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We can see the vast potential for the visual marketing – in fact it’s nice to feel that the market is developing around us. With four billion images shared online every day, it’s clear that over the next few years there will be many new ways of accessing, exchanging and processing these images on social media sites. But for marketers we know that negotiating the possibilities and the pitfalls of this dynamic digital channel can be tricky. In particular, we’ve found some confusion from brands on how best to reach young consumers on the social media haunts that they love so much.

Nearly half (42%) of young consumers visit Instagram at least five times a day. While millennials might check in consciously looking for stimulation, the desire to feel connected to others (whether conscious or unconscious) is also a very strong attraction. If they can’t be with friends and family, the periscope of social media allows them to share experiences with them. When we say ‘share’, this often means just tapping into what others are up to. Half of 18-29 year olds only browse content posted by others – far greater than the 27% who regularly post images themselves.

So the biggest lesson that marketers can take is that hoping for an immediate sales uplift from getting involved on these platforms will lead to disappointment. Think back to that vast audience who spend much of their time browsing other people’s content. Users of these sites are hungry for visual inspiration, a gift to any brand that can offer inspiring images and video footage that doesn’t rely on explanatory text.

We know that brands are heading in the right direction on the visual platforms – 90% of the top 100 brands now have an Instagram account. The argument over whether they should be there was won long ago. But we would encourage a re-think on how they plan, create and distribute content, moving towards seeing themselves more as a specialised editor for their particular audience than a seller of products.

How could this work for you? Put your brand’s energy into thinking about how you can contribute or facilitate video footage for the growing live functions, create elements within a creative theme that brand defines.