We are gradually moving towards a more visually represented world, celebrated by Millennials who use image sharing services as a way to interact with each other, expressively share the world around them, and represent who they are in visual ways. This generation is excited by what they discover and create, pushing the market for these applications on an upward trajectory since they offer a place for them to be inspired, and inspire others themselves. We Heart It, an image-based social network for visual expression is one of the visual platforms whose growth is being pushed by this trend. We Heart It connects over 25 million monthly users through visual communication, 80% of whom are 24-years-old or younger with 70% being female. Since launching their app, 80% of We Heart It’s activity has moved to mobile devices, a fact that emphasizes the domination of mobile activity for young Millennials and making it one of the “single purpose” apps being blamed for pulling young users’ attention away from Facebook. Ypulse sat down with the CEO of We Heart It, Ranah Edelin, to understand more about this community of users, what their visual sharing mentality says about this generation, and what they want out of social media right now:
Ypulse: There are a lot of image sharing sites and apps out there right now—what makes We Heart It different?
Ranah Edelin: We Heart It was originally created by a design student who wanted to collect and organize images that he could refer to later for design inspiration. It was started as a personal project but grew organically to be a very positive and supportive community where the norm is to share beautiful, inspiring, and expressive images.
YP: Has We Heart It had to change or evolve at all in the last few years as mobile has taken over for Millennial consumers?
RE: The market shift to mobile has been fast and profound. We are fortunate to have released native mobile apps on iOS and Android that have been well-received from our users; our iOS app has over 130,000 ratings globally with a solid 5-star average rating.
With the large majority of our new members and activity happening on mobile, it is clearly the platform of the present as well as the future, and we’ve oriented our company around that fact. The notion that everyone who has a smartphone now has the perfect image creation and consumption device with them all the time opens up a whole new way to connect with people.
YP: Tell us about your users—what are they like?
RE: Our users are young, influential, passionate, expressive, and love to communicate visually, as images convey so much more than just text. There’s a reason why people say that a picture is worth a thousand words! They are also into sharing brands that they love and that help them express their identity. Search for Starbucks or Hermes and you’ll find thousands of images that have been added by our users expressing their love of those brands in creative ways.
YP: Is there anything that makes the We Heart It community different from users of other image sharing apps or platforms?
RE: Every service has it’s own community characteristics. In our case, we have a much more positive and supportive community. We hear from our users that they are in a better mood after being on We Heart It. We also hear that they love being able to express themselves in an authentic way without fear of backlash or negative feedback from the community. This has to do with the fact that the only action you can take towards someone else is to heart their image or to follow the person, two very positive actions.
YP: What do you think teens are looking for in social media right now?
RE: First of all, they are looking for a place they can call their own. This is why the story of teens leaving Facebook is such an interesting one. Facebook is a hugely successful company but because of its success it doesn’t feel like a place where young people can feel free to express themselves in authentic ways.
We’ve also heard that they want a place where they don’t have to deal with all of the pressures of other social networks, which can sometimes feel like popularity contests on steroids.
YP: What do you think the growing popularity of We Heart It says about Millennials?
RE: I think it reinforces the inevitable and rapid shift to a more visual and mobile world where people can easily express and connect with others in authentic ways.
YP: Are there any visual trends for what is shared most often on We Heart It?
RE: The type of images that do best are colorful and artistic images, beautiful landscapes, creative shots of favorite brands, and text over images to capture a feeling. Our service is about people sharing images that help others understand who that person is or what inspires them, not necessarily what they did that day, so you’ll see less selfies on We Heart It.
YP: What should brands know about We Heart It?
RE: We have millions of brand images that have been hearted hundreds of millions of times without any prompting from us! There is an amazing opportunity for a brand to have more control of their presence on We Heart It by creating a verified account, having users follow their account, and sharing images that embody that brand’s identity and values. Brands can also add the “Heart It” button to their apps or sites so that their followers can easily add that brand’s images to We Heart It and increase their exposure.
In the future, we are going to be working with a select group of brands that want to be part of our pilot advertising program that we hope to roll out later this year. We are already working with great brands including Conde Nast properties Teen Vogue and Lucky and look forward to seeing many more on the platform in the coming months. I’d say that any brand that wants to increase their exposure and relevance with Millennials should get on We Heart It.
Ranah Edelin is the CEO of We Heart It, an image-based social network for people who love visual expression. Find more at weheartit.com or on Twitter @WeHeartIt.