5 Ways Businesses Are Using Visual Storytelling on Facebook

social media how toAre you looking for creative ways to use visual storytelling in your social media marketing?

Do you have a great story to tell, but you’re not sure how to share it?

Every company has a story to tell.

It could be anything from brand history to internal innovation to fun customer feedback. Unfortunately, few businesses share their stories effectively on Facebook.

In this article I’ll show you five imaginative ways brands are using pictures to tell compelling stories that generate engagement on Facebook.

Why Tell a Visual Story?

A picture is worth a thousand words. It’s a cliché for a reason. When you’re scrolling through the news feed, what catches your eye? Most updates are text, but Facebook users like pictures.

Posting images can help increase engagement and shares on Facebook. Photo posts account for 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook. They can get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts!

Are you using pictures to your advantage? Below are five examples of companies that are wowing their fans with visual stories.

#1: Use Clever Photo Collections

The American Express Facebook page strives to give a strong visual representation of the brand. That can be a tall order for a service-based company. American Express rose to the challenge by taking photographs of related items, then sharing them with short updates that ask a question or evoke a certain feeling.

Recently, the freezing weather in the US has everyone talking. American Express shared this simple but hugely descriptive picture on their Facebook timeline.

american express christmas facebook image

American Express connects with fans through a simple image.

Not only does the picture convey winter and snow days, it also subtly includes an American Express card. To me, that picture said, “You’re probably having a snow day, but all you need is your American Express card in case you need to order pizza, download a movie or do some online shopping without braving the weather.”

The company used the same technique on December 23:

american express facebook image

Interesting pictures and fun questions encourage Facebook engagement.

The post asked, “Guess whose holiday essentials these are?” It was a clever alternative to the in-your-face holiday posts that had been doing the rounds, and invited plenty of discussion and good-natured responses. Hey, doesn’t everyone need a credit card? Those reindeer vet bills sure do add up.

Tip: Photograph your product with everyday objects or in a live setting to tell a fun story or spark an emotional connection with your community. Take advantage of trends that are relevant to your audience to show how a customer could use your product.

#2: Create Stand-Alone Visual Campaigns

Sometimes a company’s marketing gimmick can take on a life of its own. Several years ago, UK-based insurance comparison site Compare The Market created a campaign around the idea that market sounds just a little bit like meerkat.

They introduced Aleksandr Orlov, a meerkat with a Russian accent and an aristocratic heritage. The campaign was a huge hit. Even though Compare The Market isn’t actually on Facebook, Aleksandr has his own page, with more than 800,000 likes!

The story of Aleksandr, his friends and his family (including the new baby, Oleg) is played out on this fun, interactive page, which drives traffic back to the company website with its clever use of storytelling and merchandising (a free meerkat toy with every purchase through the site).

comparethemarket facebook image

Compare The Market uses Aleksandr Orlov, a meerkat, to share stories with its audience.

Tip: If you don’t have a mascot, why not tell the story behind your logo, choice of location or something else that makes your company unique? Marketing is not about B2B or B2C anymore, it’s about P2P (people to people).

Your fans want a human connection with your brand and your people. They want to peek behind the scenes and explore your culture, understand your mission and find out what inspires your innovation.

#3: Develop Community Around a Charity

Many businesses make a point of giving back to their community, but TOMS shoes goes much further. The company was founded on the charitable concept that for every pair of shoes they sold, they would donate a pair to children in poverty around the globe.

TOMS makes an impact on their fans by sharing pictures of those they’ve helped. It’s one thing to know a company has a strong charitable background, but seeing it helps fans appreciate the effect they’re having on the world.

toms facebook image

TOMS gives their fans a connection to the people they (both the company and its fans) are helping all over the world.

Tip: Share your company’s passion with your fans. Every brand has a story about the inspiration behind the innovation or employees’ passion for company product(s). Use pictures to convey your brand’s core values.

#4: Incorporate Fan-Generated Content

The Starbucks’ Facebook page celebrates the most important people to the company: their customers. Starbucks posts Instagram photos from their fans to give a customer’s-eye view of the brand.

Not only is this a fun way to show customer appreciation, it’s a really clever way of generating fresh, relevant content that brings business and customers closer together.

starbucks facebook image

Starbucks uses fan-generated content to show customers its appreciation.

When Starbucks shared the customer photo above, it generated a massive response with over 78,000 likes, 460 comments and 1,500 shares.

