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Innovation 101: Visual recognition

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Anton Watman)

With an average of three billion images uploaded online every day – of which over 95 million of those images being posted on Instagram alone – visual content is king of kings.

This presents a dilemma to marketers; with so much of marketing efforts measured by return on investment, how much faith do they put into the visual content they know is more engaging than text, but which they cannot track?

In the past, marketers would have to hope that whoever was uploading their image would use a very handy alt tag, caption or hashtag so that they could discover and then track how a piece of visual content had permeated.

Thankfully, innovation and technological advancement is shining a light on the previously opaque world of visual recognition and monitoring.

Just as traditional text-based media monitoring evolved from humans reading, cutting and pasting with scissors and glue to automated text scanners on digital documents, with images, now you no longer need to depend on alt text and hashtags to be able to track imagery.

The adoption of wide-scale image recognition technology is set to revolutionise a marketer’s workflow. This new innovation will change how marketers think about producing and distributing visual content, by finally providing answers on what images work best with what audience by which influencers and, ultimately, how those images drive business value.

The image recognition revolution

If you’re thinking that image recognition technology must have existed before 2018, you’d be absolutely right. Standard image recognition is available. However, it has traditionally taken up a lot of time, bandwidth and processing, meaning it can only be used on a small scale.

This is where technological innovation and automation has advanced image recognition to make it much more efficient. Now the best visual recognition businesses are able to track images quickly, on a huge scale.

This is why Cision acquired and integrated ShareIQ – now Cision ImageIQ – into the Cision Communications Cloud alongside its traditional text monitoring product.

Cision ImageIQ has the ability to recognise images at scale, by giving every image it scans unique “DNA”. It can then match DNAs together, tracking whether a particular image has shown up on any number of websites or social channels. By using this system, the software can even track an image which has been cropped or modified.

For the first time, being able to assess the true effect of how visual content has permeated will be enable marketers to better hone their future visual output.

Why tracking images is important

In his seminal Brain Rules research, John Medina notes that humans will remember 65 per cent of a piece of information three days after they come across it, if it contains an image, as opposed to only 10 per cent if they hear the information verbally.

As Rob Matheson notes, 70 per cent of Instagram users are more likely to make mobile purchases, while 75 per cent take some sort of action – whether that be making a purchase or clicking a link – after viewing a post from a brand.

On Twitter, tweets incorporating images are six times more likely to be retweeted, receive 150 per cent more retweets and 89 per cent more likes.

The important thing about those statistics is that they are not even taking into account what could be achieved when you have data to tailor images, to fit your targeted audience and the individual influencers that publish and share images across the web.

If visual content already works that much better, imagine how effective it will be once you apply visual recognition software to track what people actually do with your images, and how you can use these insights to craft your future visual strategy.

Marketers will soon discover which of their images have been used. They will be able to assess whether their designed hero image was the best, or if someone used a more impactful variation. For example - did an influencer create a picture of themselves holding a product that actually proved most popular?

Not only will marketers be able to see how their content is being used, they’ll also be able to see which influencers share their content the best. Previously, they would have been approaching influencers who have written about them but missing those who use their images – this innovation means they can now tailor their approach to both.

Keeping up with the Joneses

Businesses tend to fall into two categories; the innovators and those trying to keep up. Part of my role at Cision is to ensure that we are leading an innovative charge and building the technology marketers need, rather than playing catch-up.

Cision’s goal is to elevate the discipline of PR and comms into that of earned media management; where marketers use standardised systems and processes to target influencers, distribute messages and measure the business impact those activities have on the behaviour of consumers and target audiences.

It is important for Cision to push the PR and comms profession; to innovate and come up with new technology and solutions to drive companies across all sectors. Visual recognition is just one example of how AI, and other innovations, will come to reshape strategies and make existing processes more efficient.

Earned media managers will need to embrace this spirit of innovation to ensure that they keep up, not only with their competitors in the earned media sphere, but also with advertising professionals and others from the marketing mix.

If communicators in the earned media sector want to go about reversing the traditional lack of investment they receive when compared with paid media budgets, adopting the latest technological advances to help demonstrate their value and the ROI of their work will be key.

A picture speaks a thousand words. And now, with advanced image recognition technology, marketers and communicators can discover, track and measure the image’s influence on business metrics.

David Barker, President Data Solutions and Innovations, Cision (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/Anton Watman

David has over 20 years’ experience in the marketing and technology industry, which has included holding senior leadership positions at the likes of Accenture, Adobe and Oracle Marketing. Cision appointed David in 2016, to oversee the company’s earned marketing cloud vision through the use of integrated data within Cision’s technologies across the partner ecosystem. Prior to his appointment, David was VP of Data, Media and Ad Tech Sales at Oracle Marketing Cloud. He has experience in driving go-to-market sales and strategy from small to large ad-tech and digital marketing enterprises, and is responsible for driving Cision’s new and innovative product offerings as well as overseeing Cision’s partnerships and alliances.