5 Ways to Use Pictures to Tell Visual Stories With Social Media

social media how toAre you sharing your stories with your fans?

Do you use pictures in your social marketing?

People want pictures in their social channels.

When done right, these pictures become visual stories.

In this article, I’ll show you how five brands are using pictures to share their stories and why that’s important.

Great Marketers Are Great Storytellers

As a marketer, you know the importance of stories, but do you know how to tell a story with few or no words at all?

“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.” Some are now calling it the dawn of the Imagesphere.”

Our brains process pictures 60,000 times faster than text. When your brand shares a picture, your fans decide in a split second whether they want to see more.

People upload about 250 million photographs to Facebook every day, and Twitter has become more visual, showing photos and videos right in your feed.

The growth of other image-rich sites like Pinterest has been stratospheric, and apps such as Instagram, Vine and even Snapchat aren’t just for teenagers–savvy marketers are using them too.

These channels help you tell stories that create engagement, build communities and ultimately help nurture brand loyalty and long-term relationships with customers.

Below I’ll show you how five brands are using visual stories to engage their audiences.

#1: Give Life to Your Products

Stories don’t have to be history and they don’t have to be long. In fact, quick-moving social platforms encourage using fewer words. Twitter has always limited you to 140 characters, but now you can add a picture or video to your update to reinforce your message.

Whole Foods Market used this picture on Twitter to emphasize how their products fit into customers’ lifestyles:

whole foods breakfast sandwich

Whole Foods Market connects with followers by sharing pictures of their products.

Over 3.5 million fans follow @WholeFoods, in part because the brand shares great ideas on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Whole Foods’ tastebud-worthy pictures aren’t just for show; they subtly reinforce that all of the ingredients to make a delicious meal are available at their stores.

Tip: Use high-quality images or videos to give a “lifestyle” angle to your marketing. Show your customers how they can use your product in their everyday lives.

#2: Tell Your Other Story

Whether you want to share your culture, show how you design a product or celebrate some of the unsung heroes of your business, photos tell a more eloquent story than any copy ever could.

Your fans know what you look like on the outside. If you want to make a deeper connection with them, show your brand’s human side with a peek into your everyday humdrum.

Letting your fans see an alternate perspective gives them a new, more personal way to connect with your brand.

ABC World News uses Instagram to show a lighter side of the network that truly connects with its audience. Sharing informal moments makes anchors, reporters and their teams appear more relatable.

abc news instagram image

A look behind the scenes helps your brand connect on a personal level.

ABC World News shares these personal glimpses across all of their social networks, but Instagram lends itself especially well to the in-the-moment, spontaneous fun.

Tip: Don’t just take photos of perfect “on-air” moments. Give depth to your brand by showing the real work that goes into researching, designing and marketing your products. Those pictures convey your passion far better than an oh-so-perfect photo shoot.

#3: Celebrate Your Community’s Passion

Why do your customers buy your products instead of your competitors’? What is the lifestyle that goes hand-in-hand with your brand? As a marketer, you know the answers to those questions and how they define your audience.

Too many brands only use Pinterest as a way to show off their products and services. But the most successful companies on Pinterest tell the story their customers want to hear.

For example, at Random House, Inc., they know that books aren’t a product, they are a way of life for their customers. They use images to capture the entire philosophy of books, reading and literary interests.

Random House, Inc.’s 1.5 million Pinterest followers appreciate that and are eager to follow boards like What Would Jane Austen Do?, Bookish Nooks and Literary Weddings.

random house pinterest image

Know your audience’s passions and give them the story they want.

Tip: Highlight the things your customers love, celebrate the communities where you live, share what causes are close to your heart and show what inspires you.

#4: Bring Your Brand to Life With Video

If you’re only using YouTube as a repository for your ‘official’ advertising, you’re missing the boat. You can do so much more with video—and give people a reason to subscribe to your channel.

Beloved tech brand Apple is a master at creating videos their fans want to watch, share and comment on.

