The Buggles’ message back in 1979 was true then, and continues to echo into today’s era, yet in a different form.

Images – whether moving or still – are dominating the Internet experience and social media. Creative photographs fine-tuned with preset filters and clever, brief videos saturate company websites and blogs, as well as standard social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and Google+.

Now with smartphones being used more than desktops, and social media apps adopting picture-enhancing and video capabilities, visual communication has become a way of life, survival, and overall priority.

Nancy Lazarus wrote about this movement on mediabistro’s PRNewser, referencing a review of the trend at the recent PRSA 2013 Digital Impact Conference, and we at Sahl Comm wanted to look into this, too, and elaborate on some specific concepts.

Image vs. Text
“Visuals are processed far faster by the brain than text,” said Heidi Sullivan, Cision’s SVP of digital content.

You know from experience: scrolling through your Facebook feed, what makes you stop? A compelling image that appeals to your interests or intrigues you enough to explore something new — be it photo, illustration, or video. You pause, read about/click it, and move on to find more.FB screen shot

Instagram is literally a social media made for eye-appeal; it’s a channel filled with eye candy produced by its users.

The overused cliché “A picture is worth a thousand words” rings true in this case: people observe, digest, and process information much more quickly (and willingly) than a 3-page blog post or news article.

How Images are Used in Business
We all get how to use moving and still images in our personal lives: sharing a picture of us and our family on the beach during vacation; taking a video of our silly cats and dogs and posting it to Facebook; or expressing our inner film directors by crafting a clever stop-motion video through Vine.

But how can images be used for businesses? Catchy, well-produced photos of products are a given, but now they play a new role. These images need to be “cool” and “on-target” enough to engage the consumers by commenting on it or re-sharing it.

What about those companies who don’t provide physical products? As a PR firm, we at Sahl Comm can relate. They solution here is to accompany your intelligent, brief, and to-the-point message (1-2 sentences) with a related image. It could be an illustrated infographic describing a process or a photo that coordinates well with the message.

What Makes a Compelling Image
A story.

“Stories with visuals are also more compelling,” said Sullivan.

Whether it’s a few photo posts on Facebook of a business trip you and your employees are taking; a collage of clothing and accessories that can make up various outfits to be worn for work, weekend, or casual; or a video describing what services your company provides, a story can be created and then translated in an image.

As yourself: “What is engaging for my audience? How will I reel them in and make them respond?” (whether it’s purchasing a product/service or commenting on the Facebook post) What kind of story would your audience be interested and stick around to view and absorb?

Final Thoughts
Not only has visual communication become a way of life — personally and in the business world — but it has also become a way of survival: to stay updated on personal relationships and to compete for consumers’/clients’ attention is a sink or swim challenge. The app developers and marketers and natural movement of society encourage people to use image-oriented communications. Thus, be willing to adapt, because even if you don’t, your and your consumers’ social media lifestyles will.