The following article first appeared on the ERA blog. You can find the original article here. 

It’s no secret that today’s consumers use pictures, not words, to express what matters most in their lives, fueling the quick and mass adoption of visual social platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. While these platforms are changing the way people communicate with each other, they are also altering how consumers discover products, share recommendations, and engage with brands. With a phone at arm’s length 24/7, the buyer journey is no longer linear but ongoing—a medley of actions and reactions to the content we engage with daily. And because products are frequently a click away, these prevalent visual channels have become viable tools for driving awareness, consideration, and sales.

At this point, many of today’s marketers understand that the benefit of social engagement lies not in the number of likes a photo receives, but in the ability to attribute interactions with images to revenue. How can you actually do this? Below, I share three suggestions that can help you get more out of your social strategy and leverage social signals to make better business decisions, starting now.

Showcase socially proven images.

direct-response marketing on instagram

Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr are the first places consumers go to save the products they want to buy and to celebrate the products they own. Pay attention to these visual engagements; surface popular images and trends; and use these social signals to produce more effective creative across your brand.

Brands that use socially proven imagery to optimize their marketing creative frequently see higher clicks and conversions. The Grommet is a great example of this. After swapping out their old ad creative for top performing Pinterest images, they saw a 50% increase in engagement with their digital ads.

If digital ads are part of your marketing mix, you can consider featuring top-pinned products, too. The same can be said when selecting which images to feature in newsletters, on product pages, within blog posts, and so on.

Turn product-driven conversations into action.

direct-response marketing on Pinterest

Consumers use visual social channels to ask questions, share feedback, and express desire for the products they love. How? By pinning content, leaving comments on images, and tagging your brand while perusing your stores.

For brands, this presents an opportunity to nurture relationships and drive sales. One way to do this is by searching for aspirational keywords like “want,” “need,” “buy,” or “love.” While responding with “thank you” is often enough to brighten a customer’s day, a direct-response marketer might also share a unique coupon code or a trackable product link.

Drive quality mobile traffic from Instagram.

According to Forrester, consumers are significantly more engaged with brands on Instagram than on any other social channel. In fact, a study released in April 2014 found that Instagram generated 58x more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120x more than Twitter.

Until recently, Instagram was primarily viewed as a tool for branding and awareness, whereas Facebook and Twitter were recognized as go-to channels for direct response campaigns. This preconception is slowly changing. In the last six months, a number of new tools have emerged that allow consumers to click from individual images on Instagram to the products they want to buy. For brands that tap into these technologies, the potential is huge.

Final Thoughts

Being a smart marketer requires a deep and thorough understanding of consumer behavior. But it’s not just about how consumers engage with your brand today. It’s about analyzing those engagements to make better business decisions tomorrow. This area of marketing still has a ways to go, but for the brands that embrace the language of social signals, possibilities abound. Consider some of the tactics here, and the future will be bright.