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Modern Social Listening: Use AI to Understand How Users Communicate

Jasmine Rana
April 24, 2023
Last Updated On
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Have you ever heard the saying ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’? Well, it’s true, and here’s what the science says about it.

The brain loves pictures — and even processes them faster than words. Originally, studies suggested the brain could process images at 100 milliseconds, but research from MIT suggests it’s actually as little as 13 milliseconds. Our brains continue to process images even after they are not in sight, allowing people to remember them better than text. 

More than half of consumers say that they want to see more video content from a brand or business that they support. Humans are visual learners — images are the first visual communication that humans ever used before formal written language (i.e, caveman drawings on stone, hieroglyphics). Have you ever wondered why children’s books are illustrated? It’s because visuals are at the heart of storytelling — pictures enhance our understanding and ability to relate to what we read and look at.

Why Visual Communication Is Effective

Psychologist Albert Mehrabian found that 93% of communication is nonverbal if that doesn’t convince you that visual communication is important, consider that humans process visual content 60,000 times faster than text. If you want to be remembered, build brand awareness, and create content that resonates at-a-glance with your audience, it’s important to consider your creative and visual identity just as much as you consider voice and tone. 

Images also have more impact emotionally than words alone. A study conducted by the University of San Diego looked at images and text with similar contexts and meaning to discover how they affected participants’ emotions and behavior. During their research, they found participants were emotionally impacted by images faster and more significantly than by text, which had little impact overall on participants’ emotional cues and behavior. 

As brands shift to focus on social entertainment and creating captivating and compelling content, they should keep their visual strategy top-of-mind to ensure they maximize their opportunities for engagement.

How Do Users Perceive Text vs. Visual Communication?

So how are consumers communicating through text vs. visuals? With visual-focused apps like Instagram, TikTok, BeReal and Snapchat increasing in popularity, it seems as though the visual element resonates with users far more than text. 

Twitter has even incorporated visual elements in an attempt to follow this trend. Hoping to compete with Facebook, Twitter implemented the ability to embed media into tweets in 2014. This has led to them becoming a hub for memes — visuals with text captions. 

TikTok added the stitch and duet feature to allow users to comment on videos with a video of their own, in addition to text comments. Lo-fi content is also making more of a visual impact. Platforms like BeReal let you react to your friend's posts with a text-free picture of yourself. For Instagram, one trend that signals a shift to this unfiltered, lo-fi content is ‘photo dumps’ — a collection of random, unfiltered pictures, often caption-less or with very short captions. 

A large group of the social media demographic is interested in using platforms candidly while also reaching out and building their community. Users want to share what's personal to them with the people they are close to, which is done through pictures and videos.

Why Is Visual Communication Important? 

Visual communication can create a deeper impact than text alone — in fact, 65% of people are visual learners. Combined with alleged dwindling attention spans, this makes visual representation even more important for digital content. Developing a visual marketing strategy is also important because: 

  • Visuals have a greater impact than text as they are more easily remembered and processed more successfully in our brains.
  • Photo and video are becoming the standard in social media, especially with apps like TikTok and BeReal gaining popularity.
  • Visuals allow brands to show off their product selection more effectively to their audience — consumers are able to see the product through visual communication.
  • Visuals help to convey more meaning and can evoke emotions in audiences that words cannot replicate; visuals increase comprehension. 

How Gen Z and Millennial Social Media Use Differs 

Gen Z is definitely known as the generation of TikTok, influencers and spearheading social justice movements online. Social media is the main space where Gen Z share their thoughts and receives news. There has always been a defined gap between Millennials and Gen Z, however, aside from social platforms themselves, the way these generations use social media differs.

Having grown up in the era of Skype and FaceTime, virtual connectivity has been the norm for Gen Z. Online lectures and workshops led on Zoom and online prom livestreams were at the peak of the pandemic are milestones that Gen Z uniquely experienced. There has never been a time or place when the younger generation has not been able to connect with the people around them because of the tech at their fingertips, and this is conveyed in how Gen Z uses social media — to be a part of a community. 

Gen Z’s overall social media opinion is also influenced by how transparent they feel others are on social channels. Almost 40% of Gen Z care less about impressing others on social media than they used to, and 42% believe (6% higher than other age groups) that people should show more of their ‘real’ selves and lives on social media. This also extends to how this generation interacts with brands — only 18% of Gen Z are influenced to engage with a brand based on its influencers or brand ambassadors. However, they’re more likely to engage with brands for practical purposes — 50% are more likely to engage with brands when discounts are offered and are 46% more likely when they offer products or services Gen Z actually needs. Trust also matters, with 45% more likely to engage with a new brand if they appear trustworthy.

