The majority of shared content on mobile is viewed via ‘dark social’ channels, such as pasted links in emails or chat apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat. Sanjay Sarathy, VP Marketing at Cloudinary, examines how brands can use visual media to profit from the power of this hard-to-reach but lucrative traffic stream.
Private social media channels such as WhatSapp and Facebook Messenger are rising in popularity around the world. According to data released by GlobalWebIndex last year, 63% of UK and US consumers are now most likely to share links to interesting articles or their next dream purchase using one of these ‘dark social’ platforms.
And with 20% of consumers saying they share only via these channels, it’s clear that brands must begin to pay far closer attention to the interaction between the various apps and their websites.
Cloudinary’s new report, The State of Visual Media 2020, shows that not only is dark social’s popularity amongst consumers on the rise, but that channel preferences vary wildly from region to region. The US market is dominated by iMessage (62%), for example, and Southern Asia by WhatsApp (65%). The browser market is even more fragmented.
This is where microbrowsers come in; a class of User-Agents (UA) that visit websites and generate a user experience in the form of a preview. These link previews provide huge engagement opportunities, yet many brands often forget to consider how their site design might be impacting the generated preview itself. While platforms like iMessage work hard to surface data to present a fuller visual experience, not all systems do the same.
Here are three best practices companies can follow to drive click-throughs and conversion by ensuring the optimal visual experience is displayed across all chat and messaging apps, as well as the long tail of other screens like handheld game devices and smart appliances.
1. Grab Attention with Micro-Video
There’s nothing worse than a link that previews a low-quality image or even no image at all. People are more likely to click on a link a friend or family member shares if the link unfurls a compelling image, or even better — a video. According to our data, micro-video content is typically just 10-20 seconds long but delivers big engagement and conversion gains.
Not only will people who receive a link with captivating visuals trust that it’s not just a phishing scam, but they will also want to click to learn more and, ultimately, make a purchase. For example, a link to a pair of shoes online can showcase a high-quality image with a preview of the colours available. The link can also unfurl a video of the shoes in action.
2. Pay Attention to Your Audience
Personalisation is key to making connections with consumers, which is why brands must tailor ads depending on the platform.
Ad designs for unfurled links in microbrowsers should be tailored for qualified prospects that just need final bits of information to make the sale. People know their family and friends better than any brand could, and in this case, the sender has done the hard work on the brand’s behalf. They’ve not only expanded the reach, but also pre-qualified the lead, making the receiver that much closer to crossing the checkout line.
These consumers are open to word-of-mouth referrals and are more likely interested in the content being shared. By creating compelling, informative links with images, video and text information specifically for microbrowsers, brands increase the likelihood that peer-to-peer recommendations in groups convert into sales and reads.
3. Deliver Real-Time Results with AI
Brands must also consider the different browsers, devices and expectations that prevail, especially since people share content throughout both direct and indirect channels. For example, the previews generated in iMessage will look different than those in WhatsApp or Slack. Developers should pay attention to how the rendered link shows up in each platform to ensure that all images and videos are optimised.
To dynamically respond, brands can use artificial intelligence (AI)-driven image and video management tools to detect the environment and adapt images and videos quickly. Since web teams can’t possibly manually code visual content that anticipates every scenario, intelligent tools can help detect the environment and dynamically adjust the content to reach the most prospects.
By Sanjay Sarathy