New research reveals how people engage with brands using images

Published: 27 September 2023

The first academic research study to look at how consumers use pictures and not text to engage with a brand revealed there are four behaviours people evidence through images.

Dr Jaylan Azer

The research explored 29,000 pictorial posts created by individual users on the official Instagram and Facebook pages of Amazon, Apple, American Airlines and Nike.

Academics at University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School, Strathclyde Business School and ESCP Business School, Madrid, conceptualized forms and identified outcomes of customers’ engagement behaviour using images:

  • Evidential – evidencing ownership and purchasing of a brand
  • Experiential  - showing their experience, or using the brand, product or service
  • Mocking  - using graphics editing software or creating a meme to ridicule the brand
  • Dissuasive  - using a logo parody to dissuade others from using or buying products, brands, or a service

Adam Smith Business School's Dr Jaylan Azer said: “Visual social media prompted a change in the mindset of how we study images to go beyond mere characteristics of images and think about the behaviour the images communicate and hence, prompt in viewers. The findings of this research will influence and support content managers to develop more effective engagement strategies in social media marketing.”

Dr Lorena Blasco-Arcas of ESCP Business School, Madrid, said: “Understanding how users engage with and react to visual content has become a key aspect of social media communication effectiveness for brands. Our research offers new insights for managers to understand and manage user-created visual content, how that content reflects their engagement with a brand and its potential impact in others.”

Dr Matthew Alexander from Strathclyde Business School said: “More than 1.5 billion images are shared every day on social media. When these images contain brand information, they affect the way other individuals think, feel and behave towards brands. With opinions and behaviours increasingly influenced by online engagement it’s vital that organisations have the capacity to understand, and respond to, the ways individuals engage using images.” 

First published: 27 September 2023

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