With Anjali Lai

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the value of 16 billion pictures? According to Instagram, whose 130 million active users had shared this number of photos as of June 2013, the answer is “priceless.” Individuals’ enthusiasm for capturing and sharing photos shapes our media consumption as much as it does our co-creative potential; with the launch of its video capability, Instagram’s platform may become entwined with our social futures.

Online photo and video sharing continues to gain momentum as an emerging method of communication. Internationally, Instagram plays the role of news channel by turning local perspectives into global awareness. In fact, the role of media-sharing sharing technology is so significant that the Chicago Sun Times Newspaper laid off all full-time photographers, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, with the intention of moving toward more online video provision.

Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data reveals that the majority of US online consumers take photos and video with their smartphone, and one-quarter of them do so with a tablet. Additionally, more than a third of smartphone owners and a fifth of tablet owners proceed to upload their photos and video to the Internet through these devices.

Of course, the more consumers take and share photos or videos through their mobile devices, the greater the opportunity for brands to seamlessly engage their audiences. As my colleague Tony Costa points out in his recent report, “The rapid adoption of mobile devices, new interfaces, and the changing behaviors they encourage mark the dawn of a new age in customer experience” — one in which emerging interactions are more naturally integrated with consumer activity. “The rise of new interfaces such as touchscreens . . . cameras, and microphones — available on virtually every smartphone and tablet — narrows the gap between intuitive human communication and networked resources.” In this age of tremendous interactive opportunity, marketers should be aware of their customers’ media documentation and sharing behaviors, so that brands may respond to the emerging language of imagery and forgo the inefficiency of a thousand words.