So, who does Gen Z follow on social media? According to Statista, these are the types of social profiles they follow and are influenced to make purchases from: 


  • Gen Z: 52% 
  • Millennials: 59% 


  • Gen Z:  47% 
  • Millennials: 41%


  • Gen Z: 35%   
  • Millennials: 50% 

While Gen Z is more likely to follow and be influenced by brands, interestingly enough, they’re less likely to be impacted by retailers specifically than influencers. This presents an interesting opportunity for retailers to partner with influencers or brands they carry to encourage social commerce and reach this demographic. 

Gen Z is also more likely to spend their time on entertaining channels like YouTube, TikTok and Instagram — they’re also more inclined to get their news on these channels, with 50% of Gen Z going to social media for their daily news, while only 5% use the newspaper. Compared to Millennials, 44% use social media for their daily news consumption, while 11% use newspapers — interestingly, 12% of Millennials receive their daily news from podcasts.

So, what’s the takeaway for brands? Any brand that hasn’t shifted its social listening strategies to social is poised to lose ground to competitors, as this younger generation, along with Millennials, are more likely to go to social for entertainment, news, and to connect in a casual way with friends. Brands should craft strategies to appear informal, transparent, and organic on social — think relatability and connection over aspiration. 

For brands that are shifting to communicate with their users on social and moving away from other traditional marketing channels like network news or print ads, it can be difficult to know where to begin — and even seasoned digital marketers sometimes need to reassess where they put their efforts on social media. Here are some basic social statistics to help inform your social media and social listening strategy.    

Instagram User Statistics 

  • Monthly active users: 2 billion.
  • Largest active age group: 25-34 year-olds, followed by 18-24 year-olds.
  • Percentage of time spent per day: 17%.
  • Visual content is available in four forms: Stories, Reels, Lives and regular posts.

Remember the ‘photo dump’ trend we discussed earlier? Carousel posts (the Instagram medium that ‘photo dumps’ use) receive a 3.15% average engagement, 1.97% higher than single, static posts, and 1.21% higher than all post types. 

When it comes to entertaining video content, carousel posts with video on average receive 26 comments, 19 more than images alone and slightly more than mixed carousel posts, which receive about 16 comments on average. 

TikTok User Statistics 

  • Monthly active users: 1 billion.
  • Largest active age group: 10-19.
  • Percentage of time spent per day: 18.6%.
  • There are a variety of ways users can visually interact with content: Duets and Stitches. 

Duets and stitches are particularly popular on the app and can be just as essential as creating ‘fresh’ posts — even brands are using Duets to interact with TikTok content. In 2022, 59% of mid-market brands, 24% of SME brands, and 31% of enterprise organizations Dueted or Stitched creator content. This is a dynamic way for brands to join and start conversations (and, in turn, build their community) in a hyper-visual way that holds more impact than replying with a text-based comment.

Twitter User Statistics

  • Monthly active users: 450 million. 
  • Percentage of time spent per day: 8.9%.
  • Users are three times more likely to engage with Tweets that use images, videos, or GIFs.

Dash Hudson looked at 537 brands between January 1 - October 31, 2022, to determine how images perform on Twitter compared to text-only Tweets. Unsurprisingly, we discovered that Tweets with images or videos perform better than text-only Tweets. Although brands post nearly twice the amount of text-only Tweets, posts with images or video receive higher average engagement. 

chart with engagement rates for tweets with and without images

Snapchat User Statistics 

  • Monthly active users: 319 million. 
  • Largest active age group: 15-25 year-olds.
  • Percentage of time spent per day: 10.8%.

Arguably one of the pioneers of lo-fi, organic content is still a popular platform for the younger demographic to identify trends and use filters, be transparent among friends, and share casual content. This younger demographic prefers Snapchat to Facebook because their connections are seen as a network of close friends, whereas they see Facebook as a network of acquaintances. Brands can still engage with this type of content but can also find success through paid advertising, where they can share Snapchat-style posts or more polished video segments.  

