In June 1985, National Geo­graphic pub­lished a photo of a green-eyed Afghan girl, taken by Steve McCurry. That sin­gle photo became a pop cul­ture phe­nom­e­non. To this day, it’s one of the most eas­ily rec­og­nized pic­tures in the United States, syn­ony­mous with the National Geo­graphic brand.

The impact of a good pic­ture can’t be under­es­ti­mated. Peo­ple can con­nect with pic­tures in a way they can’t always with text. Users will only read 20 per­cent of the text on a page, but pic­tures are highly mem­o­rable and truly “worth a thou­sand words.” A study by ROI Research showed that users are 44 per­cent more likely to engage with brands and com­pa­nies if an image is involved.

Today, peo­ple share about 500 mil­lion images a day—a rate expected to dou­ble in the next 12 months. Although most cus­tomers won’t write a lengthy review for your site, they will hap­pily share a pic­ture of them­selves with your prod­uct. Best-in-class dig­i­tal mar­keters will lever­age images in social mar­ket­ing cam­paigns across social net­works, .com sites, and mobile.

Nike Knows Inte­grat­ing Images across Social Networks

Nike has a strong visual brand pres­ence on social net­work­ing sites, includ­ing Insta­gram, with more than 3 mil­lion brand fol­low­ers and more than 20 mil­lion com­ments that men­tion their brand.

How they keep their brand fol­low­ers engaged and inspired is evi­dent. For exam­ple, Nike recently cel­e­brated its 2-year anniver­sary on Insta­gram by shar­ing the 10 best Insta­gram pho­tos from its fol­low­ers along with moti­va­tional mes­sages and a spot­light on the user who shared the orig­i­nal photo. Their Insta­gram cam­paign had great engage­ment with almost 5,000 com­ments from peo­ple inter­act­ing with the brand. In addi­tion to cel­e­brat­ing the com­mu­nity and rein­forc­ing its brand mes­sage, the com­pany show­cases the users them­selves, con­tin­u­ing to build on the rela­tion­ship with its advocates.

Nike social mar­ket­ing cam­paigns span social net­works and that dri­ves engage­ment. For exam­ple, Nike uses hash­tags on its Insta­gram pho­tos to start new trends on Twit­ter, increas­ing brand awareness.

Lul­ule­mon Looks to Users to Boost Its Bot­tom Line

Enabling and encour­ag­ing cus­tomers to share pho­tos on your .com site dri­ves con­ver­sion rates and com­mu­nity engage­ment. When users upload their own pho­tos to a brand’s site, peo­ple are more likely to inter­act with the brand. Users who inter­act with a real person’s photo on a site con­vert 2 to 3 times higher than average.

This past fall Lul­ule­mon, a yoga and active wear apparel com­pany, ran #TheSweatLife cam­paign. Users were invited to share pic­tures of them­selves wear­ing Lul­ule­mon on Insta­gram with #TheSweatLife hash­tag and have them dis­played on lul​ule​mon​.com. The com­pany got 26,000 responses from con­sumers. This was a great boost for Lul­ule­mon, because most com­pa­nies see an increase of between 5 and 7 per­cent when they show user-generated content.

Sephora Starts with Image First Campaigns

Sephora, a high-end cos­met­ics brand, has made mobile a strate­gic part of its visual cam­paign and com­mu­nity efforts. The com­pany cre­ated an iPhone app called “Beauty Board,” which lets loy­alty pro­gram mem­bers upload or take pho­tos of them­selves show­ing off a makeup look. The mobile app ties into the main site’s “Beauty Bag,” where users can add prod­ucts and make pur­chases from their phones. Thanks to their mobile focus, Sephora saw a 300 per­cent increase in sales this past Black Fri­day, and about 1/3 of those sales came from mobile and tablet users.

Cre­at­ing an Impact with Images

Images are evoca­tive and can take your social mar­ket­ing strat­egy to the next level to drive engage­ment and con­ver­sion across social net­works, .com sites, and mobile. On social net­works, encour­age cus­tomers to share and tag pho­tos of them­selves. It is fast, easy, and inter­est­ing. On .com sites, increase the promi­nence of images and user pho­tos to cre­ate user expe­ri­ences opti­mized for the visual, image-based Web and mobile. In apps, use images to deliver rich immer­sive con­tent or enable users to tell their story with pic­tures and build com­mu­nity. Glob­ally, about 25 per­cent of Inter­net brows­ing is now done on mobile devices and the num­ber is expected to increase. Remem­ber, mobile first really means image first.

More than 20 years after it was taken, peo­ple still remem­ber the green-eyed Afghan girl. In 2002, National Geo­graphic found Shar­bat Gula liv­ing in a remote vil­lage in Afghanistan and wrote of her life mak­ing the trek across the moun­tains to a refugee camp, her mar­riage and chil­dren, and the sub­sis­tence farm­ing that now takes up her days.

How many arti­cles can you remem­ber read­ing after 20 years?