How Social Media Trends Are Changing the World of Design
May 29, 2014
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For years, advertisers talked to their audiences. They told them what products they needed and what to think about those products. But social media trends have changed everything, and audiences are suddenly talking back.
If consumers aren't interacting with a brand's message, that company falls behind. One of the keys of social media engagement from a brand's point of view is images. Photographs, infographics and other visual media resonate well with an audience and are more likely to be shared.
Here's what marketers and designers can do to get their brand's images liked, favorited, retweeted, pinned or otherwise shared.
Social media trends are all about what's happening right now. If you want to take advantage of a topic that's trending on Twitter, you better be posting in the next 20 minutes. If it takes you two hours to create the image, don't bother. Tweeters have moved on to something else by then.
The goal of "socializing" an image is to get shares. The catch is that, if you're successful, your image will go well beyond the platform it was limited to when you designed it. Social networks tether to one another: A tweeted image might eventually get shared on Facebook, pinned to Pinterest, and viewed on phones, tablets and mobile devices that extend the globe.
Needless to say, your image needs to look sharp. That includes how large or small it is in relation to its context. A picture from a convention hall, for example, might deserve more space than a head shot of a new client. Which one do you expect to travel further online?
Search Engine Optimization
What does search engine optimization (SEO) have to do with images? More than you may think. Platforms such as Google and Bing don't recognize text that's part of an image, but they do read the metadata — the behind-the-scenes information about your image. Search engines put emphasis on this hidden information, so it's important to populate those fields correctly.
To optimize your graphics, stop giving your image files names like "CMPGNSUMMER2014," and label them with the words your audience will search for. The same goes for tags and "alt" text (what the computer displays if it can't pull up the image). If you were advertising cookies, for instance, you might name your image "cookie," create a descriptive alt text (think of it as a caption), and assign the tags "cookie," "chocolate," "snack," "dessert," etc.
Ability to Stand Alone
Shareable images convey the whole story, or most of it. Imagine choosing an image for a story on good design classes. That picture of students in a computer lab may capture the essence of the design business perfectly when it's with this story. But after it's been shared and reshared, all viewers may see is that image and a shortened link; they'll have no idea what they'll get when they click through. But what if you added some text? You still have an image that shows design, but you also let readers know exactly what they'll get.
Social media trends haven't changed the principles of good design, but they have altered the way you implement them. Images that go viral are very different from those that are right for roadside billboards. When done correctly, social media images could garner more brand awareness than your budget could ever buy.
Photo source: Flickr