A picture worth a thousand tweets

Thirty years ago Madonna sang of being a “material girl”.  Had the song been written today, she may well have been a “digital girl in a visual world”. This is the reality of the modern world where celebrities have millions of followers on Instagram.

Photography is the new universal language. As our lives become increasingly digital and social, sharing has become the new speaking. Visual content is revolutionising the way we communicate and agile businesses are moving to take advantage.

"Sharing visual content is becoming more and more important and it naturally affects the way in which companies do business."
Maria Bellmàs Sanz, ANZ generalist banker

But colorful snippets of information are also  a more effective way for business to communicate complex messages in a simple, quick and visual way. This is extremely important when time is short and attention spans even shorter.

The success of Pinterest, a social network launched in 2010 where users post images that inspire them is evidence of this. Pinterest users make image boards to share photos in a collection. When an image is “pinned” it goes to a main feed where other people can either re-pin it or follow the user or board. Pinterest is now the fourthmost popular social network in the world.

Twitter, which began as a network where people posted text and comments is increasingly becoming a place where its users publish pictures. This comes as no surprise. Tweets with images receive 18 per cent more clicks, 89 per cent more favorites and 150 per cent more retweets, according to Hubspot.

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And you don’t have to spend too long on social media to see the multitude of picture-based memes skewering anyone from popular culture identities to politicians.


One of the most obvious ways the visual revolution is taking place is in the level of engagement companies are building with their customers through graphical content in social networks.

Coca Cola solicits user-generated images via its Flickr page, which it then repurposes for its engaging Pinterest boards.

Starbucks makes extensive use of user-generated content showing its products in visually creative ways.  The company’s Facebook cover image consists of images submitted by customers. It’s very cool and very interactive.

Another example I particularly like are the GAYTMs ANZ have produced in Australia and New Zealand during the last years. ANZ has publicly supported diversity and equality for many years but the introduction of GAYTMs as a visual tool to express this support had a tremendous impact on customers. The campaign had more than eight million social media impressions.

According to MDG Advertising, content featuring compelling images averages 94 per cent more total views than that without.


With one quarter of the world having a smartphone in the pocket by 2016, it has never been easier taking pictures, sharing them and being able to communicate with millions of people without language barriers.

I bought a barbeque pit recently and consequently I needed to buy coal to use it. Buying coal in Barcelona, where I am from, would have been the easiest task. However, I currently work and live in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, so I had to learn to pronounce the word “coal” in Lao before attempting to buy some in the local market.

After asking several people, nobody seemed to understand my Lao spoken with a Spanish accent so I took my smartphone out of my purse, searched for a picture of coal and showed it to one of the shop sellers. It took him less than two seconds to understand what I wanted.

Studies show human nature is physiologically hardwired to prefer to ‘see it to believe it’ but there are other scientific explanations for the immense power of images.

Ninety per cent of the information transmitted to our brains is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.

In addition, words are processed by our short term memory where we only retain approximately seven bits of information, but images go directly into long-term memory where they are stored.

The consequence of this applied to the digital world is photos and videos are processed much faster and have a bigger impact on our brains so they perform best for social media likes, comments, and shares as compared to their less efficient cousins, texts and links.

Visual content is and will continue to be one the best ways to engage with people around the world and communicate in a simple and effective way and social networks will play an important role in enabling companies to take advantage of its multiple benefits.

There is no doubt for digital girls living in this digital world a picture is now worth a thousand tweets.

Maria Bellmàs Sanz is a generalist banker at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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