What is Visual Listening, and why is it a must for marketers?

With billions of images being shared on social media every day, most of which include selfies and memes, brands and agencies are looking for more effective ways to leverage all this visual data.

It’s A Way To Make Sense Of Imagery

You have heard of social listening (if you haven’t, where have you been?), which has primarily focused on analyzing text to discover insights. Not surprisingly, companies find social listening extremely useful to be able to track what consumers are saying about their brand. Visual listening takes this to the next level, allowing companies to search by keywords, brands, posts, and mentions using image recognition. By empowering companies with the ability to detect brand logos, context, and even demographics, visual listening provides a whole new way to derive insights on brand audiences.

This sweet hazelnut spread was not mentioned anywhere in the tweet, but the sneaky Nutella logo was caught by image recognition!

Visuals Tell A Different Story

Likes, follows, and hashtags give different narratives than visual data. At Netra, we work with leading market research firms, like Kantar, who rely on image recognition to find insights missed in text. For example, instead of relying on self-reported consumption habits, they leverage image recognition to actually see how people consume a brand.

A consumer who follows Nike on Instagram may have just posted a photo of themselves buying new Adidas sneakers. Someone’s tweet expressing their Monday blues may have been accompanied by a photo of their morning Starbucks coffee. Without the ability to process visuals on social media, brands only get one side of the story. Visual intelligence is the key to closing the gap between what consumers consciously say versus what they actively do.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Starbucks logos were detected in this tweet about someone’s fantastic day. #stayhydrated

It’s Organic

Organic is what’s trending, right? Not talking about your farmer’s market produce, but organic as in real, observational data. It applies to marketing just as well, with companies finding ways to increase organic reaches on LinkedIn and “Impressions” on Instagram and Facebook. In fact, consumers do not like and do not trust digital advertising, and are more likely to develop brand loyalty by personal interactions. The most powerful thing for a brand is the ability to discover and study people who are already voluntarily and organically interacting with their products.

This screenshot of a live indoor tennis broadcast was pulled when we did a search for Mercedes Benz.

Small Investment, Big Rewards

Marketing peeps at brands and agencies use visual listening to further strengthen their insights and back up their claims. Most of the time, the visual data is put alongside other social listening results. The ROI is far greater when brands confirm consumer hypotheses’ beforehand than when they launch an expensive ad campaign based on contrived data.

Visual listening might just be the next step in the right direction for companies looking to further their social listening practices, or for those looking to find invaluable insights about their consumers. It’s an exciting technology that just keeps getting better as the amount of visual data increases exponentially. Regardless of adopting the tool or not, the power of visual listening is something every marketer should be aware of.


You can’t leave after reading this without getting a free demo of a visual listening dashboard!

Feel free to comment or reach out if you want to learn more about Visual Listening, what we do at Netra, or about anything at all!