It looks like we are rapidly moving toward the point where we are going to be communicating in flash cards of images–and words may be an unsettling extra, if needed at all. I get that I am exaggerating, but with the direction the online space is headed, it is going to become a rather important principle for businesses to grab on to and then run with. Why? Well, if everyone is doing it and you’re not, that may be a bad thing. This change is not sudden–although the relative hype around it is–and it’s this hype (read Pinterest) that is driving this new push toward the visual over the cerebral.
Historically, images are a big part of any Internet presence. Since the dawn of the commercial Internet, the least appealing sites were the ones that were too text-heavy. Then came Google and their rise to power. That rise to power dictated just how sites would be made and maintained because the traffic from the engine was (and in many cases still is) the lifeblood of many a business.
Because of the limitations of search crawlers, our sites needed to be a mix of text and images, but the emphasis on text is much heavier because indexing images is harder and the context of a section of text is much easier to determine vs. that of an image in a file. The story was (from Google’s POV) that the text was there to help visitors understand your site a little better but it was there even more so for the Googlebot. He’s that little creepy-crawly that sniffs in every corner of every website, then takes its findings back to the Google mothership so what it finds can be can sliced and diced the Google way so we could have some order in the otherwise messy and often incoherent Internet space.
Now it appears as if we are not moving full circle but rather trying to leave the orbit of what many would feel is the rather restrictive clutches of Google. As a result, maybe the Internet is trying to turn the tide on the search giant by dictating to it what the masses desire by saying to Google, “Give us what we want or we will find another way.”
Would you have imagined a short 5 years ago that we would be facing a turning point of sorts for Google where the market forces are now strong enough to move the Goliath vs. the Goliath dictating the terms. (An unsolicited word of caution to Facebook at this point: it will happen to you too, so don’t think you have this thing licked just yet.)
Where has this dependence on images, to the current degree, come from? Some would say Pinterest. I would say that would be giving them too much credit. They are simply a mechanism for which the masses can now say they can communicate in pictures rather than those pesky word things. It is in our consumption of data that we are going full circle where we revert back to the days where we wanted picture books as kids because we couldn’t read and then some decided to slow down the whole learning thing–especially of there was a never ending supply of pictures to tell stories.
In a nutshell, we are lazy–pathetically so–and we are seeing this play out in just how intense this need for images is in the online space. It’s very real. And in many ways it is simply sad but true.
But on to businesses. This is a simple word to the wise. No matter what your business is, no matter how unsexy it seems to be, if you can’t put it into pictures you run the risk of not being able to communicate with an increasingly larger group of customers, prospects and people in general. We are quickly moving toward a dumbed down version of communication that can reduce people to an “Ohhhh” or an “Ahhhh” or a “Nahhhh” response set.
Again I realize that I am exaggerating but this is happening on a very real level and it is imperative for businesses to get the idea and get it quickly. Hire a photographer to help you tell your business’ story in pictures. Don’t settle for just the basics either because even in the oversimplified world of images there will be those who demand some level of quality or deeper storytelling even when words are a relatively unwanted second choice.
Is your business ready for its image to be represented in images? Are you able to help the over-informed get to your point as quickly as possible through eye candy? If not, you may find yourself looking antiquated quicker than you could have ever imagined. You think the slow adoption of social media like FB and Twitter in some areas of business is killing businesses? Wait until those very same businesses ignore this trend. It won’t be a pretty picture.
See what I am saying?