Why I Love ThingLink – On the Disruptive Potential of In-Image Linking

This post was originally featured  on the Tumblr of the newest member of our team, Jake Cox but we wanted to lift it up for all ThingLink users to see. The post not only presents Jake as a person but it also delivers a great vision of how we think about image tagging and its disruptive nature.

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Why I Love ThingLink – On the Disruptive Potential of In-Image Linking

Some estimates put the number of images online at over 90 billion as of early 2011.  At the same time, brands are starting to spend more ad dollars online than they are through traditional media channels.  The photo sharing and online ad spend trends are unlikely to reverse, given the near ubiquity and rapid adoption of internet and social media on the part of consumers globally.  For publishers, retailers, advertisers and consumers, in-image linking opens up new avenues for how we all interact with web content.  The image has become a platform for engagement.  This paper explores the implications of ThingLink in-image linking and discusses the businesses that are most well suited to capitalize on it.

 

Why I Love It

Publisher’s Perspective

Publishers have been relying on CPM, PPC and affiliate advertising, among others, but ThingLink opens up new revenue opportunities to anyone with a blog.  With the Savalanche and Amazon Associates partnerships, any publisher now has a checkout window within his or her blog.  Adding a layer of point-of-sale functionality to images will allow established affiliate partnerships to become much cozier, and it gives some leverage to publishers who would like to try some affiliate marketing. 

Fashion blogs, lifestyle blogs, you name it—every image you put on your site can now be a surface for advertisements.  If you’re a hotel and you want to give visitors to your site a unique experience, how about something like I’ve done below.  (Links are not for actual hotel products.)

 

You give anyone who visits your site the ability to buy your plush pillows or your Egyptian Cotton sheets—at once you make your brand seem more personal and you open yourself up to additional revenue streams.

Most importantly for publishers, every visitor becomes much more valuable.  As ThingLInk illustrates on its blog, the CTR for in-image advertisement links is between 1.5% and 5%: much higher conversion rates than the <1% CTR banner ads typically see.  In many cases the ThingLink number is 50X higher.  So for publishers who don’t choose to pursue affiliate marketing but prefer CPM campaigns, the number they demand can be much higher.

Also, musicians will absolutely love this product.  See below how the ThingLinkteam has enabled Youtube videos or SoundCloud songs to stream without navigating away from the photo.

Finally, ThingLink opens up all sorts of opportunities for destination branding.  Five minutes with Powerpoint and New Hampshire looks like someplace I’d consider visiting for some summer vacation time. (Though I’ve hardly done the idea justice.)  

This type of strategy could be employed by agencies with destination clients, or the destinations themselves could easily execute on something like this.  By making images interactive, ThingLink can bring something staid an entirely new life, and it’s all so easy to learn.

Writer’s Perspective

This point is certainly tied somewhat into what the publisher will experience, but Writer as profession is undergoing some major shifts today.  The free content on blogs diminishes readers’ necessity for buying a subscription to their favorite paper.  But ThingLink puts a little bit of power back in the hands of any wordsmith.

Including pictures with articles is an simple addition for writers, and it already makes their posts more engaging.  In the New York Times a few weeks ago, there was a story about how sugar consumption might lead to some types of cancer.  The author could have included in it something like the pic below, helping to tell the story.

Lets say you’re not a professional writer, but that instead you work in promotions.  There’s only so much text that potential customers are willing to read.  But pictures can attract a lot of attention, especially when the pictures have extra information inside of them.  Summer Stage promoters could use something like I’ve created below to help spread the word about the festival.

By putting music inside of pictures, you serve the double function of giving your reader more information as well as increasing the likelihood that people will show up at your event.  Bands and brands using ThingLink soon will have the ancillary benefit of positive PR from being an early adopter.

 

Retailer’s Perspective

Since ThingLink turns any image into a potential checkout window, savvy retailers will soon realize they can earn a windfall by placing images of their products on blogs.  Take golf balls, for example.     Let’s say your website sells golf balls, and you’re looking for ways to grow your business.  Why not partner with a photographer who can take amazing photos like the one from your author below.  The partnership would make sense as it might generate revenue for both parties.

Certainly one potential shortfall of broad ThingLink adoption is that photo owners might not want to taint their precious image with dots.  I think there are practical ways around this issue, but its worth pointing out that, as good of a tool as this is, there is some potential for hiccups.   Another interesting application for ThingLink involves restaurants.  People have sufficiently demonstrated that they appreciate food pictures.  So why not do something like the pic below.   Food reviewers can easily make their posts more engaging by putting the information that they don’t want to include in the actual post, inside the picture. Restaurants themselves can even utilize this technique for growing the brand.

 

Advertiser’s Perspective

Not that advertising agencies don’t have enough on their hands, but now that every one of the 90 billion images online has the potential to serve as an ad, I suspect agencies and freelancers will soon be offering “In-Image Linking Ad Solutions” to their clients.  The technology ThingLink brings to the table obviously opens up a massive stream of possibilities, and I am anticipating an ecosystem evolving around this platform.  ThingLink is building the infrastructure that will support a better way to advertise.

Average Internet User

Remember VH1’s “Pop Up Video”?  Well, ThingLink is sort of like Pop Up Video for images.  And just like that was hugely popular, this is going to be hugely popular.  And I think one of the biggest reasons is this: ThingLink makes browsing pictures more fun.

Of course, it’s impossible to say what the adoption curve will look like—will it be a hockey stick spanning this next decade?  Will it reach a plateau in the next year?  To me, both seem possible.  As with any social technology, becoming hugely popular depends on actual, real human beings using your product.  There’s going to be a learning curve for people to figure out how to best utilize this new tool, but I believe that a well-executed ThingLinked image is magnitudes better than a plain image, so the incentive is certainly there for people to figure it out.

Some anecdotal evidence shows that there might be an optimal number of links to include in an image.  About my ThingLinked images, a friend said to me, “When you scroll over a picture and see the dots pop up, it makes me want to scroll over each one to see what it says” [emphasis mine].  There’s a little cloak of mystery around the dots, so optimizing the number of dots we include will be part art, part science—balancing the desire to attract click-throughs with the knowledge that one link is good, two might be great, but 20 is overload.

“In Pop Up Video”, there were usually two or three Pop Ups per scene.  I imagine something in the 2-5 range will be optimal for most uses—and, as a consumer of internet, that’s the range that seems most likely to draw me in—but I could see some scenarios—submitting captions for a New Yorker cartoon, for example—in which the best ThingLink photos could contain dozens of links, especially when the publisher has allowed “Anyone to Edit” the tags.  (Readers, add your best caption to the image below and that would be awesome.  I will definitely give you an @ tweet if it’s good.)

Conclusion

Overall, if I’m a product analyst, I am recommending an investment in ThingLink.  For one, it makes the image browsing experience better.  Products that make the internet better for the average user tend to become fairly popular.  So I say the odds are good that ThingLink becomes fairly popular, and it’s important for all companies to answer the call when innovation rings.

There are tremendous business possibilities when you leverage the ThingLink economics.  I’ve outlined a few of those ways in the preceding paragraphs, but I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface. Try it out and I think you’ll like it.

ThingLink turns images into an engagement platform.  Pretty cool.

[Find inspiration in the ThingLink Gallery]

 

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