Visual Storytelling: A key element for your content marketing.

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There is no denying that humans are wired to love pictures. Almost half of our brains are involved in visual processing, interpreting visuals in less than 1/10th of a second. But science also tells us that our brains also love stories. We really can't help it. We're compelled to organise information into a narrative.

So, as businesses if we combine pictures and narrative the reach and engagement of our content marketing multiplies. In the context of marketing here is a more precise definition:

"Visual storytelling is the confluence of art and science, balancing an intended message with purpose and mutual value while investing in the medium and the culture that defines it. It’s not only meant to be consumed but also designed to be shared … educating, informing, and entertaining along the way."

Here are a few professional tips on how to execute visual storytelling as part of your content marketing:

1. Make the customer or your audience the hero of your story.

address their needs first, not yours

In order to cut through the clutter and resonate with your audience, as a marketer you need to put your audience as the hero of your story. Your audience needs to see visuals that make them believe that your product or service will give them a positive experience. People take for granted that what your business has to offer will function properly and fulfil their needs. Experience is key.
A fantastic example of making customers the heroes (quite literally) of their visual story is Coca-Cola with their #shareacoke campaign. What better way to connect with customers visually than to paste their name right on the side of the packaging itself.

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2. Show context in your images or videos.

Be certain to show the environment or context in which your business operates

Give your audience a feeling for where and how they can experience your product or services. These types of images create a lifestyle around what your business has to offer and builds a culture around your business. Airline magazines are a great example. They showcase beautifully crafted travel editorial that make the audience want to jump right into the scene and experience the destinations they are traveling. Before passengers land, they have a detailed visual picture of the place they are about to visit.

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3. Leverage User-Generated Content (UGC) to tell your story

Involve your audience and your fans and their content

Though businesses strive to keep their images polished and professional, including a mix of user generated content produced by customers themselves is an excellent way to make your story authentic. Authenticity trumps perfect "unatural" shots everytime. It may be some of the most effective visual content that you use. Holding Instagram competitions and inviting participation by customers is used more and more in content marketing, especially for Millennials. Moreover, the more engagement you are able to solicit from your audience, the more selective you can be about the quality of what you post.

The Starbuck's White Cup campaign was an overwhelmingly successful way to leverage the participation and image-content of its customers. In 1 week alone 4000 people uploaded Starbucks cup designs, which they featured on their website and social media

4. Articulate your brand's personality visually

Are you sleek + modern, helpful + familiar, warm + friendly?

The images you use for storytelling should set the mood, just like the opening scenes of a movie. If your brand is a cutting-edge tech start-up you'll want your story-telling images to reflect a sleek, modern aesthetic. Whereas if your business caters to families and kids the content you use should be bright, colourful, and happy. Creating a story with images is as much about setting the tone and mood as it is about the content. Make a list of what colours, fonts, and designs best illustrate the story you're trying to tell.

Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear company provides fantastic consistency in their storytelling images using bright colours on all their lifestyle images conveying a sense of adventure and warmth against challenging backgrounds in nature.

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5. Choose the most effective storytelling medium

Visual storytelling needs to consider its platform

When considering visual storytelling for your business, keep your mediums in mind. The content that will best engage your audience on Facebook might not be as successful on Instagram or Twitter, or visa versa. Consider the characteristics of your audience: Age, gender, location, following, etc in order to determine where best to place your storytelling efforts. 

If you're pairing a series of image together, Facebook is better than Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. If you are aggregating images one picture at a time and using user-generated content, Instagram can be very effective. Oftentimes choosing 1 - 2 mediums is much more effective than trying to leverage all your social media channels at once. Concentrate your efforts to see better results.

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With these guidelines in mind, its time to sit down and decide how you can use storytelling for your business.

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