Visual Social Media - What it is and why we should care.

Welcome! This month, I’ll be discussing visual social media. This is a huge movement within social media and I hope that my posts will offer some insight into the trend and how it can impact your library.

First of all, what exactly is visual social media?

Well…it’s exactly what it sounds like. The term visual social media is a catch-all for anything that mixes imagery - i.e. photos, videos, illustrations or infographics - with social media.  Photo sharing websites like Pinterest and Instagram are built on the idea of visual social media, and popular websites like Facebook and Twitter make use of photo sharing as a primary function of their sites.  Tumblr and other microblogging sites are based on the use of short, imagery based posts. The term visual social media applies to all of the above.

Why is visual social media important?

Because it is changing how we interact with social media. The rise of visual social media means that a big portion of content in social media is switching from text to imagery. We’re sharing more photos, we’re reading more infographics, and we’re watching more videos. Just think, ‘selfie’ was Oxford Dictionary’s 2013 Word of the Year.

But doesn’t social media change all the time anyway?

Yes, it absolutely does. Social media is constantly changing and trends come and go. However, visual social media is the fastest growing part of the web and it isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon – just look at the success of Pinterest! This infographic neatly sums up exactly how much visual social media has grown:

The Exponential Growth of the Visual Web posted by Irfan Ahmad on Social Media Today:

How does this impact libraries?

It means that libraries will need to shift to a more visual social media presence. Marketing blogs have been heavily pushing visual social media to businesses as a way to reach consumers. Likewise, libraries can use this same premise to reach patrons. Many libraries have already started reaching out to their users through visual social media resources. For example, check out NYPL’s Instagram and Pinterest pages:

NYPL’s Instagram Profile:

NYPL’s Pinterest Page:

The switch to visual social media also means that simple text updates to your library’s Facebook account will no longer cut it. Facebook’s news feed algorithm has changed over the past year to favor the posts that get the most interaction through likes, shares, and comments. Popular posts go to the top of the news feeds while the rest of the posts get buried somewhere at the bottom where your patrons aren’t likely to see them. How do you get more likes and shares? Use a photo. Photos get 53% more Likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs according to Kissmetrics - an Analytics, Marketing, and Testing Blog. Facebook posts that include images have the best chances of showing up in your patrons’ news feeds. This same idea also applies to Twitter: photos and imagery get the most interaction.

Lastly, visual social media impacts libraries because it will impact our patrons. We need to be knowledgeable about these new technologies so that we can share this information with them. They will have questions for us, so let’s get ready.

On a final note, I know keeping up with social media is a tall order for many libraries. Building and maintaining a strong social media presence takes quite a bit of time and effort. If your library has the resources to build a presence on multiple social media sites, that’s great. If your resources are limited, that’s ok too. You can integrate visual social media into any social media tool you’re already using just by increasing the amount of imagery you use.

What’s coming up in my next few posts this March? I’ll be sharing information on the top visual media websites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Imgur. I’ll also go over some digital photo editing websites like Pixlr and PicMonkey and a few web resources I’ve used to find free high resolution stock photos. Enjoy!


Contact Information

Emily Weisenstein

Children's Services Supervisor

Madison Public Library

39 Keep Street

Madison, NJ 07940

973-377-0722 ext. 3

emily.weisenstein [at]