The future of social media is visual

Tabatha Laverty    March 15, 2015

Organization Name: Greatist

Industry: Health and Wellness

Web References: GreatistEthos3theblueballroom, PharmFreshMedia

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. These three social media platforms have long been referred to as the “big three” in social media. However, over the last few years, we’ve seen a clear shift in social media strategies to a focus on visual content that is quickly understood and absorbed by the audience. .

This change has resulted in the increased popularity of platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and Youtube and the emergence of text message content sharing platforms like Snapchat and Kik. Large organizations recognize that the future of social media is based in visual content and they are spending big bucks to acquire start-up platforms that easily support visual content. The most notable examples of this proactive acquisition strategy would be Google’s purchase of YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006 and Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion.

Emphasis on visual content is being driven by the millennial generation (or those aged 15-30 give or take a few years). Millennials are the first generation with fully technologically integrated live –  the first who used Google instead of the library, the first to prefer text messages to phone calls, and the first to truly embrace the concept of a fully connected society through social media.

 MillennialBlogThe online behaviours of millennials are very different from that of their parents and some of these difference are what is driving visual content strategies. Most importantly, millennials don’t read!

Well, I should say they read differently.

The internet has bombarded us with information, more than we could ever hope to process. And social media has created a universe where the expectation is that everything important can be said in 140 characters or less. This means millennials have developed a pattern of scanning information for relevant points rather then reading large blocks of text. Marketers have begun to address this by focusing on visual content: photos, videos, infographics.

And it is working.  According to Leslie Belknap of Ethos3’s blog post 10 Facts about Visual Content for Digital Marketing, posts with visuals attract 94% more traffic than text based posts and infographics increase web traffic by 12%.

The rising trend of infographics is probably one of the best illustrations of the value of visual content. Infographics are unique in that they allow brands to take large amounts of information and condenses it into the user friendly, sharable format that millennials demand.

This audio clip from communications agency theblueballroom includes commentary from professional designers on what makes infographics unique and effective in comparison to other storytelling techniques.


the-greatist-story-7-1024A good example of an organization that is using infographics well is the destination  website, Greatist. The blog based destination site was created by CEO, Derek Flanzraich, and focuses on providing fun and interesting content on health and well-being with the goal of “helping the world think of health in a healthier way.”


This video with Derek explains the website’s vision and touches on why Greatist has been able to be so successful.

Greatist has fantastic content across the board but their true strength lies in the fact that their content is fun, visual based and easily shared. The three graphics below illustrate the variety and quality of Greatist’s infographic content. *Click on the image to view in full scale.

SleepBetter_Final_0 Healthy Baking Substitutions The Complete Guide to Dealing With Hangovers

This type of content has made Greatist extremely successful. They are the fastest growing site in the space with over 5 million unique views per month. 65% of the websites traffic is driven through social sharing. The baking substitutions inforgraphic, for example, has been shared over social media over 600,000 times.

Its clear to see that infographics and other visual content like video are quickly taking over the social media content world but creating visual content is one thing, creating effective visual content is another.

Tips for creating successful infographics or other visual content  

Lessons for others

1  Data.  Good data is an essential starting point. The information presented must be clear, concise and most importantly accurate. Nothing else matters if the data you are sharing is inaccurate or missleading.

2. Design. Presenting data visually is an art. Colour, alignment and orientation are all important elements to making your infographic as engaging as possible. Don’t assume you can just put some stats on a pretty picture and call it an infographic. Consider hiring a professional designer to help.

3. Distribution. Infographics were born for social media.  Good ones are easy to share, interesting and easily drive traffic. Once your graphic is created, use social media to spread the word.

Submitted By: Tabatha Laverty

To contact the author of this entry please email at:
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Programme Director, Social Media for Business Performance.