For example, this video, which has over 3 million views, gives a tour of Apple’s new Touch ID fingerprint identity sensor—a tech development they know their fans are interested in.


Show off exclusive product features (and their stories) to wow your audience.

What sets Apple apart is that they don’t just show you the new feature, they show you the stories behind innovations; why they were necessary and how they make lives better. Fans identify with those stories because it’s their problems being solved.

Tip: Use videos to create a story around your product features. Share employee and customer passion to relate with your audience and let them know their interests are your driving force.

#5: Cater to an Individual Audience

Sometimes, when you try to reach everyone, you end up reaching no one. In those cases, it helps to set up channels for specific niche audiences and just tell the story that’s relevant to them.

If you’re trying to reach the elusive age 16-24 demographic, Tumblr is a perfect choice to show your visual journey, one photo at a time.

Target’s style blog on Tumblr is successful because it shares only the images that their younger, female, more fashion-conscious followers are interested in.

Under each image or set there’s a link back to the product page, which is a very clever way of selling without the hard sell.

target tumblr image

Use social platforms geared toward the community you want to reach.

Tip: Don’t use a one-size-fits-all story. Focus on a specific niche by telling a story relevant to them. If you’re having fun with it, they will too, and they may be more likely to buy. Don’t forget to drive traffic back to particular sections of your website.

Over to You

Social media is a gift to storytellers: You can tell a story in more interesting ways than ever before and reach a much larger audience.

Using images and video to tell your story gives a new dimension to your brand and builds closer relationships with your fans, followers and subscribers.

What do you think? How have you used pictures to tell a bigger story? How has your community responded to your visual content? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments 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://indispensablemarketing.com/ Patrick McFadden

    Ekaterina you brought to my attention some great examples. I really like what you said about Apple setting itself apart.

    This truly shows why marketing is telling a story about the value you create for people.

    That if marketing is about communicating to customers that you’ve solved their problem, then the first step to growth is to solve their problem

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Thank you, Patrick! Storytelling + utility = great marketing :)

    @Ekaterina

  • Roger

    Thanks Ekaterina, these are some really good thoughts about using images to amplify key marketing messages.

    A quick look at Twitter and Linkedin suggests that posts with imagery caught my eye more easily than those which are text based.

    Sites like Picmonkey and Canva make it easy to produce your own, credible, images too. So it need not be expensive to get your message across, visually.

  • http://candid.io/ Candid

    Great post, Ekaterina… personalization is probably the most effective of the bunch. One of the best examples I’ve seen (outside of the primary social networks), is Rent The Runway who uses UGC tailored to your height, shape, skin tone, etc. That’s really the holy grail of conversion and something we’re striving for as well.

  • http://entrebond.com Blake Schreckhise

    Everything is definitely going visual. I think that since it takes a little extra work to make things visual, you can really put yourself ahead of the competition by just getting out there and trying!

  • Meg Cook

    Really interesting update on the fact that human attention span is now estimated at 3-8 seconds. There is barely a chance to catch someone with words alone in light of this fact.

  • http://www.entrepreneuronfire.com/ Kate Erickson

    Hi Ekaterina! Great post here – you’ve included some great examples of those who are doing this right. Visual story telling takes a lot of time and thought, which is why I don’t believe many businesses are doing it. Thanks for the great tips here – really great info and a powerful way to touch and engage with your audience!

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Great post!

    I use stories to tell a bigger picture, and I’m excited about a post I scheduled for tomorrow. I can’t wait to see how it takes off. Yes, I’m optimistic. :)

  • Stacey Herbert

    When I first read these suggestions, I immediately thought ” big brand marketing”, not for the little guy. But when I stopped for a minute to think about how all these suggestions could be scaled down to exactly where you are in your business, and help take your customers on a real journey, I got it! Great article, really fantastic advice, some of which I’m excited to try out.

  • http://www.antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    I love all articles highlighting the importance of visual content. I agree the whole Social Media realm is moving in a more visual direction, and when user’s News Feeds will be cluttered with thousands of images, only those giving extra value will win the attention. That’s where I see storytelling like a key pillar. Thank you for a great post.

