What we can learn from the rise and rise of photos in social media

What we can learn from the rise and rise of photos in social media

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According to a study released by the Pew Research Centre, 46% of American internet users post photos and videos online and 41% curate photos and videos they find elsewhere; 32% do both. The rise of pictures and videos in social media continues, driven by apps including Instagram and Facebook, and by a rise in smartphones that make the taking and posting of media content easy. These tools allow us to do what we have wanted to do for a long time, bringing a natural behaviour to social.

Many of the developments in social and consumer behaviour are thought of as being completely new – and that is one way that the rise of photo- and video-sharing and curating could be interpreted. However, the truth is usually that tools are allowing social to play catch-up with the way we want to behave. Photo sharing is a good example of this.

Images have long been the way that we share information and ideas – they preceded written communication and through the ages imagery (paintings, photos and videos) have been a core way that humans have interacted. It is somewhat strange, therefore, that when we started to share information with each other through social media we resorted to words first. This was not because we wanted to use words, but just because we didn’t have the tools to let us create and share images.

So as more of us have these tools in our hands it should not be a surprise that more of us move to image-based communication in social media. Tools that let us take photos (smartphones), make these photos look more beautiful (either editing on the phone or using a tool like Instagram) and then share them with others (including Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr).

We can learn from this behaviour, learn what future trends in consumer behaviour with social might be. Look at the things we do that tools and services do not currently let us do online and investigate ways that these can be facilitated. That might be how we communicate ideas, or how we group our friends and connections.

One of the more exciting elements of social is that it really is only just catching up with consumer behaviour and the way we act offline. We are all learning to do more, share more and take ownership of how we organise our online life. Tools are increasingly helping us to do the things we want to do in a way that feels natural for us. Things are changing quickly in both spaces, and will continue to.