Images, particularly when well composed and considered, pack a significantly stronger punch than text at evoking emotion and inspiring audiences to take action.
Because they can be so engaging. After all, think about storybooks and comics. Images and text are used side by side to create an immersive experience for readers who get lost in the imaginary world that’s created.
So, how can marketers and business owners take advantage of the power of visuals, and create a visual story that’s successful in attracting attention and engaging their marketplace?
It’s all about defining and implementing a Visual Storytelling Strategy…
So what do you need to do to create an effective visual storytelling strategy that truly attracts and connects with the audience in your market?
In this post we’ll help you determine:
- What a visual storytelling strategy actually is
- Why you need one
- Key businesses who use a visual storytelling strategy effectively
- 5 ways to nail your own visual storytelling strategy
What is a Visual Storytelling Strategy?
Visual storytelling is simply the art of communicating a story to your audience using visuals in the form of graphics, images, pictures and videos. It’s a tactic of engaging with an audience in a more visual way to drive emotions and foster interaction.
The term Visual Storytelling Strategy is fairly new in regards to marketing. It’s only in the past 3 years that the term has experienced any significant growth.
However, the concept of visual storytelling itself has been around for far, far longer. Some of mankind’s earliest forms of communication were of course deeply visual in nature, such as cave drawings.
Our brains are wired in a way that visual imagery remains highly engaging and captivating. As marketers we can take full advantage of this to better connect with people in our marketplace and relay our stories more effectively.
In fact, if you want to stand out in the cluttered landscape of marketing-related content, an effective visual storytelling strategy is a must.
Similar to how people grow relationships with each other, visual storytelling offers companies meaningful opportunities to deliver positive experiences that build brand awareness, trust, loyalty and engaged communities.
Jessica Gioglio, writing at Convince and Convert
As digital marketing continues to explode, and with social media channels and other content platforms becoming increasingly focused on visuals, it’s a tactic that’s becoming increasingly predominant.
It’s not hard to see why:
- Content can generate up to 94% more views if you add compelling visual elements and graphics to already compelling copy (Hubspot).
- 90% of the information transmitted to your brain is visual, and images are processed 60,000 times faster than text (t-sciences.com)
- Visuals help information stick in the brain’s long-term memory (shiftelearning.com)
- 65% of people are visual learners (uab.edu)
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just randomly adding more images to your blog posts and other content.
Instead, it’s important to take the time to determine the best way to represent the information you want to share to ensure it’s both:
- Compelling; and
- Relevant for the audience you want to attract.
By finding the right balance, the impact and performance of your content – your message and story – can grow exponentially.
Why You Need a Visual Storytelling Strategy
Even Facebook now allows you to ‘tell more of your story’ on your Facebook Page by uploading a video instead of a photo for your cover:
Visual storytelling is now in the common psyche as a way people, particularly Millennials (see Special Report: The Rise of the Millennials), connect not just with each other, but, as a preference, will want to connect with your business.
However, in order for visual storytelling to work effectively, it’s not as simple as adding photos that vaguely fit your topic to your blog or social media posts. Your visuals need to add something more compelling and enhance the information provided .
Given the importance of visuals for engaging your audience, they shouldn’t be relegated to a last-minute afterthought. In fact, they are just as important as email subject lines and blog post titles in terms of capturing the attention of the audience you are trying to reach.
As such, they deserve careful consideration to make sure they fit into the overall message you want your business to convey.
After all, they are a vital part of the impression your audience and target customers form about your business. You want that impression to be positive and aligned with your wider objectives.
Key Businesses with an Effective Visual Storytelling Strategy
There are many businesses that know how to tell an effective story about their business that engages with their audience, builds a relationship, and establishes brand loyalty.
I’ve already shared a couple via the images above, and here are two more we can learn from and be inspired by:
Modcloth, a popular women’s clothing retailer, doesn’t simply focus on selling you clothing. Instead they use the clothes within a suitable setting that helps tell a story.
The images they use on their website are stylized, but comfortable with a light-hearted fun feel.
They show real, ordinary people having fun together or simply hanging out in often very ordinary locations.
In fact, many of the pictures are selfies that have been uploaded by customers, and are similar to what you might ordinarily find on social media channels.
