What Is Hidden Behind Social Media Images, and Why Are Brands Hunting For It?

The majority of social media content is visual, with users uploading over 3.2 billion photos every day. These images contain a wealth of information about our consumer habits, which are not always revealed in the captions.

Visual Insights by YouScan aims to help brands obtain insights from social media images in a quick and effective way. Visual Insights leverages machine learning to analyze millions of user images and identify important details, such as logos, demographic data (age group, gender), activity, surrounding objects, setting, and many others. 

Let’s dive into 5 main ways in which Visual Insights can reveal valuable information in user-generated images. 

See real-world consumption situations and get ideas for new products

Visual Insights can help you find out how real consumers use your product by looking at what they post online. The algorithm picks out the scene (setting) of the image — such as fashion or street— as well as other objects in the image.

Real-world use cases can inspire future marketing campaign ideas, new products or improvements to existing products.

For example, when examining visual content from the international coffee retailer Starbucks, Visual Insights reveal “cake decorating” among the most popular activities for the brand.

Starbucks can use this already-popular activity to create new products, like cookie-decorating sets with the mermaid logo. 

Refine your buyer personas and reach new audiences

Visual Insights can help you refine or create new buyer personas by distinguishing between age groups, gender, occupation and activities depicted on user-generated images. 

The more common a category is among your online audience, the bigger it will show up on a VI bubble chart. You can filter the gallery of user photos to learn more about a certain demographic: for example, analyze images of youth to see what activities are popular in that age group.

Visual Insights can also be used to find new target audiences. Upon examining some popular activities in Starbucks user photos, we found “software engineering” listed as one of them: 

These insights can help a brand connect with new audiences by recognizing the consumers’ love for their products — with a promotional campaign to celebrate International Programmer’s Day, for example.

Identify brand ambassadors

Visual user-generated content can help you find new brand ambassadors, and even identify promoters among your employees. These users don’t have to explicitly tag or mention the brand name in their caption — YouScan’s logo recognition function can collect images by identifying branded assets depicted on them. 

Our analysis of Starbucks revealed an increase in posts from baristas after the summer 2020 trend for “TikTok drinks” — off-menu items with creative recipes that became popular on the video platform.

This caused a spike in Starbucks’ engagement metrics, as social media users shared their experiences online. 

The TikTok trend prompted many Starbucks baristas to create content related to their work, all without explicit encouragement from the company.

Identifying promoters within the company can help your brand create effective organic marketing by encouraging your employees’ creativity.

Power up local marketing with cultural insights

The ubiquity of visual social media content means that if you are planning to expand your services to a new region, cultural insights about your new target audience are just a click away with Visual Insights. 

You can gather user-generated images from your desired region of expansion by using geotags. Then, you can compare demographics and consumption situations between audiences.

For example, if you are a coffee retailer looking to expand into a new country, it’s worth considering the cultural specifics of that region and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly. Regional user content in Russia and the U.S. revealed some clear trends: In Russia, coffee drinkers take their coffee with whitener, and enjoy their beverages at home; while in the States, people like to have their drink on the go, and lean toward black coffee.

Keep track of the most engaging social media posts

Viral posts, celebrity’s tag, crisis situation, or a new visual trend might cause a spike in engagement metrics, as social media users share their experiences online. Someday it might be a minimalistic image of a coffee cup, another day — posing in a car with a new Frappuccino. YouScan’s Engagement graph makes it easy to detect which scenes, objects, people, or activities are more engaging in terms of social media visuals.

For instance, when filtering all mentions by authors’ gender, it turns out that visual content created by women and featuring driving has got high engagement despite the relatively small number of mentions. Monitoring such insights can simplify planning further online activities and generate even more appealing content. In the case of Starbucks, they could have created a campaign spotlighting women behind the wheel. 


Visual analytics is the new black in marketing as it uncovers hidden insights and helps businesses see through their customer’s eyes. Besides the mentioned use-cases, brands can now quickly discover new real-world use cases and product feedback, user-generated content for marketing purposes, analyze offline sponsorships, create appealing content, and much more. Meanwhile, there is no limit to using visual analytics as it’s a versatile tool for managing various tasks. 

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