Success on the Visual Web

May 30, 2014

Instagram: The Modern Curiosity Cabinet

Cabinets filled with trinkets, the ‘best’ china, or silverware are not unlikely furnishings in houses over the past few decades. Or perhaps it housed some pottery or family heirlooms; objects that held a story, a history. It is less likely the cabinet contained,

…holy relics from a Spanish ship; earthen pitchers and porcelain from China; a Madonna made of feathers, a chain made of monkey teeth, stone shears, a back-scratcher, and a canoe with paddles, all from “India”; a Javanese costume, Arabian coats; the horn and tail of a rhinoceros…

As bizarre as they sound, such objects were treasures in the 16th and 17th centuries. Those particular peculiarities belonged to Sir Walter Cope, an English government official, and were displayed proudly in a curiosity cabinet at Kensington Castle.

Today we catalogue, organise, and share our curiosities and interests from our life in a different format: Instagram. The square design of Instagram profiles visually resembles the compartmentalized layout of a curiosity cabinet. Even the design of iPhone photo albums mirrors the design of a curiosity cabinet. Common Instagram photos include food, something unusual we saw, landscape and nature, and aspirations; cars, fitness, and beauty. Such photos organise our life into what we own, aspire to, and find interesting enough to share with others. The predominance of fitness and beauty photos on Instagram reflects the wider societal ideals the media portrays. Landscape and location photos reflect our interest in travel and other cultures. Instagram photos serve as a virtual conversation piece, with the like button and comment option generating engagement.

Insta Merge

The compartmentalized design of instagram and iphone albums resembles shelving and sections of a curiosity cabinet

Cabinets of Curiosities, or Cabinets of Wonder; Wunderkammer, peaked in popularity in the 17th century. Wealthy owners collected both personal and unusual items for display. The cabinets reflected the contemporary atmosphere. Interest in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology, and chemistry grew with the emergence of modern science. The scientific revolution began at the end of the Renaissance era. Curiosity cabinets provided a way to catalogue and inspect oddities and objects of interest. The Age of Discovery had opened new lands, cultures, spices, and objects that deserved a curious gaze. Sir Walter Cape’s cabinet included numerous objects relating to other cultures, travel, and biology.

Historians have described the early 17th century to the early 18th century as The General Crisis; a period of widespread conflict and instability. Notable wars such as the Thirty Years War in Germany (1618-48) contributed to a feeling of societal upheaval. Curiosity cabinets, with their individual shelves and compartments, allowed individuals to reorganise, compartmentalize, and gain control over small objects representative of the larger world. Curiosity cabinets served as conversation pieces and were a matter of great pride to the owners. Exotic objects showcased the owner’s wealth, connections to other lands, and something of interest beyond the mundane.

Cabinet of Curiosities

Painting of a 16th century Cabinet of Curiosities

The rise of museums replaced curiosity cabinets and today it is regarded as something of a novelty even in such institutions. While few of us actively seek to archive our lives, millions of us do so on Instagram daily. We don’t post a photo and never look at it again. We check how many likes it got, how many comments, and revisit our photos in the profile page of our Instagram. In doing so we have not changed much from the owners of curiosity cabinets who revisited their display and showed it to their guests. We have changed the format but the human desire to collect, categorise, and share our lives remains the same. Instagram is interesting because it connects individuals who have never met but share a common interest: the content of that photo. It builds connections online and widens our social sphere; a cause many seek, striving to post the perfect photo to maximize engagement. The growing use of smart phones and other devices ensures the archiving of our daily lives is greater than ever – shaping, influencing, and changing our world.

New York Crowd
April 28, 2014

Fluffy Puppies, Endless Love, and The Struggle of the Common Man

Why We Love Humans of New York

Car horns blare, the smell of hot dogs waft from a nearby vendor, people pass on every side talking on phones and rushing ahead. Another busy day in New York and the streets are bustling with people. Outside a cafe a man sits alone at a table, in front of you a couple holding hands laugh and share words you are not part of. Everywhere there are people.

In the parks dogs and their owners run across the green, a little girl collects rocks in a bucket, shrieking with delight at every new find, a man with a handful of colored balloons stands beside a woman smiling radiantly. Every person has an interesting story most of us will never hear.

Humans of New York/ Facebook

Humans of New York/ Facebook

Well, until now at least. Thanks to the hugely successful Humans of New York blog these stories are being captured and told. Brandon Stanton, the mastermind talent behind the project, initially started photographing and plotting the New Yorkers on a map in 2010. As time went on he began collecting quotes and stories related to each person’s life and the project became what we know of today. At Taggs we are huge fans of Humans of New York. We wanted to apply our understanding of what makes the visual web tick. Working our magic over photos posted in the past three months we discovered some interesting results.