The casual nature of Snapchat certainly resonates with Gen Z. A study from Cornell University found the fleeting nature of Snapchat appeals to the younger demographic. Despite the impermanent nature of Snapchat, its users view interaction here as intensely personal and appreciate the casual, spontaneous, and everyday nature of communication on the platform. 

Facebook User Statistics 

  • Monthly active users: Nearly 3 billion.
  • Largest active age group: 25-34 year-olds.
  • Percentage of time spent per day: 22.4%.
  • Image and photo posts receive the highest average Engagement Rate at 0.12%, 0.05% higher than the average Engagement Rate for all types of posts (0.07%). 

Communicating with text only is still extremely important — we do it every day through texts, emails, books, etc. Messaging through words and language is still effective, but visuals enhance what you want to convey. 

Aside from the social media space, people communicate through visuals, whether it be through animated GIFs, screenshots, pictures, videos, infographics and even art. Sometimes getting your message across in a clear, concise way is difficult with words alone. 

Evolution of Visual Communication

Visual communication is more important than ever on social media — but how has it developed throughout the years? 

The first evidence we have of visual communication is — you guessed it — a photograph taken in 1826 or 1827 by Joseph Nicephore Niepce. This was followed in 1868 by the first recorded kineograph (a flipbook), one of the first forms of animations. Eventually, this led to the first surviving motion picture, the Roundhay Garden Scene, in 1888, followed by the first silent film, Arrival of a Train, in 1895. Although black and white moving images were quite the industrial feat, there was still more exciting growth to come with the first commercial movie filmed in color, A Visit to the Seaside was produced in 1908.

Eventually, marketers were keen on this burgeoning medium, and the first-ever television commercial for Bulova watches aired during a Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Phillies game in 1941. 

Flash forward 63 years later to 2004 and the launch of Facebook, home to over 100 million accounts — social media was quick to adopt new channels and trends. Vlogging quickly followed in 2005, spearheaded by YouTube’s co-founder Jawed Karim and his trip to the zoo, and the ultra-visual social channel Instagram was founded in 2010. In 2016, users could connect to their audience ultra-fast with video when Facebook Live was introduced, with TikTok launching in 2017. Finally, when it comes to visual, casual content, 2020 saw BeReal’s arrival. 

There’s a clear increase in production to both adoption of new visual platforms and the speed they’re developed at. Especially when you consider that 20 years occurred between the first moving picture and the first motion picture, and just three years between TikTok’s arrival and BeReal’s. 

Visual platforms are not going anywhere — and haven’t for nearly 200 years. 

AI-Powered Social Listening From Dash Hudson

Dash Hudson AI-Powered Social Listening tool monitors conversations surrounding the topics your brand is interested in while also identifying wins and opportunities within your content. Followers and users are talking about your brand on social, so 

It works to monitor what your audience says so your team can make more informed decisions regarding your social media content. This data also extends to visual content, so you can see how people are using keywords and phrases that are important to your brand in their visuals. The content insights offered will help you to identify areas of improvement, source relevant trends and keep you informed on your competitors. 

Additionally, Vision's sophisticated AI-powered insights give your visual content an edge and tell you which content in your library has the best chance to perform well.  

Being able to visualize and organize the data collected by Dash Hudson’s social listening tool will help you to keep tabs on conversations and information that helps bridge the gap between assumptions and honest customer thoughts and feelings. 

Social listening is extremely important to your brand as it can help you keep a pulse on your brand health and easily tap into content trends. 


What is visual communication design? 

Visual communication design is the act of planning a visual medium meant to convey a particular idea. Examples of this could be an infographic, PSA poster, a video ad on YouTube, or even something as simple as a GIF — and this is just to name a few.  

How can visual communication enhance the message? 

Social media apps are more visual than ever, and there is a clear trend prioritizing video and visuals. Audiences want to be entertained. Visuals enhance the message that brands are trying to relay by putting an image in the minds of their audiences. It is so much easier to relate and resonate with a consumer through visual storytelling rather than just words. 

What is active listening on social media? 

Think of active listening on social media as being the proactive sister to sentiment analysis. Active social listening allows brands to identify what users say about their brand, products and competitors and offer some context behind this in order to simply learn more and collect data, or to pivot and make changes to your social strategy based on how users feel about your brand. Some people refer to this as ‘active’ listening because it’s more proactive than simply social monitoring, which mainly describes the act monitoring for specific keywords, phrases, and mentions. 

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