Are you looking for a way to immediately engage your audience?
Beyond catchy phrases and clever copywriting, there’s an easy but sure way to draw an audience around your message. It’s called visual storytelling, and very few brands know how to effectively use visual content to communicate with their audience.
It’s a shame, though.
There’s nothing quite as visceral, captivating, immersive or spellbinding as visual storytelling.
Although I love words, science proves that visual information is simply easier to process. In fact, the human brain can synthesize visual content approximately 60,000 times faster than plain text.
That means that a snapshot can be just as powerful and persuasive as a 1,000-word blog post. They key is knowing how to elicit an emotional response from your audience.
While visual storytelling is a broad term that can be applied to anything from movies to memes, we’ll stick with its usefulness in digital marketing. You can effectively use visual content to market your brand, and we’ll discuss how below.
What Exactly Is Visual Storytelling?
Simply put, visual storytelling is the use of imagery to tell a story. The more complicated question is, What is a story?
A story is a change agent. It changes the way you think or feel about something. It changes the way you react to something. It gives you insight or self-reflection. A story conveys a message.
When it comes to digital marketing, stories take many shapes. They come in the form of written testimonials, case studies and white papers. But perhaps the quickest type of story is a visual one. Visual stories are easy to absorb, and can take many shapes as well.
The Different Types of Visual Storytelling in Digital Marketing
There’s not just one type of visual content that you can use to connect with your audience. Here are the main types:
Images – Whether taking up residence on your blog or social media posts, images are a crucial part of the conversation. They add another layer of meaning and bring clarity and context to the written content.
Charts – Let’s face it, statistics can be boring. But, when you convert facts and figures into graphic form, you have an opportunity to engage and teach those visual learners in your audience who would otherwise remain uninspired.
Infographics – Infographics are popular on social media channels because they’re snack-able. And, because this information is packaged in visual form, it stands out in newsfeeds and is more likely to be shared.
Memes – Memes, whether in photo or GIF form, are funny and relatable. Memes strike a chord with younger crowds, particularly Millennials.
Videos – There’s a reason why YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. People like to search for content that in some way entertains or educates them visually. But of course, YouTube isn’t the only video service that delivers moving visual content. With the rise of platforms like Snapchat and Periscope (even Facebook has its own video integration), it’s clear that audiences love watching moving visual content.
Putting It All Together
Although audiences respond to visual content, it’s not a good idea to randomly choose visual content without an eye on your overall objective.
You need a visual strategy that is as cohesive and intentional as everything else you do for your business.
This is how you turn disparate visual content into a cohesive message that tells the story of your brand and your audience.
How To Use Visual Storytelling Effectively
Let’s talk about how to apply these principles into real life strategies that work.
Use Images to Stand Out From the Crowd
Even if you were to create one amazing piece of written content that would rouse, educate or entertain your audience, you have to grab their attention, first.
In an information-soaked age, you can’t rely on words alone to grab their attention. Audiences scroll until they find something that interests them.
That’s where visual content comes in. It immediately grabs the eye and causes a pause. You can then use the persuasion of words (such as an enticing headline) to reel them in.
Use Images to Convey the Tone of Your Brand
Words displayed on a screen, as in digital marketing, have little inflection on their own. Visual content can help you with that.
The images and other visual content that you choose will help better define your brand. A brand that wants to emphasize a message of cool, hip and laid-back won’t choose the same visual content as a brand that wants to convey trust and security.
Choose visual content that constantly emphasizes your leading brand message. Whether that’s friendliness, trustworthiness or compassion.
And since we’re on the topic on conveying tone, one of my favorite ways to do that is by sharing behind the scenes photos of your team at work. Because these images are informal and candid, they help create a sense of intimacy, authenticity and transparency.
Create a Distinct Style Guide
Create a template for how your visuals will look across the board. Answer the following questions:
- Where will you place your logo?
- What style of images will you use? Black and white? A particular filter?
- What message will your images convey? Happiness? Compassion? Honesty? Humor?
- What colors do you want to emphasize? (In a nod to cohesion, here you may want to stick to your brand colors.)
Show Don’t Tell
No where is “show, don’t tell” more appropriate than in visual storytelling.
The challenge in visual content is to convey a message without the aid of written word. You’ll do that by keeping the visuals dead simple and easy to absorb in a glance.
For example, when I look at this (or any) photo of Coca-Cola, I think: fun, happiness, good vibes. And that’s exactly the message Coca-Cola wants to convey.
Just like Coca-Cola, you can use your images to show how your product benefits the audience. Choose a person for your image or video that resembles your target customer.
Use Visual Storytelling on Social Media
Adding visuals to your social media posts will increase the efficacy of your message.
On Facebook and Twitter, posts and tweets with visual aids receive over double the amount of interactions. Images have the power to stop users in mid-scroll. Simply by attaching a supporting image or video to your message, you can increase the chances that your audience will engage with your message and also repost it to their own social circles.
A couple of things to keep in mind when using visuals on social media:
Brand your visuals. Add your logo, your website, or both, to each image that you share so that interested parties know where to find you.
Use humans in your images. People connect with other people, and this is also a great way to put a human face on your brand.
A visual strategy needs to be more than just a single branded photo or a professionally designed slideshow presentation. Your visual strategy is an essential component of your brand message so it should be intentional.