Visual Content on Social Media: 2017 Trends and Research

March 13, 2017

2016 was quite the year, especially for social media. With more brands using social media as a tool for communication and engagement, visual strategy may seem as confusing as ever to marketers. What do users want on their feeds? What will they respond to? Compiled from research & studies over the past year, here’s some helpful data that will keep your social strategies fresh for 2017.

Your Brain On Visuals


Let’s start off with what our brains do with visual content! Here are some fun facts about those reactions:

  • About 65% of us humans are visual learners
  • 50 milliseconds is all it takes for us to make an aesthetic judgment on the web
  • 90% of us judge products based on their color alone


Pictorial Superiority Effect is the concept that we are able to recall visual information better than verbal information. As the example goes: if we are given audio or text information, we’ll remember 10% of that 3 days later – but if that information is also combined with a visual, we are likely to remember 65% of that information 3 days later.

What The Marketers Think


The use of visual content is increasing: 74% of marketers utilized graphics in their marketing campaigns last year, up from 71% in 2015.


Among main content types, visuals and videos ranked 2nd and 3rd place in popularity (37% and 21%). Blogging lead in 1st at 38%, but that means the popularity of visual content is right on its heels. Content types analyzed were blog, video, visual, podcast, and live video.


Marketers realize that producing visual content is vital to their strategies:

  • 60.8% reported that visual content is absolutely necessary
  • 71.7% said it’s very important
  • Altogether, those marketers account for 93% of the test group


But the struggle is real: Top concerns are having the ability to produce well-designed visuals (29.1%) and then producing these engaging visuals consistently (36.7%).


  • 71.1% of marketers reported spending less than 5 hours a week on producing visual content
  • 31.6% spent less than 10% of their budgets on producing visuals
  • While marketers understand the importance of visual content, there’s still some hesitation in applying more resources to production

What The People Want


So how do we react to all this social content? For starters, we find content that is original, relevant, timely, snackable and has a call-to-action to most shareable content.


Out of over 800 million posts analyzed on Facebook, images, videos and questions reigned supreme as most popular content.


According to Twitter’s internal research, they’ve cooked up a little comparison for how content stacks up. With the base equaling a text-only post, engagement rises:

  • 3x for tweets with images
  • 6x for tweets with gifs
  • 9x for tweets with videos


On Instagram, user engagement with brands was high compared to other social networks, including the popular kid, Facebook. For every 1,000 followers, an average post will see 70 interactions on Instagram versus a mere 6 on Facebook.


Of the 50% of Instagram users that say they follow at least one brand:

  • 60% of them learn about products & services through the platform
  • 75% of them take an action, such as visiting a website


  • Storytelling on social media can harness great power when combined with thoughtful and relevant visual content
  • Given proper time and budget, the use of visual content can go really far in attracting and super-serving our audience
  • In our “media with impact” atmosphere where we focus on many topical conversations in news and politics, visual strategy is key in making our content and brand more memorable
  • Each social network has its own unique rhythm, so developing a personality for each property counts, especially as more and more companies take to social media to market themselves


William C. Bradford, “Reaching the Visual Learner: Teaching Property Through Art

Gitte Lindgaard, Gary Fernandes, Cathy Dudek & J. Brown, “Behaviour & Information Technology

Satyendra Singh, “Impact of Color on Marketing

Douglas L. Nelson, Valerie S. Reed, & John R. Walling, “Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning & Memory

Social Media Examiner, “2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report

Venngage, “10 Visual Content Marketing Statistics to Know for 2017

SEMrush, “5 Types of Visual Content That Get Shared The Most

Buzzsumo, “The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Engagement in 2017

Twitter, “What to Tweet” & “Best practices for supercharging campaigns with branded emojis

Track Maven, “2016 Social Media Industry Index

Instagram “200,000 Advertisers on Instagram