4 Businesses Leveraging Storytelling With Images

social media how toHave you noticed the importance of images in social media?

Do you use images to tell stories about your business?

Keep reading to discover four creative uses of images with social media.

Why Images Now?

The way we use images is changing.

Instead of taking photographs at important life events and sharing them with a few family and friends, we’re uploading them to our social media pages, sharing them with companies and broadcasting them to the world.

“Pictures or it didn’t happen” is our new mantra. And these days, images aren’t just something you look at—they’re the center of most of our engagements online as people share, comment and engage with image creators.

“We’ve now entered a phase in which visual communication is supplanting the written word,” says Bob Lisbonne, CEO of Luminate and former SVP of Netscape in the 1990s. “What some are now calling the dawn of the Imagesphere.”

On Facebook, up to 250 million photographs are uploaded every day, and those photographs are prominently featured on the social media platform.

A post that includes an album or picture receives 120-180% more engagement from fans than a text-based post.

pinterest pinboard

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. It provides a platform to discover and share things you love.

The fact that Pinterest has shot to social media super-stardom thanks to its image-based platform and the surging popularity of infographics (displaying written content in a visual way) both point toward one conclusion—consumers want images, and lots of them.

Digital strategist Justin Goldsborough explains the importance of brands incorporating visual storytelling into their marketing strategy.

“Society responds more to visual stimuli and storytelling than any story we read in a magazine or on a website. And the same goes for status updates and content curation.

It’s not enough anymore to live tweet from a conference or corporate event. Customers are now saying: ‘Don’t just tell me. Show me.’ And brands better listen. Or 2012 will be the year they got left behind.”

The good news is that visual storytelling isn’t a high-cost strategy. Consumers aren’t looking for the highest-quality visual content. Consumers want stories told in a visual way that encourage, engage, enlighten and entertain.

Here are four businesses using images to show their readers what they do.

#1: The Story of the Future—General Electric

General Electric is one company utilizing the storytelling aspect of visual media. The brand has a thriving Tumblr blog that consists of photographs and video, with short text captions containing the relevant hashtags.

The General Electric images are popular because they tell a story. Each image explores something new or interesting about technology, from parts of prototypes to footage of planes, trains and automobiles.

general electric

Share details of the story in the image captions.

Fans respond to the images because they offer insights into the changing face of technology, while often being humorous or visually stunning.

use humor

Use pictures to get readers interested in what you have to say.

These aren’t professionally produced photographs costing thousands of dollars from high-ranking digital agencies, but lo-fi, often fan-produced, point-and-shoot images of engine bits, airplanes, locomotives and other high-tech gadgets.

Throw in an Instagram filter and you’ve created a series of artistic images that tell a story about innovation in science and technology. You’ve also got an exciting social platform where fans engage with the brand through commenting and sharing on their own networks.

#2: User-Generated Stories—Target

A recent Target advertising campaign used the same concept, only with video. Target created a commercial from home videos of real students opening their college acceptance letters.

The use of real people telling real stories in a powerful, visual medium meant the campaign resonated with people all over the country, and enabled a mega-company like Target to build that personal relationship with their customers through visual storytelling.

#3: Living Your Target Market—PopCosmo

But mega-companies aren’t the only ones benefitting from the trend of visual storytelling.

Louisville resident Kim Gordon and her 15-year-old daughter Chloe created the PopCosmo site in 2011 as a trend-spotting site for teens showing off the latest fashion, beauty, makeup and lifestyle tips.

Immediately they saw the value in Pinterest as a way to generate interest in their site.

Chloe runs the social media platforms for PopCosmo, and her content focuses on providing visual inspiration and useful DIY tutorials—both types of media Pinterest users love.

Her images for the PopCosmo site and social media pages focus on helping teens stay trendy in fun, creative ways.

visual inspiration

Create visual inspiration for your audience.

