In a content-rich world, a single image is worth the proverbial thousand words, and a video can condense a whole story into a narrative more stunning than simple plain text. Brands increasingly find that their customers crave visual content, as evidenced by the popularity of social platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.

Study their secrets so you, too, can drive an active and engaged audience that loves your brand.

Feature your fans: As one of the best Instagram profiles in 2015 and finalist in last year’s Shorty Awards, Benefit Cosmetics is killing it in terms of tying audience engagement and loyalty to selling their products. In 2013, their #Realsies campaign resulted in thousands of fans wearing Benefit’s “They’re Real!” mascara and sending in selfies, which were then published on Benefit’s website and Instagram account. Their strategy of publicly featuring their Instagram fans allowed them to boost visibility of their product, gain brand loyalty and increase sales.

Hold contests and giveaways: Another way to garner excitement around your products is to hold contests and giveaways that require your fans to engage with your brand’s Instagram account. Fans could be chosen to win giveaways through likes, comments, reposts, or photo challenges. In an unexpected yet brilliant move earlier this year, Turbotax hosted a photo contest to promote their their free tax filing service. Fans simply had to take a creative picture depicting three zeroes to enter the contest, and the winner would receive $500. The move led users to become aware of Turbotax’s free service and motivated them to utilize the software to approach an ordinarily daunting task.

Never underestimate the power of the hashtag: Like on Twitter and Tumblr, don’t forget to utilize hashtags on Instagram to increase engagement. Make sure that your hashtag is short, memorable and ties back to your product. Red Bull’s #givesyouwings hashtag fits these criteria perfectly. It incorporates the company’s long-standing motto, thus making the product top-of-mind for consumers.

Make sure all content is high-quality and aesthetically pleasing: According to eMarketer, Pinterest has nearly 50 million users. No matter who you are or what you use Pinterest for, one experience is the same for you and 50 million others: seeing a homepage full of immaculate, flawless pictures. From food to fashion to home improvement, content producers on Pinterest know that photos must be beautiful. Nordstrom does a great job curating quality content into individually-themed boards and making sure their products are advertised in the best light possible. Similarly, Target consistently posts captivating photos and also utilizes metrics from their Pinterest account to create their Awesome Shop, which highlights the most-pinned products and directs customers to where they can purchase them.

Get creative about your brand image: With the ability to create different boards within one Pinterest account, you can showcase different sides of your brand. Ben & Jerry’s does not just feature pretty pictures of their ice cream or exclusive behind-the-scenes looks at their factories in Vermont. They also have boards dedicated to telling the history behind Ben & Jerry’s and showcasing charming pictures of little-known people behind the brand, like the delivery staff and “flavor gurus.” They even have a board highlighting their stances on various social causes, like marriage equality and sustainable, fair-trade food. Their creative utilization of Pinterest humanizes the brand even further and provides consumers with an in-depth look into the brand.

Be inspirational: Pinterest is all about giving people the inspiration they need to cook better, create dazzling homes and keep up with the latest fashion trends. Giving your audience motivation through your Pinterest will convert casual browsers into dedicated fans. GE’s Pinterest account is exceptional when it comes to inspiring their customers with engaging campaigns like #GetFit, #SeeInsideIt and #GEInspiredME, focused on health, science, photography, and innovative technology. Additionally, the #WhatWorks project promotes philanthropy and community development, urging its Pinterest audience to make positive changes in their local communities.

Active participation and engagement with audience: When Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, the most-subscribed user on Youtube, shut down comments on his videos, people had strong reactions. After complaining about the switchover to a new commenting system and voicing frustrations about receiving too much spam in his comments sections, he then urged his fans to go to other forums and social media sites to engage with him. However, he quietly turned comments back on about a month later. What happened?

The message is clear: participation and audience engagement on YouTube’s comments section is absolutely vital to your brand’s success. Anthony Bucci, co-founder of, whose YouTube channel reviews motorcycle paraphernalia, said that the comments section is “where we directly interact with and engage our community,” helping to keep it active and growing. He also emphasized the importance of responding to fans in a helpful and authentic way.

Know your audience and gear content strategically: Christopher Ratcliff at Econsultancy suggests making content specifically for your audience. He wrote, “Keep the brand message in the background, [and] just concentrate on content that’s either entertaining, useful or unique. Users who respond to your content will naturally gravitate to your brand in other channels and areas of commerce.”

Lowe’s Home Improvement’s YouTube channel is a fantastic example of this phenomenon. The channel offers tutorials, DIY tips, and ideas geared towards to folks who are looking to improve their home and would obviously gravitate towards Lowe’s for advice. In several of the comments sections of their how-to videos, it shows that various local home improvement stores from Denver, Colorado to Knoxville, Tennessee to Calgary, Alberta, have shared the video to their audiences via Google+ and other social media sites, thus increasing brand awareness and the audience for Lowe’s.

Publish a lot of content: According to a study by Pixability on the top 100 brands on YouTube, the most successful brands publish about 78 videos per month instead of simply relying on one or two videos to go viral. They also found that the most effective brands in terms of audience size created new video content on one channel instead of using more than one channel. Brands like GoPro and Marvel are constantly updating their channels to increase the likelihood that new users will see their content and subscribe. They also create new types of content to keep their audiences entertained, engaged and up-to-date about the latest news regarding their products.