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 good for them, what about companies with a great product or service, but it’s not necessarily “visually friendly?” Insurance, taxes, or computer software offer excellent services but lack an apparent visual aspect to make their product appealing on image-based social media outlets. Only so many images come to mind with these products; some 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’s look at what some of the best social media accounts in “visually boring” industries are doing.
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 most significant 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 instrumental in the adventure. Not one shot 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 photo-sharing approach 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.
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 its customers care about General Electric has made itself a visually appealing and aspirational brand on social media.
“I want to look at taxes,” said no one ever. To 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 videos, e-cards, and a photo tool that let users turn themselves into hipsters. One of the most significant incentives for participation was that whenever a person shared some aspect of the campaign, H&R Block donated to the Covenant House.
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 most remarkable feat was creating a campaign that made tax season positive and fun.
Shopping for insurance is not fun; 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 to the forefront of insurance shoppers worldwide. Flo has allowed Progressive to put not only a face but a likable one to their brand. Flo has allowed Progressive to show the fun and funny insurance side from her social media accounts to a site dedicated to making Flo Halloween costumes.
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 impossible to harness. Still, with some brainstorming and consumer research, your company can join in on photo-sharing. Knowing what your customers want to see and turning that into something related to your brand can be difficult, but once you know what it is, you can create campaigns beyond selling a product.
Sydney Gardner is a summer 2014 social media intern at SEO Inc. and public relations principal at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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