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Multimedia & Visualization: Key insights from an expert session

By Seval Dogan, Business Wire & Christian Salow, altii GmbH

This article touches upon the issue of visualization on the internet. It provides some key insights drawn from an expert session, which was jointly organized by Business Wire Germany (www.businesswire.com) and altii (www.altii.de). The session was held at the Communication Congress 2016, one of the most popular events for the PR industry in the German-speaking countries.

Radical technological developments such as the internet and social media enable us to create and distribute visual content in a much easier way than ever before. Pictures, videos and interactive visualization have become increasingly important. In fact, the internet without visual content is hard to imagine today. Undoubtedly, the rise of social media platforms had an impact on visualization. Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and many other sites have become platforms where multimedia posts dominate over text. Compelling visual assets and creative illustrations stimulate the interest of the audience and make a story much more engaging. As a response to the significance of visualization, online platforms such as ThingLink, Glogster, PictoChart, Flixel, HSTRY and others emerged, enabling users to create interactive content and bring visuals to life.

This has triggered a new phase of competition where visual content is used as a stimulus for brand awareness and as a means to generate potential customers - it is through social media and modern communication platforms that companies often reach their target groups in the digital age. But with the appearance of new tools, new rules of communication apply. As a result of this, marketers are increasingly paying attention to the needs of the users by looking at what is being said on social media platforms and what the trending topics on the internet are, before they distribute their visual content. On the other hand, internet users are increasingly becoming picky, especially when it comes to what to read, to listen, or to watch, and where to do so. This implies that if you want your visual content to make an impact, it has to be implemented within the right context. Therefore, a clear understanding of target groups is very important in order to find the right channel and to be properly perceived by the audience. Just as important is making the link between image and message perfectly congruent. The same applies to videos - good videos need to be well-prepared. All these inevitably raise the question: How can the attention of consumers be obtained and maintained in the digital age?

In our expert session, we analyzed how the interest of users can be triggered and what role attractiveness plays when it comes to videos. One of the key ideas discussed was that, overall, using the ‘right’ image generates more clicks, and this is especially the case with images that evoke emotions. Shock, anger, fear, disgust etc. can be as powerful of emotions as joy, happiness, hope, and so on, on the internet. However, this does not mean that emotionally-triggering visual content is the only way to go viral. For instance, some visual content (e.g. videos) regarded as ‘unattractive’ can be more long-lasting in popular internet rankings than more ‘attractive’ ones.

This prompted our session to discuss the significance of virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR). The new media devices are likely to change not only the meaning of visualization but also the use of interactive media on the web. VR and AR tools create a whole new customer experience and interactive multimedia might be soon challenged by these communication tools. With these new tools, content can be displayed in new visual ways which can be very impressive for the consumer. They do not only trigger the senses, they can literally absorb them. The user is fully immersed in the new reality created by those technologies, giving the feeling to the user of being physically present in another environment. The three-dimensional environment depicted by the VR and AR tools provide a highly interactive and life-like experience where the user can move around. An employee of Google once said: "In a room with people, some of which carry Google Glass and some not, in no time there are two separate groups apart where there is no physical distance. The no-Glass in the one corner and the Glass people in the other!” (Perhaps this could be a reason why Google did not let the Glass project grow from the development stage). Microsoft is also working on a similar project, the HoloLense project. Such technological developments keep us excited about the future applications and acceptance of virtual media, as well as about their impact on the meaning of visualization in the age of digitization.

Are you interested in this topic? Take a look at the following presentation slides, or share your thoughts with us.

To learn more about best practices for using visuals in your own communications content, download and read our guidance report, Let’s Get Visual: Multimedia and the Press Release.