  • http://www.antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    Amazing, isn’t it? When Vine came out, many people criticised that 6 seconds were not enough to provide quality content… but with a span attention of 3 seconds, you could tell 2 stories on that timeframe!

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Cannot agree more. Thank you for the comment, Antonio!

    @ekaterina

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Stacey, I agree with you. We don’t cover enough small business case studies, they are hard to find. That’s why I made an extra effort to cover some in my book. I also made sure the case studies also covered both B2B and B2C industries. But a lot of these lessons can be applied to various businesses if you have a little bit of a creative bone in you :)

    @Ekaterina

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Thank you, Kate! I am glad you enjoyed it.

    @Ekaterina

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Thank you, Amanda! :)

    @Ekaterina

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Meg, gives you a totally different perspective as a marketer once you consider that fact, doesn’t it? :)

    @Ekaterina

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Blake, it does take an extra thought. But there are a lot of free tools that allow you to be creative. I list a lot of them in my book “The Power of Visual Storytelling” to ensure folks who don’t have big budgets can take advantage of them. But the thought, heart, and the story come first for sure!

    @Ekaterina

  • AMS

    One of the main reasons (amongst many) that I have leaned heavily towards Facebook instead of Twitter, is precisely the degree to which Facebook lends itself to sharing visual content, it’s users’ propensity to share visual content, and the ability of that visual content to tell a story immediately. 140 characters with no picture is not very engaging to those of us who are extremely visually oriented. I tweet, but I get 99% of my news from FB. I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m just saying that’s what I prefer, based on the way I function.

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Cannot agree more. Brands don’t use that approach as much b/c it’s a lot of work, and everyone wants an easy way out :)

    @Ekaterina

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Roger, absolutely! As a matter of fact, the images that do best sometimes are those that we take with our mobile device on the go, but b/c of their relevancy to a specific audience, they really resonate. And you are right, there are a TON of free tools that will allow you to create your own visual assets easily – I list a lot of them in my book.

    @Ekaterina

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    With some of the latest changes Twitter made though – with their move to become more visual – I think you’ll see a lot of impact there. :)

    @Ekaterina

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    If done right,visual content could lead you to success.Marketers who are embracing visual content are seeing huge returns in terms of, well, more readers, leads, and customers,also revenue.

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Barbara, couldn’t agree more!

    @ekaterina

  • Jitendra Padmashali

    Thanks Ekaterina!! thanks for updating about social media, people are now sharing all their stories with social media,there are several social media platforms available to help tell story and cover an event, a successful social media campaign goes beyond just posting links and photos. its a process and its also requires planning.

  • Liz Palmer

    Thank you for sharing this Ekaterina. You have given me some great ideas to assist me in marking my books. Liz @champagnehouses

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Liz, I am glad you found this helpful. That’s the whole point of producing solid content, isn’t it? :)

    @Ekaterina

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Thank you!

    @Ekaterina

  • Amina

    Love this article!

  • Meena Chopra

    Ekaterina Walter, Nice article and I agree with Antonio Calero about the clutter. Also at times I feel even the energetic audios help in brand build up a lot. Image and audio can build an alternative great combination. I couldn’t agree more with “Use videos to create a story around your product features. Share employee and customer passion to relate with your audience and let them know their interests are your driving force.”

  • http://entrebond.com Blake Schreckhise

    I agree!

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Thank you! :)

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    Thank you, Meena! Yes, audio can be very powerful as well. Podcasts is a great marketing and engagement tool for sure.

    @Ekaterina

  • http://www.jabble.jp/ jabbler

    Thanks so much, Ekaterina.
    This is definitely some useful information that I can use for work.

  • http://www.ekaterinawalter.com/ Ekaterina Walter

    I am glad! :)

    @Ekaterina

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  • Madhava Verma Dantuluri

    Excellent share, i like it.

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