5 Reasons why a picture is now worth 10,000 words

They used to say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Now it’s worth at least 10,000 words and perhaps more. Here’s why: In a world of ready access to visuals with the prevalence of smart phones and easy to use photo editing software, combined with social media platforms that enable and encourage sharing, one photo can easily reach 10,000 viewers even if it is only accompanied by one or two words.

Humans have been reading words for hundreds of years, but we’ve been reading visuals for thousands of years. We are hardwired to be attracted to visuals. In fact consumers post 2.5 billion images every week according to Engadget, a tech blog. There’s good reason why visual platforms such as Instagram, Pintrest, Youtube and Vine have generated so much growth. And it also explains why platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become much more visually oriented.

Here are 5 reasons why visuals are now hot:

  1. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. We absorb visuals 50 times faster than words.
  2. Posts to Facebook are more likely to engage and be shared if there is a visual image. Posts with visuals receive 94% more page visits and engagement than posts without.
  3. Facebook posts with images on average receive twice as many comments as posts without.
  4. Tweets with images get 2 times more engagement than those that don’t.
  5. Visuals express ideas quickly – in a snapshot. This breaks through the overwhelming clutter of online content.

I’m sure I could give you a list of 20 reasons if I researched a little further. The point is this: if you are not utilizing visuals well in your online, social media or enews marketing efforts, you’re likely missing out on views and shares.

The magic for marketers of course happens when narrative details and brand value can be communicated in a single photo. Let’s look at a recent example by Shell gasoline. To celebrate 30 years of refining in Alberta, Shell brought back 1984 gas prices at 8 secret locations on Wed Oct 8th across Alberta. For that morning only, they lowered to price to .39¢ per liter – the price it was 30 years ago. (For American readers that’s about $1.56 a gallon).

Shell_39¢_promoOf course, gas attendants pumped up the 80s theme sporting big hair and shoulder pads. Some even wore Oilers jerseys – 1984 was after all the year Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup! The cheap gas of course generated frenzy at the pump, necessitating line control, and even traffic enforcement by the police. At the heart of the promotion was the fact that it was easily shared visually and the offer was appealing. Folks snapped photos of price signs, their SUV full on a $20 charge, and of course big hair, shoulder pads and Oilers paraphernalia proved irresistible, especially since Gretzky and Messier were part of the Edmonton Oilers doing a reunion tour that week in the province.

Big_hair_1980s_pricingAnd of course there were selfies.

1984_pricing_selfiesThe promotion also generated significant media coverage by local and national newspapers, TV and radio stations. Check out this clip from Global:

The lesson? Visuals are now worth at least 10,000 words, and countless more in free promotion if you happen to generate interest from the media.


Mary Charleson

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