to interact with their most engaged customers.

These customers are sharing more than 350 million images per day on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram. How can you harness this engagement to build stronger relationships with fans? Here are three easy ways to help deepen the bond between you and your customers.

Get creative

Social media platforms allow you to deviate from your normal brand messaging—in a good way! Brands are used to producing professionally orchestrated copy and creative. Authenticity, however, includes flaws. Your Pinterest and Instagram accounts give you a great opportunity to humanize your brand by providing fans insights into the real and more casual you.

Creating a lifestyle board on Pinterest is a great way to give customers a glimpse behind the scenes. Everyone daydreams, and this is a chance for you to make your product part of what people think about around 3 PM—right when your fans' minds start to wander.

Jetsetter, a company that offers exclusive travel deals to its members, has a board called "Bucket List," which features travel-related goals. These pins range from walking across the Great Wall of China to dining at an underwater restaurant in the Maldives.

Instagram allows you to share photos of your brand's inspiration in real time. Heading into a brainstorming session with your team? Post a photo of the assorted caffeinated beverages that people brought with them. Taking a tour of a new showroom or store? Share a sneak peek with your audience. At a black tie event? Share those photos—everyone loves to see how well people clean up.

The only rule here is to only post things that excite you. If you are excited, you can bet that your fans will be, too.

Diane von Furstenberg shares images of her daily life. Recent photos include a posed shot with Christian Louboutin and Alicia Keys, and video of a waterfall with the caption "nature is my source of strength and inspiration! love Diane."

Let's get nostalgic

When you get together with old friends, talk about the "old days" will inevitably come up. Your conversations on social media should be similar: Your fans are your friends!

So ask questions in an effort to incorporate nostalgia into your strategy. Which of your products were popular in that time? What were your favorite movies from those eras? What foods would you expect to find at a special event?

Beauty brand Sephora has a "Beauty Nostalgia" board on Pinterest that recalls what was in style 15 years ago.

The hashtag #ThrowBackThursday enables brands to reminisce about old times via photos on Instagram. This is a lot like sharing childhood photos with a new significant other, but with way less pressure. We were all awkward in high school, so let's laugh about it now! Vintage advertisements, products from another decade, and old-school brand inspiration are fun things to share.

Creative Director of Elle Magazine, Joe Zee, participates in #throwbackthursday regularly. He posts photos of shoots that he styled, and events he has attended.

Don't be shy—request content from your fans!

People love to celebrate what they buy, regardless of what the product is. Encouraging user-generated content not only provides you new content to highlight but also gives your fans opportunities to get a shout out from you. If you've ever had a brand with hundreds of thousands of followers highlight you, you can relate to the joy a fan feels.

You can do this on Pinterest by asking followers to upload their own pins—something that they can do simply. Ben and Jerry's has a whole board of "Fan Photos." These run the gamut, from a baby's first ice cream cone to brides enjoying a scoop or two on their wedding day!

This tactic be easily executed on Instagram with a hashtag. Whole Foods Market uses #WFMwine when it posts photos of its wine offerings. Customers who are enjoying the product can take photos and tag them appropriately to show their love for the wine.

* * *

Every shift in consumer behavior brings both significant challenges and incredible opportunities. By adapting to this new visual language on platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram, you can humanize your brand and strengthen relationships with consumers.

Forward-thinking brands, like those mentioned above, are taking chances that are sure to get them noticed both by customers and by competitors.

How has your brand started using visuals? Which suggestion above are you most excited about? Comment below with your thoughts!

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Three Ways to Use Pinterest and Instagram to Build Stronger Consumer Relationships

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image of Apu Gupta

Apu Gupta is a co-founder and the CEO of Curalate, a social commerce solution, enabling brands to leverage their social media presence to sell more effectively online.

LinkedIn: Apu Gupta

Twitter: @apugupta