Using customers’ own photos to tell a brand’s story is an inclusive strategy and clearly resonates well with other fans. This authentic word-of-mouth is priceless.

Tip: Your customers are your greatest asset; make them feel like a valued part of your story by sharing their images. Ask fans to use a specific hashtag when they share photos of your brand so you can find them easily.

#5: Share Your History

Positive nostalgia fosters true emotional connection. Reflecting on your brand’s history brings a whole new dimension to your marketing.

IBM has an illustrious history of innovation and the company capitalizes on that by sharing pictures from their archives on their Facebook page. Some of the company’s most liked and commented-on posts are those that show how much technology has changed and how IBM led those changes.

starbucks facebook image

Fans love to see how things have changed over the years.

Showing how your brand started, the challenges you have overcome and celebrating some of your best achievements can make your followers proud to be associated with you and all the great work you have done over the years.

Tip: Don’t bury photos from your past in offline archives. Use them to show how far you’ve come and the moments you’re most proud of. Celebrate those moments with your community and ask them to share their own memories.

Share your stories.

Your brand has some great stories, so why not tell them? Don’t settle for long text updates that get glossed over in the news feed. Tell your story with pictures and rich media so your fans connect with you. Customers who feel more connected to a brand display greater loyalty and are more likely to advocate for your brand.

What do you think? How have you used pictures to share your company’s story? Do your fans respond more enthusiastically when you post pictures? Share your 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://theasiancinemablog.com/ darameja

    Brilliant article. So so true.

  • Ryan

    It’s so true. That’s why sites so many sites like Candidly Images are popping up!

  • http://about.me/darrylvillacorta Darryl Villacorta

    Love the topic, Ekaterina! One element I think that is bound to have a breakout year for brands going forward are ‘photosations.’ This would fall into the category of user-generated content. In Patricia’s post here on Social Media Examiner regarding social media trends for 2014, I pointed out that photosations (photos as the sole driver of a conversation) could be the bridging and evolutionary element to user-generated content and would love to see more brands adopt it. While it isn’t a new wave
    of interaction amongst people, I have seen very few brands take on this
    form of engagement with their audience or community. In my opinion,
    photosations are the other side of the coin to user-generated content.
    Among the few brands that I’ve personally been in contact with, Warby
    Parker does this very well! Just my two cents!

  • http://www.windycityparrot.com WindyCityParrot

    Another benefit to story telling on Facebook is what I’ve coined is the “downline” – we are in the process of posting every parrot species on the planet – 3 – 6 per day alphabetically . My sense is because of the “story” or as I’m calling it a “tapestry” fans tend to click more “down the line” going back further (bumping reach) vs a handful of isolated posts daily.

  • http://villagehomestores.com/ Village Homestores

    Great article! We recently started do this with individual remodel projects documenting the process on our facebook page in an album and tagging with the hashtag #JerseysNewKitchen on facebook and Instagram. (Jersey is their dog’s name) This tells a story local to our fans but in an HGTV sort of format they are interested in. We have had great success so far with engagement from it. Love idea #5 in this article, need to try that next!

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Pictures rule!

    I handle the social media for our local animal shelter and the community loves pictures. Each time I upload a Happy Ending or Happy Ending Update, the reach, likes and comments go up and up.

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

    Great to hear this approach is working well for you. People love to see progress and before/after pictures :)

    @Ekaterina

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

    Thank you! And a great approach, keep it up! :)

    @Ekaterina

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

    Interesting approach and will definitely work for specific businesses and brands. Thank you for sharing.

    @Ekaterina

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

    Darryl, couldn’t agree more. I talk about this in my new book “The Power of Visual Storytelling”, though I must admit – I love the term “photosations”. :) Nicely put!

    @Ekaterina

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

    Thank you!

    @Ekaterina

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

    Exactly! And I predict more such sites and tools to come

    @Ekaterina

  • http://about.me/darrylvillacorta Darryl Villacorta

    Glad you love it! I coined it not too long ago and think it rolls off the tongue quite nicely. :) I look forward to reading your book and absorbing your insight!

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

    Visual is the failed subject of many companies operating online – which doesn’t make too much sense. The whole Social Media world is moving into a visual trend (larger thumbnails for Facebook links, Twitter displaying images, increase on use of Instagram…) Very useful article as it provides some great tips on how to use all that visual content… thank you.