According to Kim, Pinterest accounts for half of the referral traffic to PopCosmo and 20% of the site’s overall traffic.

“When a pin goes viral,” says Kim, “it can alter our web stats for months.”

And Kim and Chloe’s visual storytelling savvy doesn’t just extend to their own pinboard—they encourage their readers to spread the word about their site through images.

One article on their site, a tutorial on creating French manicures, has been pinned over 380,000 times, and that’s not even including likes or re-pins.

beauty tips

Use fun and creative pictures to grab your readers' attention.

#4: Visual Storytelling and the Personality Brand—Gala Darling

Gala Darling, New Zealand-born-blogger-turned-New-York-maven and digital entrepreneur, is also making a splash with her approach to visual storytelling. Gala’s blog, is a combination of fashion and lifestyle inspiration wrapped up in a sexy, sparkly bow, and this branding extends to her visual social media pages.

She has created a brand out of her personality, and every image and video she uploads to her site, Vimeo, Instagram or Pinterest serves to solidify her sparkly personality brand.

Her visuals are a huge part of the brand she’s created, and she’s not afraid to create a character for herself and express it visually. In her keynote speech at NEPABlogCon, Gala said,

“We create our own fairytales. We write our own epic sagas, we distribute our own fantasies.”

gala darling

Let your personality shine through the photos you share.

How to Leverage Visual Storytelling

Whatever the size of your business, visual storytelling is a marketing technique that can bring you increased exposure, better customer engagement and retention, and more sales.

The key to success is to create visual features that tell a story about your company, industry or niche. What is interesting or entertaining to you will probably also be enjoyed by your fans and customers.

Kim Gordon’s advice for small business owners is to “Pin what you love. People who like the same thing will find you and spread the word.”

Here are some of the top tips for creating visual content that tells a story:

  • Images don’t have to be professionally shot, but use images that are colorful, well-balanced and interesting.
  • Add “Pin it!” and other social sharing buttons to your website, so your fans can spread the word.
  • Find ways to involve fans—perhaps a competition where fans create their own meme or send in pictures of themselves using your product.
  • Decide on the story you want to tell with your images.
  • Focus on your customers. What images would they find useful, entertaining and inspiring?
  • Focus initially on one visual social media website and learn how to utilize this site before moving to another.

What do you think? How will you incorporate visual storytelling into your marketing strategy? What role do visuals play in your social media campaigns? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Ekaterina Walter

Ekaterina Walter is a cofounder and CMO of Branderati and a bestselling author of Think Like Zuck and The Power of Visual Storytelling . Other posts by »




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  • http://www.EntrepreneurOnFire.com/ John Lee Dumas

    Great post Ekaterina! I love posting images! In fact, I make it a point to ask my team to create and post photos on all of my social media pages, however with the recent changes that Facebook has implemented we have to post more text than images. Is there any way for images to reach more fans, because the change has definitely affected the way we want to showcase each interviewees since we have to use text in place of images when posting. Thanks in advance!
    Have a rockin and rollin Monday SME peeps! 

  • Vicki

    I would love some thoughts on how non-profits can more effectively use images. Personally I am always posting pic on FB, but am struggling to find those opportunities for our non-profit.  Our organization provides counseling to cancer patients and their families, so we walk a fine line of what can be shared and what can’t. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  • Cynthia_OhSoPinteresting

    Ekaterina, when looking up the number of pins PopCosmo had for that single article, we found some different numbers. If we went to the article directly we got a lower number next to the pin counter but, if we clicked through the pin on Pinterest we got  380,000+ next to the pin counter. It might be a good to look at the number of pins an article has a couple of different ways to see how popular it really is.  

    Thanks for brining attention to the importance of visuals in storytelling.

  • Dara Khajavi

    I personally enjoy the image driven content trend. A picture is worth a thousand words, and this trend really captivates this saying. Images feel more personal and emotional. Each image is up to interpretation. Words and phrases can often be interpreted as annoying. Consumers usually do not have the patience to read. However, images have instant messages. 