With a nod to the importance of visual storytelling for connecting with consumers, the brand even invites you to “Shop the Story”, not the products:
Airbnb shares and retells customer stories, rather than creating a story themselves.
You can see this on their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts where they use crowdsourced imagery and share stories from happy customers.
They focus on sharing some of their more unique Airbnb properties, sharing the histories of those properties and the experiences of customers who say in them.
5 Ways to Nail Your Visual Storytelling Strategy
In order to use visual storytelling effectively, you need a solid strategy in place that conveys exactly what your goals are.
Take the time to think about what the graphics, images, pictures and videos you’ve selected really say about your business.
Here are five key ways to help you develop an effective visual storytelling strategy for your business.
Your audience likely spends a great deal of time on social media. With social channels like Instagram and Pinterest growing rapidly, they are bombarded by visuals on an almost constant basis.
However, that also means your audience has become extremely adept at spotting fake, manufactured, or sponsored content, and mentally filtering it out in terms of what they pay attention to.
It means that to be effective in your visual storytelling and reach the most number of people, it’s vital be authentic.
But what does that really mean?
Think about being at a party or other social gathering. If you just went around telling everyone how great you are, you’d find people not wanting to connect with you. They’d rapidly back away and warn others off too.
It’s the same with your visual storytelling strategy, and particularly on social media channels where visuals are at the forefront.
As a business, you need to:
- Let your strengths speak for themselves. For example, show your audience how your product will benefit them by sharing visuals from customers using it.
- Connect with and provide value to your audience as much as possible. How could visuals be used to inspire your audience, add value to their day and show how your products can benefit them?
If you want just one rule, it’s the classic rule for writing stories: “Show, Don’t Tell!”
To be relevant to your audience and really connect with them, you need to provide the information they are looking for, and at the right time.
On a visual level, they also need to notice it in a sea of competing demands for their attention.
So before you select or create a visual, think about whether it speaks to the type of person you want to attract:
- How is it relevant to them?
- Does it fit it with their values and mindset?
- Does it fit with yours and the impression you want to give about your audience?
Another key way to connect with your audience and illustrate your relevance is to use visuals that tap into current events, timely occurrences, and any hot trends in your industry.
Tell A Story
As any good fiction writer will tell you, the key to a successful story is creating a believable story arc. All good stories have a clear beginning, middle, and end – it must take you on a journey.
Likewise, for your own visual storytelling strategy to be effective, you need to take your audience on a journey by giving them a beginning, middle, and an end.
There also needs to be some form of conflict. Without some form of conflict that invites a resolution, you have no story.
For marketing, this is often a pain point for your customer. What are their current pain points, that your products help resolve?
For example, this could be:
- Hunger or thirst
- Lack of self-esteem
- And so on.
When developing the story for your own business, ask yourself:
- What problem needs to be resolved?
- What happens along the way? In other words, how is the problem resolved?
- What is the outcome of the story? For example, with the problem resolved, what does the customer’s life now look like?
Personalize Your Content
People relate more deeply to stories about other people.
Creating character-driven stories will help your audience develop a personal connection with your story and by extension, your brand.
The characters you include can for example be your existing customers, people in the community you’ve created around your business, your employees or even yourself.
Keep your visual storytelling character-focused, rather than getting lost in too many irrelevant and unimportant details. Allow your audience to connect with the character involved, often by simply humanizing them and making them someone your audience can relate to.
In doing so, your audience will care about the character, relate them to your business, and consequently feel a much deeper sense of connection with you.
Incorporate Images Effectively
Instead, you need to create or select images that work with your content, add value and help to keep your audience engaged.
Use images and other graphics that help form a connection to your audience Don’t take the ‘neon banner’ approach by overloading them with clever gifs and flash memes just to superficially attract their attention.
Instead focus on visuals that helps to convey the story you want to tell and the message you want to share.
Remember too, it’s not just images. Think about how to incorporate video content too.
Visual storytelling has of course been around for years. However, it’s only relatively recently, as content platforms and customer expectations become increasingly visual, that businesses have begun taking advantage and adopting a visual storytelling strategy.
You’re probably already incorporating visual storytelling elements into your marketing strategy without even realizing it. However, by using the tips shared here you’ll be able to hone your approach and make it far more effective in reaching and engaging your marketplace.