Internet search is evolving — and it’s all about images

Interior designers and home furnishings brands who have felt they missed the boat on social media marketing may have new opportunities this year. Between sweeping tech layoffs, improvements in artificial intelligence and uncertainty regarding how much market share TikTok will continue to devour, 2023 is going to be a year of change in the social media realm. 

But here’s one thing we know for sure: Search is becoming increasingly visual. Social media users, especially Gen Zers, are using TikToks and Instagram’s Stories and Reels to replace or supplement traditional Google search — and what’s coming up are visual-laden results. For example, when typing in a keyword or hashtag to search for something like “healthy Thai recipes” on Instagram, the results don’t show a list of web links to blogs with recipes, but instead display a collage of imagery. In this example, the results would include lots of cooking tutorial videos. 

After watching a video, users may be prompted to view (or automatically shown) another healthy cooking tutorial from the same account they just watched, but of an entirely different cuisine. Or they may be taken to a Thai restaurant’s post instead. Or they may choose to navigate back and visit their first discovery page of prompts rather than accepting a new prompt based upon what they just watched. The app doesn’t care which adventure they choose, as long as they choose one and stay on the platform. Over time, the app will learn in which direction they tend to go and prompt them more accurately. 

How the consumer finds you

The goal of any social media platform is to keep users on it as long as possible. That is why the most sophisticated and commonly used platforms invest in making their platforms addictive: They want users to keep repeating the cycle: watching 10, 50, 100 or 5,000 healthy Thai recipe videos before committing to one they’ll actually try to make themselves.

That means how a customer finds you is changing, and when they choose to buy from you is also changing. These visual collages prioritize showing an experience over the brand’s name. 

See Also

This is why I often advise furniture and decor companies against using silhouetted imagery in their social media promotions. Consumers need to be able to clearly visualize how it feels to use your product before they buy it.

This new, visually oriented way to research products allows consumers to mitigate risk and build anticipation. The act of doing research and acquiring more knowledge is also empowering. Consider how this impacts the psychology of the buyer.

Content needs to be two-fold: First, it needs to be hyper-visual, establishing a mood or lifestyle aspiration, and second, it should arm the potential consumer with knowledge about the product, the brand and the industry in the form of storytelling. (Is it sustainably made? Is it produced in the United States or is it made from parts imported from eight different countries? Will it simplify their life? Will it make their living room cozier?) The more that you front-load your content with these two elements, the more the consumer will sell themselves on you and your brand.

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