  • Ravi Shukle

    Some great stories shared here thanks Ekaterina. Fully agree “The dawn of the imagesphere” is definitely upon us. More and more businesses are now starting to realise the power of story telling and instead of posting static updates letting fans know about their milestones, think we will see a shift towards businesses sharing the journey with their fans in real time. 

  • http://www.blog.sagency.de/ Jan Roessner

    Great read. Thank you very much. Bringing the importance of visual support back in mind. Keep in mind to use the pictures on several communication channels at the same time to leverage the effect.

  • http://www.blog.sagency.de/ Jan Roessner

    Hi Vicki,

    have you ever thought about a photo story compiled by submitted clients that experienced a happy ending… to share their experiences and give hope to others that struggle. Like it was said here before: a photo says more than 1,000 words… and also delivers more emotions

  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    Really great post. I’ll admit I’m behind on the whole image thing. While images catch my attention I typically don’t reshare them too often. And I still don’t get the thrill in Pinterest.. But my wife can’t get enough of it!

  • http://twitter.com/Ekaterina Ekaterina Walter

    John, which specific change are you referring to? 

    Facebook told us that the posts with images are getting 2X engagement. At Intel we’ve been using a ton of images in our posts quite successfully. And actually have been producing custom images for a number of occasions. 

    @Ekaterina 

  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    What John is referring to is pages admins have noticed the past month or so that text only posts are seeing a high Reach than posts with photos. This could be a change in Edgerank or simply because people posted too many memes during Xmas.. Who knows.

  • http://twitter.com/Ekaterina Ekaterina Walter

    I like Jan’s suggestion. I would also say that even if you share nutrition suggestions or say “Happy Holidays!” you can always find a great image to go with it. Images of quotes do very well as well – a little of inspiration is always great, fans appreciate it! 

  • http://www.wadeharman.com/ Wade Harman

    Very good post.  I like using images in posts, it makes it seem more personal

  • http://twitter.com/Ekaterina Ekaterina Walter

    Aha! Anything is possible with Facebook and Edgerank. :) That said, images and videos have always performed the best for us and for a number of brands I have talked to. But I know every page/brand is different, so hard to say. I wouldn’t move away from images though. 

  • http://twitter.com/Ekaterina Ekaterina Walter

    Thank you, Dara. Yes, we live in the “Now!” world and that’s why a lot of content is moving towards visual. 

  • http://twitter.com/Ekaterina Ekaterina Walter

    Thanks, Ravi!

  • http://twitter.com/Ekaterina Ekaterina Walter

    Scott, I had to smile when you mentioned your wife. All my female friends are like that. Every time I ask them ‘where did you find this?’, the answer is “on Pinterest, of course!” :)  

  • http://twitter.com/UnitedAppRepair United Appliance

     I noticed the same thing! it’s 100% true. When I posted some pictures on my profile, my traffic goes up more than if I just posted some news without picture

  • http://twitter.com/Ekaterina Ekaterina Walter

    Thank you, Wade! :)  

  • http://www.detailcommunications.com David Schmeikal

    Fun post! thanks

  • Chris Syme

    All I really share is images anymore. I comment on text posts, but don’t share unless there is a striking image (on Facebook anyway).  And I love Pinterest. It’s also attracting more men now that brands are there. I just did a blog piece on the top five college athletics sites on Pinterest and I got a lot of email feedback from guys telling me which sites were their favorites. 

  • Burt Dreyfus

    Ekaterani,

    Can you please expand on what you mean by “story”?
    Perhaps you could SHOW examples of where an image does NOT tell a story
    and then an image where it does.

    My confusion stems from having been schooled that a story has an arc, such as, in order:

    StasisTriggerThe questSurpriseCritical choiceClimaxReversalResolutionIs your use of the designation “story” somehow a variant of this? If so, how? If not, what do you mean by “story”?

