Why a Picture Says a 1,000 Sales: Four Visual Marketing Inspirations for Social

Young woman photographing food

As part of your holiday marketing strategy this year, you are relying heavily on social channels (like Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook) to generate new site visitors and engage your current customers.

You take the time to schedule all your social media posts at the right times – making sure to align them with your email campaigns. You create original content, you use trending hashtags and you’ve even taken the time to find all the top social influencers within your industry.

But it’s not working…at least not that you know of.

Sound familiar?

There has been a not-so-subtle shift in the way social marketing works. Social marketing, especially as it pertains to eCommerce, is all about the visual marketing.

You’re on the right track!

You’ve got the right idea. Relying on social media to spread the word about holiday promotions, focusing on visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, can take your holiday marketing efforts to the next level (when done correctly). That’s because images are an incredibly powerful communication tool. According to a 3M Corporation study, the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text and approximately 65 percent of the population are visual learners. And visual marketing also works perfectly for Twitter and Facebook.

Refresh (or Launch) your Visual Marketing Strategy

If your images aren’t driving traffic to your store, it’s time to take another look at your content. Using images in your social media marketing requires keeping your content fresh, highly relevant, and engaging, so put yourself in your target audience’s shoes. If you were your target customer, would you click, share, and comment on your images? And more importantly, would they make you want to make a purchase?

Refresh your marketing strategy with these easy and fun ideas to inspire your holiday social marketing plans:

1. Leverage user-generated images.

Visual marketing with a human element performs better than any other type of visual content. If you only have time to implement one visual social strategy this holiday season, it should be user-generated content from real consumers.

Customers love getting recognized by their favorite companies on social media, and in most cases, they’re happy to create and share content to be used by a brand – a strategy perfected by Rent the Runway.

Example: Rent the Runway, an online store that rents haute couture apparel for special occasions, noticed that many of their customers who rented dresses uploaded their photos to Facebook and Instagram. The company decided to turn this organic crowdsourcing of photos into a highly successful campaign that featured pictures of their customers wearing the dress, along with a review and a feature on social channels. They even used these photos on their website.

Website image featuring a stock image vs user generated images customer:

Visual Marketing Inspirations - Rent the Runway 1

2. Stock is out. Lifestyle is in. Stock photos of your merchandise may be fine for your product pages, but for social, we suggest a very different route. Try using an editorial-style image that shows your product as part of a lifestyle.

As you prep your store for the holiday rush, you should consider this: Seeing an image of a real person unwrapping a new shirt does a lot more for the present-day consumer than seeing a stock photo of the product somewhere online.

Place your products in real-world settings and show them being used and enjoyed. You can also show them in images with related products for upselling opportunities.

Example: Babiators, an online store and lifestyle brand that creates stylish and durable products for babies and kids, is a great example of a retailer that has figured out the right mix of stock vs lifestyle images.

Visual Marketing Inspirations - Babiators 1

3. Create a Gift Guide. Creating a holiday gift guide is a wonderful opportunity to reach a new customer base and engage your current customers, especially on social channels. We suggest creating different gift guides to target different consumers – making sure each features content, pictures, and even videos. And don’t stop at social marketing when promoting your holiday gift guides. We suggest using segmented emails to send your various audiences the holiday gift guide that most correlates to their needs (i.e. demographic data and/or past purchase behavior).

 Example: Antropologie creates a holiday gift guide each year that features lifestyle photos of people enjoying the unique clothing and home decor they are so well-known for. Their gift guides showcase curated gift ideas based on consumer interests and hobbies, including a gift guide for the hostess, the baker and even the gardener in your life. They’ve also organized their gift guides by pricing, stocking stuffers, and other various categories.

4. Coordinating website images to social images.

Continuity with your visual marketing helps reinforce your brand and ties all of your marketing channels together. You don’t have to use the same images for every platform (and that’s usually not a good idea anyway since every platform has a different audience and aesthetic), but it is a great idea to coordinate all of your visual content for each campaign.

Example: Brownie Brittle, an online retailer that has turned a favorite dessert into a delicious snack, did this with their Thanksgiving-themed images across their homepage, Twitter, and Facebook. They used the same simple image for their social channels and a different, more detailed image for their homepage banner. Not only is this a great representation of coordinating images across various channels, it’s also a great example of using seasonally relevant images.

Visual Marketing Inspirations - Browni Brittle 1

Bonus tip! Don’t forget your analytics. As with any marketing effort, keeping a close eye on your metrics — to discover what works and what doesn’t — is the key to creating holiday social media campaigns that convert. If your followers are sharing photos of specific products, if they are using hashtags you’ve created to promote a certain product, if they’re clicking on your links and making a purchase, you should know this.


If you’re struggling to use images for your marketing channels or struggling to make social marketing effective during this stressful time of the years, keep in mind that you’re not alone. User-generated images, editorial photos, holiday gift guides that feature ways to use the products, and coordinating your website creative with your social marketing are all viable (and highly encouraged) options. So go forth and “visualize” how implementing these four tips will improve your social marketing.