Social Media Tips: Being Visual When Your Product Isn’t

Not all products are created equal in the eyes of social media.

Some companies have it easy. Take a bakery, for example. They can snap a picture of a cupcake with some sprinkles, throw a filter on it, and boom: Instagram gold.  While that is all well and good for them, what about those companies that have a great product or service but it’s not necessarily “visually friendly?” Insurance, or taxes, or computer software offer great services but lack an obvious visual aspect to make their product appealing on image-based social media outlets.  Only so many images come to mind with these products, and some of them aren’t what you would call “pretty.”

So how are businesses that lack these visual elements supposed to take advantage of social media’s growing obsession with image-heavy content? Let take a look at what some of the best social media accounts in “visually boring” industries are doing.

General Electric

So what exactly does GE sell? If it were up to their social media team, the answer would be an inspiration. General Electric has taken social media by storm to create a discussion about innovation with every customer. They have dove headfirst into the social media world and continue to thrive by bringing their biggest and best innovations to life in unique ways to appeal to anyone and everyone.

General Electric’s Instagram feed features pictures documenting the world’s exploration and how their products have been an instrumental part of the adventure. Not one picture says, “Check out our new product! Buy it here ….” Their pictures feature top of the line innovations that their followers may never have seen otherwise.  This approach to photo sharing has given people a reason to want to see what’s next from General Electric and has allowed GE to gain a following of over 172K.

GE Instagram Page

Pinterest is another platform that may seem out of reach for a company like General Electric. Still, with boards like “Badass Machines,” “#6SecondScience,” and “The Art of Innovation,” GE has harnessed the power of the visually focused platform. By looking outside of what GE offers and into what their customers care about, General Electric has made itself a visually appealing and aspirational brand on social media.

GE Pinterest Page

H&R Block

“I want to look at taxes,” said no one ever. To really harness the power of images on social media, they must first understand what people think of them. For H&R Block, that meant getting the attention of “Generation Turbo Tax”—Millennials who want to use online services to file their taxes. H&R Block utilized this idea and created the social media campaign, “Hipster Tax Crisis,” designed to attract this demographic to H&R Block’s service. The campaign featured a mix of videos, ecards, and a photo tool that let users turn themselves into hipsters. One of the biggest incentives for participation was that whenever a person shared some aspect of the campaign, H&R Block donated to the Covenant House.

Hipstertax

From the fun atmosphere of the campaign to the charitable incentive, H&R Block was able to add personality to their brand, transforming it from merely a tax service to a more inviting “experience,” despite being associated with a “visually boring” industry.  The brand wasn’t necessarily trying to sell anything. They used the approach more about trying to mold the attitude surrounding taxes and making the tax season more enjoyable. H&R Block’s greatest feat was creating a campaign that made tax season positive and fun.

Progressive Insurance

Shopping for insurance is not fun, and no one has stepped up to change that fact more than Progressive Insurance.  In 2008, Progressive insurance rolled out a new set of advertisements featuring a woman wearing an apron and red lipstick. From that initial introduction and on, Flo the Progressive girl has brought the insurance company into the forefront of insurance shoppers worldwide.  Flo has allowed progressive to put not only a face but a likable one at that, to their brand. Flo has allowed progressive to show the fun, and funny insurance side from her own social media accounts to a site dedicated to making Flo Halloween costumes.

Progressive Social Media

The development of Flo has not only allowed Progressive to be a recognizable brand to customers, but it has shown that Progressives’ marketing and the creative team hit advertising gold. Flo was named one of the top ten female advertising icons of all time by Ad Age, and Progressive CMO, Jeff Charney, won the 2011 Brand Genius of the Year award from Ad Week.

For industries that don’t necessarily have much of a visual aspect to their offerings, visual social media can seem like an impossible medium to harness. Still, with a little brainstorming and consumer research, your company can join in on the photo-sharing. Knowing what your customers want to see and turning that into something related to your brand can be difficult at first, but once you know what it is, you can create campaigns that go beyond selling a product.

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Sydney Gardner is a summer 2014 social media intern at SEO Inc. and public relations major at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

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