Cameras and mobile handsets are inseparable functions (unless you work in a high security institution which forces everyone to use “camera-less” feature handsets). Users are able to capture images of increasing clarity and quality with each improving handset. Images captured on handsets with a “always-on” connectivity to the Internet transforms these digital photographs into social assets that represent the user’s life and personality.
(Source: Young woman taking photo via Shutterstock)
This utilitarian approach toward capturing images on today’s plethora of smartphones embellishes the innate desire in most digitally-comfortable mobile users to share their spontaneous moments within their social networks. Such networks are not restricted to Facebook, Flickr, or Photobucket. Indeed, there are probably a bunch of photo-sharing sites on the Internet with accompanying mobile applications that facilitates this photo-sharing behavior.
If the number of users is a yardstick for success, then these sites must be really doing well. For instance, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook shared in a recently concluded technology-focused conference that Instagram has more than 100 million users. It is an impressive figure, and is undoubtedly one of the metrics used by Facebook to value Instagram at close to US$1 billion. But if the number of users is used as a metric to measure its future revenue contribution to Facebook, then it is vital to define what is this potential revenue.
Measure Engagement Through Photo-Sharing
To this end, I will argue that each photo captured on mobile handsets and uploaded to photo-sharing services measures the level of engagement between the user and the brand. The latter is represented by the context behind the image captured on the device. Accordingly, a higher level of engagement correlates with an increased probability of conversion as the brand is viscerally immersed in the user’s photo capturing behavior.
So, how can advertisers leverage on this mobile photo-sharing behavior to increase the conversion value of their brands? In order to do that, the advertiser needs to understand the three core attributes behind an image captured on today’s smartphones – location, focus, and social. These attributes allow brand owners to differentiate users’ engagement into different segments, thereby varying the level of marketing resources to transform each segment’s engagement into conversion.
Today’s smartphones are equipped with global positioning system (GPS) that allows the camera to embed the coordinates to the captured image. This data set allows images to be geographically segmented, and allow brand owners to determine locations with the most number of contributors. Inevitably, locations with the highest level of contributions point to geographical attributes that attract users with specific demographics that could be aligned to the brand’s target segments. An added dimension to the location data set is the time which the image was captured on the mobile handset. This dimension augments the location data set to determine the dispersion of mobile users throughout the day in any given geographical area. Collectively, they form a collage of mobile users who demonstrate high propensity to engage viscerally through photo-sharing in various locations at different times of the day.
This attribute determines the context behind the user engagement process. Context is a function of user intent that can be influenced by forces such as marketing campaigns. For instance, Citibank Singapore executed a “Take Your Bank Anywhere” campaign to raise the awareness of its mobile banking service and amplify the value of banking anywhere with smartphones.
The focus of the campaign is the image of a smartphone with the screen displaying Citibank’s mobile banking service. The focused image is augmented in varying locations in Singapore, thereby creating a context that Citibank’s mobile banking service is available at any location. Invariably, this enhances the value proposition of Citibank’s mobile banking service to its customers (engagement). As a result, more Citibank customers will be encouraged to use their mobile handsets to manage their banking transactions, thereby reducing the waiting time in retail branches (conversion).
Today’s mobile users are more likely than their predecessors to be comfortable uploading images captured on their mobile handsets to photo-sharing services. This user behavior can be harnessed by brand owners to create engaged mobile communities by integrating attributes to create a mobile-sharing advertising campaign. Together, they form the basis of conversion from digital photos captured and shared on today’s mobile-sharing services.