How we found what stories engaged best

Humans of New York/ Facebook

Humans of New York/ Facebook

We indexed nearly three months worth of images (345 to be exact). As we analysed common themes started to emerge; we like fluffy puppies, love stories, enthusiasm for life, and the struggle of the common man. Seriously, we really do love fluffy puppies, the top performing photo was of a dog with brilliant multi-colored eyes with almost half a million likes. Inspirational individuals and attitudes that inspire us were among the most popular posts. The man who beat cancer six times was almost our top engager. Stories such as this inspire us to overcome obstacles in our own lives. The raw, gritty honesty of the photographed individuals who testify to the world of their fears, regrets, and desires endear us to them instantly. Individuals with a positive attitude toward life engaged higher than those with a more pessimistic attitude or those who spoke of regrets. A single mother with a “can do” attitude generated a high level of engagement. On Humans of New York each highly engaging photo and story becomes the face of the experiences faced by many; a brief internet poster child for that cause.

Joy at life expressed through children’s expressions was another highly engaging theme. Today in micro fashion (focusing on children’s apparel) is already a popular theme on the page. However, when accompanied by an expression of sheer delight at life the post engaged much higher than those of other children. Smiling faces on all age groups engaged better than those who had a sad or stern expression. Individuals who looked away from the camera or hid their face engaged much less than those whose faces were clearly visible. The physicality of the facial expression is what endears us to connect consciously and emotionally with the individuals. Those who hid their face essentially hid from viewer engagement.

Humans of New York/ Facebook

Humans of New York/ Facebook

This delighted child engaged higher than the photo of the child with a large part of her face hidden

Humans of New York/ Facebook

Humans of New York/ Facebook

Love makes us human, or, if you are Deon Jackson, “Love Makes The World Go Around”. Love stories certainly capture our attention. Photos accompanied with a love story or a comment about love consistently engaged highly. After all, we appreciate the evidence of what millions around the earth search for. The combination of the snippet of a story with the photo piques interest. Every individual becomes alive in imaginations as we visualise their life and personality.

Humans of New York/ Facebook

Humans of New York/ Facebook

 Photos involving Love Stories consistently engaged highly

Humans of New York/ Facebook

Humans of New York/ Facebook

We love that Humans of New York is gathering more than a photo census of the city. Brandon’s ability to connect with the individuals and share a snippet of the conversation has ensured every post stands uniquely alone. Perhaps the blogs best charm is it has kept the same honest tone and content as it has grown.  We are excited to discover more individual’s stories as Humans of New York continues their awesome work. If you want to do your own analysis of interesting images on the visual web sign up for the beta.



April 14, 2014

The Rise of the Visual Card

 images as a universal social media layout

Facebook has changed, Twitter has changed, and Pinterest is changing. There is a trend rapidly developing online across all these platforms: the rise of the visual card design. The decline of the banner ad has spurred on native advertising and the visual card format is the next stage of the visual web. Some examples include Etsy, Instagram, Pinterest, and Ebay.

Images that engage

The freshly designed Facebook layout in the past few weeks is a good example. Images appear larger and visually retain eye attention mid screen as you scroll down.

Engaging Images take the fore in new Facebook design.

Each post appears in a self contained card with images taking prime position. Julie Zhua, Product Design Director at Facebook, reiterated the importance of images within the new design: “The new design we’re currently rolling out to everyone delivers richer and larger photos, videos, and statuses. It cleans up a lot of clutter.” Advertisements are appearing in native format with large images to maximise engagement. Even news sources are relying on images to generate user engagement. The New York Times post minimal text alongside a large image.

The New York Times Facebook

Previous data from Slate found many visitors do not scroll through an article but most will see all content on photo and video. The visual card format seeks to generate higher user engagement with the visually engaging impact of a photo. The impact of images to generate information is highlighted in an interesting article from Dustin Curtis. He claims the earlier Facebook design which maximised images on the News Feed was so effective that it was counter productive for the overall site performance. Users spent less time browsing the areas outside of the News Feed which in turn led to fewer advertising impressions. Whether or not that played a definitive factor in the new Facebook design, it is evident that Facebook has maintained the importance of images in their new design.

