Pictures Speak Louder

In our 10 trends for 2012, we introduced the idea that, while it’s currently fashionable to encourage every brand to become a media channel, not everyone has the resources (or the authority) to sustain a steady stream of unique content. And seriously, that’s fine! It’s better to know your limitations than to spam consumers with worthless drivel. But these brands can still get in on the content marketing game by becoming Collective Curators, where the brand’s primary role is not to provide all the answers but to define the parameters of the discussion. And if that discussion can happen through pictures rather than text, you’ve got a chance to say a thousand times more.

Pictures Speak LouderThe photo-sharing app Instagram is perhaps the most intriguing example of a platform built for Collective Curation. (Actually, it’s also a damn fine tool for establishing your brand as a Guru, but we’ll get to that later.) The app is popular among users because of its simple photo filters and incredibly easy sharing functions, but also because it implements a Twitter-like tagging system that lets the images do the talking in these conversations. For instance, The Washington Post has asked readers to document the local impacts of the recession via Instagram by tagging their photos with the #econdebate tag (a couple are shown above). The collected images spark a multifaceted and compelling debate far more effectively than a vitriolic comment section ever would. (We’ve used a similar strategy on Upshot’s own homepage to showcase what’s inspiring us – look for the filmstrip at the bottom of the window.)

But the app isn’t just simple for users. An ideal example of Seamless Tech, Instagram’s flexible platform makes it easy for marketers to compile (and curate) photo galleries into their websites, Facebook pages, or other digital properties. For instance, the band The Vaccines managed to crowdsource a music video by asking attendees at their shows to tag their Instagram pictures with #vaccinesvideo. The band selected their favorite shots and incorporated them into the video shown below. And if an indie rock outfit can pull this off, just imagine what big-time brands like GE, Starbucks, and Levi’s could do. We’ll show you in part two of this post, coming tomorrow.