    What resources would you highly recommend to develop one’s ability to tell stories in images?

    Thanks for being explicit and crystal clear.

  • http://www.callboxinc.com/ Belinda Summers

    Well said Ekaterina. Marketing strategies and techniques is constantly changing. Sounds cliche’ but it is the fact. As marketers we must keep ourselves abreast with these with what the current trend could give us. A mix of images with a story and text could be very effective. Gone are the days where we use to read lengthy post.  

    Thanks:)

  • http://twitter.com/Ekaterina Ekaterina Walter

    Belinda, thank you. And agree. Though I would say long-form blogging still has it’s place and value, we just don’t use it that often anymore for communicating with mainstream audience in the way we used to. 

  • http://internetdreams.com/ Samuel

    Images have a profound influence on the social media users!

    I have been using more images on Internet Dream’s facebook page and have been getting great engagement from the likers :)

    Pinterest is another example!

  • Burt Dreyfus

    Ekaterani,

    Can you please expand on what you mean by “story”? 
    Perhaps you could SHOW examples of where an image does NOT tell a story
    and then an image where it does.

    My confusion stems from having been schooled that a story has an arc, such as, in order:

    Stasis, Trigger, The quest, Surprise, Critical
    choice, Climax, Reversal, Resolution.

    Is your use of the designation “story”
    somehow a variant of this? If so, how? If not, what do you mean by
    “story”?

    What resources would you highly recommend to develop one’s ability to tell stories in images?

    Thanks for being explicit and crystal clear.

     

  • Sam@Valentine Day’s package

    Yes this is good way now-a-days to introduce your business with the help of images and you can take good benefits from this option because now you can do image optimization as well.  

  • http://roarmkting.com Ryan Rosado

    It’s amazing how in 2005 comments was what social media was all about.  Then 2009 or so Likes on text status updates were the gold standard of social media metrics.  Now, it’s pictures. Little to no reading is required. Interesting how consumers’ attention spans are widdling down to nothing. Next will probably be talking statuses lol.

  • http://twitter.com/Ekaterina Ekaterina Walter

    Burt, story is the visual message you want to portray. It is the feeling you want to invoke with a visual. What we were taught in school about the critical elements of a story still stands for long-form content, but no longer applicable for a simple image. I think you may be over thinking this. Sometimes it is as simple as sharing a “behind the scenes” image that is telling in itself vs. telling others about it in the text copy. There are ways to communicate through images that are simple and universal. My suggestion is to look at creative usage of imagery as part of our marketing strategies. 

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  • http://www.MarketingBytes.biz/ Alison D. Gilbert

    Do visuals tell a story? Just look at my profile icon. Doesn’t that say it all about celebrating the recent holiday season?

    Anyway, I am so relieved that the marriage of visual and verbal has finally taken place on social media. It was so overdue. I guess the success of Pinterest gave all the big fellas more courage. These days, I Scoop, Pin and Storify with great pleasure. I make it a habit to balance all my stories with words and images (prints and/or video). Calling myself a Social Media Marketing Graphic Designer and a visual journalist is a testament to this whole situation and how it is here to stay. Who knows what the technology will allow us to do next. Thanks great story.

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  • http://www.callbox.com.sg/ Jayden Chu

    Stories concept about image is definitely true. Nowadays, image represents a great role in our society especially in social media. It represents brand, happenings, advertise your company, tells a story that you don’t need to read and other matters that image may help that’s why image is a one of a proof of the innovation on science and technology.

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  • Virpi Oinonen

    I’ve worked many years as an online campaigner for nonprofits and I noticed that images (not just photos but clever graphics and simple drawings) got shared more than videos. It’s really mind boggling that so many organisations are spending fortunes on video when they could get better results with simple images. This is especially true if you’re trying to get someone’s attention for the first time.

  • http://www.karenaranda.com/ Karen Aranda

    Nice post!

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