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

    This sounds very interesting, thank you for bringing that up. Will definitely do some research about it.

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

    Thank you for joining the conversation, Antonio. I could not agree more!

    @Ekaterina

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

    Storytelling is something that everyone understands and connects with, and when you focus on yours, you may find you have an entirely different perspective on creating excellent content.You don’t have to have a huge meaningful story to create genuine interest. Sometimes a small anecdote accompanied by reinforcing images to reflect it are all that’s required to create some emotion.

  • http://mainiacs.com/ Mainiacs.com

    Imagery and video is a very popular way to gain brand awareness. Companies are definitely telling their stories through these images on their social sites. Nice article Ekaterina!

  • Christine

    some excellent points and perfect examples! Just wondering why American Express has so few Likes on their posts while having such a big fan base. I have similar amounts of Likes on my posts with “just” 27000 ppl. Is it really possible that the algorithm behind is that selective???

  • Jitendra Kumar Jaat

    Great article with true example …..:)

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

    I LOVE this: “Share your company’s passion with your fans.” A picture really is worth a thousand words, and it’s a great way to share your passion. Thank you for this post, Ekaterina!

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

    Barbara, totally agree. It’s all about showing your human side, connecting on a personal level. And sometimes it’s all about little things.

    @Ekaterina

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

    Thank you! :)

    @Ekaterina

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

    Thank you!

    @Ekaterina

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

    Thank you, John! Yes, it’s all about passion conversations, isn’t it?!

    @Ekaterina

  • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

    Nice blog post Ekaterina. I have noticed that more people are posting videos through Facebook as opposed to using YouTube, Vimeo, etc. Keep your audience there where you want them. What are your thoughts on Visual Storytelling done via video?

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

    Patrick,
    video is definitely huge. A big portion of my book is dedicated to it since it is such a consumable format and is perfect for storytelling.
    On Facebook though people post straight there b/c it allows them to then promote those posts easier (vs YT or Vimeo link). And the ads with videos embedded in them do real well on FB.

    @Ekaterina

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  • William Duque

    Tools to make visual content? please

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  • http://callboxinc.com.au/ MaeganA

    I like the idea #3. It catches my attention and a lot of marketers will do this kind of tactic. I cherish companies who has a big heart. It is so beautiful and touching to share success. Very nice article Ekaterina :)

  • Evan Ware

    I also think that video is a big part of telling a story visually. I work at
    engajer and our customers have found that embedding an interactive video
    directly on Facebook helps grab and hold customers’ attention with imagery and
    a conversational feel.

  • Liran

    I’m intrigued by what you wrote, Darryl, but I can’t quite seem to get how a brand would imply it. Can you please elaborate a bit?

  • http://about.me/darrylvillacorta Darryl Villacorta

    Liran, the simplest way I can explain how photosations would work is this: Let’s say you reach out to your favorite brand on any social platform saying, “It’s my birthday, can I get a shout-out?” Rather than them ‘liking’, favoring, giving you a +1 or simply saying Happy Birthday in text-only form, what if they replied back to you with a photo that had creatively said Happy Birthday? The photo response would carry more weight and provide an even deeper connection with the brand you already love. It literally SHOWS you that they’re listening to you.

    Granted, the only drawback would be output. It’s hard to respond to everyone if you’re a brand with a large following, but this is a nice segue into really rewarding your true brand advocates.

  • Jenny Brennan

    Great post ekatarina. Im working with a local haïr salon and we are going to run a promotion where fans get a special gift for posting their before and after pics to the page. Its going to be so much fun as the salon is so cool and the staff are really behind the idea of telling customer stories with pictures.

  • disqus_odnoH9XnvE

    Nice article, but what are your suggestions when comes to start-ups; companies with none or minimum archive and companies that are in the very early stage of branding their business?

    I guess its completely different way to have the use of visual story telling, with many more peculiarities and not as simply as the examples above to apply and to retain results, don’t you agree?

  • lyme

    What are the legal or copyright implications surrounding user generated content? If they tag you or use a hashtag, does that make it free for the taking?

  • ctsmithiii

    I could see the CSRs @ Zappos jumping on this with both feet. A testament to their positioning as a “customer service company.”

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  • http://thoughtjournal360.com/ Kevin Andrew Woolsey

    Great article. Making a human connection is vital.

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