Marketing, advertising, and branding strategies rely heavily on the power of visuals. Right from the advent of print media, through the era of television, and even today, with the increasing influence and use of social media and online platforms, using imagery to tell a story is one of the most influential methods of attracting customers.
‘The Power Of Visual Storytelling’, by Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio introduces us to the world of visual storytelling, shows how to use the power of images to boost advertising and branding, and understands the best social media platforms to choose for successfully meeting business goals.
Nothing gets attention like a good picture does.
The human brain has evolved to process images around it since the beginning of time. The written text, as such is a relatively new concept in the human timeline of existence. Thus, images are a medium that can be processed by our brains about 60,000 times faster than text. Moreover, imagery is extremely vital to the world of creativity, storytelling, and writing.
It is for this very reason that JRR Tolkien drew a map of Middle Earth before he wrote The Lord Of The rings and JK Rowling sketched images of the Harry Potter magical world before she began to write.
Pictures are more powerful than we think and elicit an emotional response. Let us take a simple example. When we read the word ‘girl’, we immediately conjure up a picture of a girl in our minds. But if we see a picture of a ‘smiling girl’, it associates the picture with emotion, happiness. This concept forms the basis of visual storytelling.
A story can be told using pictures, videos, infographics, etc. It is this understanding that helps companies and brands know whether a picture on Instagram is enough, or a full post on Facebook with a description is needed. For example, Hubspot, the marketing software company uses Pinterest to showcase their products on pin-boards, etc., as well as uses meme driven marketing of awful stock photography to showcase their quirky side to attract customers.
The Wonders of A Shared Story
We have all told a story with pictures and images, whether we have intended to or not. Every time, a picture is posted on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., a story is told. Buzzfeed statistics reveal that every minute, there are 208,300 pictures on Facebook and 27,800 images shared on Instagram. With these huge numbers, we can simply imagine the power of sharing a picture.
However, to make a simple image moving enough to tell a story, the image must be adjusted to suit the platform one wishes to share it on. This happens when an image is both, personal and helpful. For example, one can tweak Pinterest pins to relate to tweets. However, they should not be the same. Creating relations between posts and tweets, even on different platforms, shows engagement and trust, keeping followers and fans attracted and interested.
It is important that the image posted should provide people some value because that makes the image personal. Social Listening, which means keeping an eye open to comments people post about one’s product or company can help understand the value. For example, a company selling tourism packages should look at comments on tourism sites, travel blogs, and pages such as Facebook to understand what people say.
A good story needs to be retold. Therefore, an image or post should be share-worthy. People share posts and images that they find funny, or cool, or that touch their hearts emotionally. The aim of any company or brand should be to convert their followers into ‘sharers’, thus turning them into a sales-force for the product. Coca-Cola, for example, launched the #BestSummerMoment marketing campaign, to which they received a post of a married couple sharing a coke on their honeymoon!
The shared image showed the product in a positive light by focusing on an emotional moment.
Which Platform To Get On?
It is imperative today, for companies to get familiar with the different social media platforms available to them. Different platforms target different customers, and having an understanding of which platforms are a good mix to use is the need of the day. Let us take a look at which platform to get on.
- YouTube – To grab attention on YouTube, the video posted should be entertaining. Evian’s Baby and Me campaign, the ads became wildly successful hitting millions of views.
- Instagram – About 70% of Instagram’s users are female. This is an important statistic while considering posts. Moreover, images and videos on Instagram should never be more than fifteen seconds long. Lululemon’s Every Mat Has a Story to Tell campaign, was tailor-made for Instagram.
- Tumblr – Tumblr has a varied demographic. From Millenials to the wealthy, different types of customers get drawn to Tumblr’s cool, hip vibe. To boost engagement within teens, CocaCola has a ‘Where Happiness Lives’ Blog on Tumblr
- Slideshare – A social media platform for sharing presentations, Slideshare, though information-heavy, is a great place for follower engagement. NASA uses Slideshare wisely to share videos and documents that showcase their work.
While these are the lesser-known platforms, they can still make a big difference when used well.
Using The Most Popular Social Media Sites
The most popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest are widely used and are essentials when companies decide their social media marketing plans. However, it is essential for companies to understand how best to use these based on the demographics they reach. Let us look at each of these as well.
Pinterest is a great platform for companies to draw customers to their websites and online stores by sharing ‘pins’, or pics and videos, that when clicked can take a customer to the website. A usual Pinterest profile includes different theme boards such as ‘behind the scenes’, ‘charity work’, ‘deals and offers’, etc.
Considering that Pinterest has a customer base that is 80% women, of which 50% have children, it becomes an important platform for most companies. Sephora, for example, has found that its Pinterest followers have a fifteen times higher tendency to buy their products than their Facebook followers.
Twitter’s huge popularity is what gets most companies attracted. Starting as a small microblogging website, Twitter today gets about 460,000 new joiners every day. However, with Twitter, it is important to remember that people have a tendency to view the post rather than view the Twitter profile of a company. Therefore, using a relevant hashtag (the pound sign before the word) that stands out is essential.
Intel has over 4.34 million followers. They keep their followers engaged in a unique and intelligent manner. Their #dothemath thread on Twitter is used to post interesting pieces of information that could be statistics related or even quirky.
