You may have noticed an interesting trend recently. As the popularity of visually engaging sites such as Pinterest and Instagram rise, and many mobile apps with user-generated content continue to launch, users are choosing to share on these sites rather than creating blogs. Even brands are turning to Pinterest and Instragram to show off their "behind-the-scenes" experience and to reach a new audience. What does this mean for the future of traditional blogging, as we know it?
Do Pictures Speak Louder Than Words?
Obviously, when we speak of a blog, we’re talking about a designated online space to share regular news, insights and commentary. Since 2006, microblogging emerged as a way to share insights in fewer words and characters. In the next few years, social sharing sites began to favor visual content. From web-based platforms like Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest, to mobile apps like Instagram and Vine, a simple filtered photo, scrapbooked recipe or a 6-second video can sometimes relay more than a 400-word post ever could. In fact, Tumblr alone helped to facilitate an internet meme-culture, where an animated gif or catchphrase can go viral, without so much as a caption or description.
This may not suggest that blogging is dead, but it may mean that blogging as we know it is changing. Case in point -- Guidecentral. Guidecentral is a mobile app that provides a visual way to create, discover and share how-to guides and DIY projects. Users are able to create how-to guides using their phone’s in-app camera and adding text to each step as they go.
Guides can then be shared with the Guidecentral community as well as with friends and colleagues on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, or via email. In return, users can learn from others by exploring, commenting on, and liking the many guides shared by the community and your fellow Guidesters and how-to fans.
Use Your Smartphone as a Guide
So why is this worth mentioning? Because, when you think about it, creating how-to information, whether it’s how to cook a soufflé, change a tire, or upload content to a CMS, has been a laborious process. Instead of being regulated to a lackluster blog post or a boring YouTube video, Guidecentral lets users create a simple, but effective guide right from their phone, which as we know, we use as a means to document much of what we do.
Gaston Irigoyen, Guidecentral’s founder says his mobile app is like combining Pinterest with Quora, the question and answer social network, because users can share their knowledge visually. Visual knowledge sharing is often an overlooked method, but is actually how most of prefer to engage with others. After all, how many times have you told someone else “Let me show you...”?
And when it comes to getting others to participate online and generate content on your behalf, visual content is often the easiest way to involve others. It reminds me of how Microsoft was able to learn more about how technicians installed their servers so that engineers could help solve problems they faced in the field. By simply asking techs to film the installation process via a Flip camera (it was 2010, after all) and upload it to the company intranet not only made it easy for busy, on-the-go technicians to share their story, it also helped relay important feedback that had previously been hard to collect.
Now of course, Guidecentral is currently used by individual users to share rather ordinary information -- from health and beauty to home and garden, but that’s not to say more technical information can’t be shared. Like other visual content sharing platforms, we won’t be surprised if Guidecentral opens itself to brands to help users access basic information and guides about their products.
The Impact of Visual Content
It could be that visual content is just the latest fad. Even if it is, it’s what the people want. And brands must deliver. Just last week, the White House launched a Tumblr page, joining a host of other organizations who are showcasing their fun, more personable sides. It isn’t that long-form blogging doesn’t have it’s place. Rather, it’s that visual content can also play a role in how a company portrays itself online. And it’s never been easier to make it happen - all you need is a smartphone.