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Image-based Social Media and Visual Content Analysis: Insights from a Literature Review


  • Matilde Milanesi
  • Simone Guercini


Marketing research is now increasingly influenced by several factors, such as new technologies, new online market contexts, and new roles played by consumers. An emerging trend affecting marketing research is the shift towards visuals among the main social media platforms. Image-based social media, such as Instagram, are rapidly growing not only among individual users but also among companies that use them as a powerful marketing tool. Thus, sharing images is becoming an integral part of the social media experience today, and the shift towards visuals is transforming the way people socialize, perceive the world, and construct a sense of self. The study of images is not new, although, with the emergence of new research contexts such as image-based social media, is taking on a new meaning and, for marketing researchers, this phenomenon raises conceptual, theoretical, and methodological challenges. The paper puts forward some reflections on the growing importance of visuals and image-based social media for online marketing research and focuses on the methodological approaches that allow marketing researchers to analyze visual data. In particular, the paper discusses visual content analysis, a methodological approach for the content analysis of visually-based data, and proposes a systematic review of recent researches that adopt such methodology for the study of image-based social media. The purpose to discuss the current status of research, as well as the methodological issues and research tools for online marketing researchers.

Suggested Citation

  • Matilde Milanesi & Simone Guercini, 2020. "Image-based Social Media and Visual Content Analysis: Insights from a Literature Review," Micro & Macro Marketing, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 3, pages 537-558.
  • Handle: RePEc:mul:jyf1hn:doi:10.1431/97640:y:2020:i:3:p:537-558

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    Cited by:

    1. Silvia Ranfagni & Matilde Milanesi & Simone Guercini, 2023. "An online research approach for a dual perspective analysis of brand associations in art museums," International Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing, Springer;International Association of Public and Non-Profit Marketing, vol. 20(1), pages 149-167, March.


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