Finally Facebook! The website we are all most familiar with. Whether it is more than one billion users, or their over fifteen million brand pages, what makes Facebook a great platform is the fact that it allows two-way communication between a company or a brand and their followers. The two-way communication works because the moment a customer likes a video, image, post, or any other form of content posted by the company, all the company’s information becomes available on the customers, or followers’ newsfeed.
Facebook also allows fans to send the company private messages, chat and comment on posts, write on the wall of the company’s page, etc. The sheer number of ways a company or a brand can communicate and engage with its fans, followers, and customers makes it the most popular choice.
Engagement is calculated on the basis of the number of likes and comments on posts – basically, the actions that a post makes a customer take. Engagement can take the form of user-generated content, for example, Moleskin created a Facebook campaign called “What’s in your bag?” The campaign required followers to post a pic of their ‘bag’s inner lives’, producing a huge amount of content via user-engagement and generating a massive number of comments, likes, and shares.
To technically understand Facebook, one must have an understanding of the EdgeRank algorithm. The EdgeRank score is given on the basis of the engagement level of the company or brand page. The higher the EdgeRank score is, the more prominence the company’s post gains on newsfeeds. Therefore, companies should plan their Facebook advertising and presence with the EdgeRank score in mind. Even the most scintillating picture won’t make a difference if it does not engage the audience in any way!
Strategy, Strategy, Strategy
Just as it is with mainstream marketing, visual storytelling on social media is all about strategy. Without a good strategy and plan, one won’t get very far.
For example, how would a cosmetics company with an 85% female target audience, using Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook strategize their social media plan?
To begin with, the strategy will need a vision or a goal, say, to build product awareness. Simultaneously, the company wants to engage its followers, increase customer base, loyalty, sales, and referral traffic. To put it statistically, increase followers by 20% and sales by 5%.
Second, the company needs to monitor its current position by tabulating the current impact of its content. Therefore, monitoring post metrics such as content, date, and time of post, etc. over a period of time, to ensure that they are in line with the goal/vision of the strategy is vital.
Third, conducting a cross-analysis between the monitored data and the information gathered during social listening will help in understanding the gap between the current position and the goal/vision.
Finally, considering social media needs a human touch, it helps to visualize the company’s personality. In this case, the cosmetic company would be a young, strong, design-conscious, woman. Therefore, the language and tone of the posts can reflect the personality type to engage like-minded and aspirant customers.
Finalizing The Media To Use
Visual storytelling isn’t limited to using videos and photos. In fact, infographics, postcards, and e-cards are great tools to use too.
Infographics – Infographics present data in the form of a picture. It helps merge important information with compelling pictures. Infographics, therefore, need solid data and research. There are online tools available to create smart infographics such as Visual.ly, Easel.ly, iCharts, Infogr.am, Piktochart, etc., in addition to hiring a graphic designer.
Thus if an organic coffee company, targeting high-end customers and specialty roasters could use infographics to show the process of their fair trade organic coffee production.
E-cards and Postcards – Postcards and e-cards are a simple yet great way of communicating with consumers, especially to communicate gratitude, share special promos, offers and even notify of CSR actions taken. These cards can be inspirational or even funny, and still, be a wonderful way to tell fans the story of the brand. There are websites such as ‘SnapShop Postcard’ and ‘Cards in the Post’ that have premade options.
Thus the organic coffee company can send new product postcards to their buyers chronicling the humor of a coffee lover not getting their morning cuppa!
These tools can add a boost to any social media campaign and enhance the storytelling ability of visuals.
Real-Time Marketing And Visual Storytelling
The concept of real-time marketing simply entails planning to be in the right spot at the right time (no thanks to the luck factor). It comprises well-tailored, perfectly timed messages sent to a target audience, using social media platforms and marketing data. It is a fast, dynamic form of marketing that is the key to marketing success.
For example, Oreo used the partial power outage during the 2013 Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans by tweeting a picture of an Oreo cookie under the spotlight with a tag, ‘You can always dunk in the dark.’ The post received nearly 20000 likes and was retweeted about 15000 times. A perfectly timed tweet!
The trick to real-time marketing is to be in sync with the latest news and trends and increase customer contact. To increase customer contact, companies need to use Social CRM (Social Customer Relationship Management). Social CRM uses fast-paced platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and tools such as infographics to manage customer complaints and requests as they happen.
Additionally, to be in touch with the latest news and trends would mean to align marketing strategies to the happening news and current trends. For example, Mini Cooper once posted a picture of their new Nemo Model (replete with Pixar’s Finding Nemo fish colors), during a snowstorm with a tagline, ‘Find your way through the storm.’
Another great example of real-time marketing and social CRM was Smart Car’s reaction to Clayton Hove’s tweet, “Saw a bird had crapped on a Smart Car. Totaled it.”
They used an infographic showing the actual amount of bird poop (of either 360000 turkeys or 4.5 million pigeons) that would be needed to crush one of their cars. Clayton Hove, being the ad guru he is, loved and responded with “Outsmarted by Smart Car. Best. Social media response. Ever.” Tweet. It was indeed a great response using social CRM, making it a fun exchange!
Visual storytelling in the future of social media marketing. Using the right platforms, social media websites, and visualizing tools, companies, and brands can rake in those followers, attract a veritable number of customers, and in turn boost sales.
Using the power of visuals, applying strategy, and relying on clever, creative real-time marketing, any company or brand can take the online and offline world by storm.