Twitter previously adopted a design to maximise images in tweets but further changes are coming. In last week’s Twitter Academy Webinar they revealed new Twitter cards for vines, images, and more. The design maximises images for optimal user engagement. Like Facebook, news stories and content will appear in brief text format with the image as the focal point. The design favours the high amount of Twitter users on mobiles. Twitter Lead Generation cards already tested the card design allowing advertisers to appeal to users in the native format.

Twitter Webinar

Pinterest is set to introduce promoted pins for advertisers in the next few weeks. Pins will appear in native format within the visual Pinterest card. The visual card design was adopted by Pinterest from the outset but with more and more platforms across the web adopting the design, Pinterest’s growing success is not surprising. Instagram championed the visual card design and is at the forefront of the growth of the visual web. Like Pinterest, Instagram is due to introduce sponsored photo and video advertising. As Instagram is predominantly accessed via mobiles, the visual card design has been perfected for these devices. The growing visual card design model is reflective of the high amount of users who access these platforms from their mobile phones. Interestingly, the platforms that developed the visual card design first – Pinterest and Instagram –  lapsed behind Facebook and Twitter in using advertising. Instead Facebook and Twitter adopted the visual card design from these other platforms and have undoubtedly influenced Pinterest and Instagram to embrace the potential of the engaging visual card design.

A mockup for the forthcoming Pinterest ads from Digiday. The red box will not be part of the design; it was used to single out the promoted pin within the designs.

Sponsored Pinterest Ads

From a design perspective the visual card optimizes a user’s experience as it is shaped for the demands of mobiles and tablets – swiping, flicking, tapping etc. From a performance perspective it optimizes engagement by allowing a reduction in text and a maximisation of image and visual forms. We previously highlighted the importance of images over text for engaging users. The visual impact of the visual card design will surely see the design featured more and more across the web. The next stage in the expansion of the visual web is ensuring the optimized engaging image is used on the visual card design. That is where we come in. Taggs understands the visual web. We have tracked its growth and expansion. We analyse the engagement of image content across the visual web. We both reveal current trends and pinpoint new ones. If you are unsure what image to use for your website, Instagram, Facebook, or anywhere across the web, we are certain. We use social data analysis to ensure you choose the image that will maximise your customers’ experiences.

Times Square
March 19, 2014

The Image is Mightier than the Word

Your brain is amazing. In the few seconds you spent processing the image above you identified content, colors, shapes, and context with ease. That is because our brains process visual information 60,000 times faster than text, and with 65% of the population categorising as visual learners it is time we embraced the visual web.

With an ever evolving digital world there is more content available online than we could ever read. Images are more important than ever. Just look at the growth in popularity of image based software like Pinterest and Instagram. Pinterest overtook email to become the third most popular sharing platform in the latter part of 2013. Not surprising given the power of images to humanize content. They are the universal language that anyone can understand.

Our world is visually stimulating. Access to images has never been easier with cameras in hand on smart phones, iPads, and the forthcoming Google Glass. As a result we have an image explosion: an average 55 million photos are posted on Instagram alone daily. Images are no longer the realm of professionals. Instant photos posted on social media seek to engage at a more personal level. Brands have followed this pattern and are investing more time in social media outlets.

Engaging followers on Instagram is something Guess does well. Their Instagram allows followers to experience a more personal side to the brand’s image with pictures that range from lunch snaps, what employees are wearing, and backstage fashion show snaps. Visually involving the viewer in the lifestyle of the magazine endorses a feel good vibe and helps build customer trust and loyalty. A few Instagram pictures showing the lifestyle surrounding Guess:

Model selfie          Guess Rocks

Coffee break with Guess          Shooting Guess Denim Diaries

But what does this all mean?

Research has shown articles using images get 94% more total views than those without. Images provide context and convey emotion instantly. Presenting your idea or product with visual context allows viewers to mentally place the product or idea in their own life. Detail of the image is more important to 67% of consumers than the actual product description and information in online sales. Etsy provides their sellers with photo tips to boost sales and provide a sense of trust in the product. Airbnb understand the importance of photography generating successful sales and offer free professional photography shoots for hosts. Clothing retailer Forever 21 recognises the power of images to reach their 8.9 million Facebook followers. Images ranging from celebrity styles, memes, and product updates are posted several times daily on their page. Research shows these type of posts engage 37% more than text only posts on Facebook. An engaging image from Forever 21’s Facebook page:

Forever 21 Lorde's Inspiration

Billions of images are added to the visual web daily. Choosing an image that rises above the vast white noise of modern marketing is what good marketers aim for. Choosing the wrong image can generate some publicity but maybe not the kind you want. Here at Taggs we realise the importance of images that maximize engagement. Follow us on our journey as we provide insight into the visual web.