Visual storytelling: how you can totally leverage this strategy

The average human attention span is currently around eight seconds (or even lower depending on who your source is).  That’s lower than a goldfish. Your average goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds.

Our attention spans are decreasing year on year, thanks to the instant gratification of the internet and the ease at which we can access information at the push of a button or two. Coupled with the sheer volume of data, websites, and businesses you have to compete with online, and it’s getting tougher to make your own business stand out online. You don’t have very long to captivate your audience with your story before they get bored and move on to something else.  This means that if you want to really want to make an impact with your marketing, you’re going to have to start trying harder.

Luckily, this is where visual storytelling comes in.

Visual storytelling is a powerful marketing strategy that creates an engaging, emotional narrative using imagery and visual elements to connect with the audience — whether it’s a new prospect or loyal customer.

By emotionally connecting with the viewer, you’re not just carrying out another marketing tactic; you’re creating a shared experience, and one that will draw them towards your brand. And the beauty of visual storytelling is that it can be communicated in a very short space of time — perfect for targeting consumers in a digital age of short attention spans.

Read on to find out how you can leverage visual storytelling to boost your brand.

Start practising visual storytelling inside your content

If you’re not sure how to do visual storytelling straight away, then start by practising it within your written content. This could be on your site’s blog, social media posts or emails.

Use visual elements to highlight certain key points within a storytelling post or to sum up an important passage. You can use any sort of visuals you like:

  • Personal photos: whether it’s photos of you, your team or your customers, whoever is reading your post will have a stronger emotional response if you include photos of people (rather than inanimate objects)
  • Videos: if it helps to illustrate a point, a short clip
  • Stock images: a free stock photo site is a great place to pick up free images if you’re on a budget or lacking your own — just remember to stay away from the overused or clichéd
  • Infographics: graphic design tools like Canva (which is free) or Ceros make it easy to create infographics without coding knowledge or graphic design know-how

Using visual storytelling within your written posts will help you to draw connections between your writing style and content and the visual elements; both should support and enhance one another.

Visual storytelling on social media

The success of very visual social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Youtube (and, to a lesser extent, the late Snapchat) is a testament to how much the current market prefers visual, digestible content much more than heavy, written text.

If you really want to leverage visual storytelling on social media, then you definitely need to make the most of Instagram. Instagram’s popularity has skyrocketed in the last few years with the platform reaching an incredible 1 billion users.

The visual platform allows you to connect with your audience with compelling images that capture the values and story behind your brand. Just look at Lonely Planet’s Instagram page.

They use beautiful, vibrant photos that really capture the feeling of adventure and discovery that their brand is famous for. Combined with inspiring and informational captions, and they paint a powerful and memorable picture.

Lonely Planet also include user-generated content on their page; these contributions show individuals travellers that their photography is valued and enjoyed, and help to build a loyal community around the brand, reinforcing their visual storytelling techniques.

Using video on Facebook for visual storytelling

Even social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, which initially started off as more written-content-heavy have started to see the tide turn towards visual.

It’s estimated that there are now over 8 billion average daily video views on Facebook, which has rapidly descended in the last few years from posting lengthy statuses on political stances and achievement updates to tagging your significant other or bestie in viral animal/baby videos.

It’s important to note that 85% of Facebook users watch videos with the sound off and 80% get annoyed when videos play loudly— something worth bearing in mind that if you want to use storytelling videos to promote your brand. After all, you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with prospects.

If you want to get video storytelling right on Facebook, it’s wise to follow the lead of the people you’re trying to sell to. If your market is watching videos on mute, make sure that your story can be conveyed with visuals and additional captions. Captions increase video view times by 12%, so if you want your viewers to stick around, you should probably include these.

Utilise real-time marketing with live video

When it comes to visual storytelling, the more timely and up-to-date your marketing is, the more impact it will have with your audience. As we’ve mentioned before, we now live in an impatient, digital-driven society; anything that is deemed ‘too old’ on the internet — especially when it comes to advertising/marketing — can and will be perceived as irrelevant.

This is where real-time marketing comes in.

Real-time marketing is a marketing strategy based on real-time information, such as current events, news, customer or prospect behaviour and actions.

By reacting to current affairs, trends and feedback, brands can show that they are relevant and aware, which makes engaging with consumers and getting their attention much easier.

Live video will help you to merge real-time marketing and visual storytelling in a way that really strikes a chord with your customers. Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, or Snapchat (if you’re marketing to Generation Z) are all great places to share live videos in response to real-time information.

The raw, candid nature of live video — as well as the topical nature of its content — makes your brand seem exciting, relevant and will peak people’s interest.

And you don’t have to stop your real-time marketing at live video, either. Even ads and single images can convey a response to what your customers have been saying, or if your brand has been in the limelight recently.

Take KFC’s chicken shortage last year. Due to a switch in suppliers, KFC ran out of their products in establishments across the UK, much to the horror of avid fried chicken fans. After a few days of silence, they released this ‘FCK, We’re Sorry’ poster:

Image credit: Standard

By commenting on their current crisis with tongue-in-cheek, good-humored copy and acknowledging their error with a genuine apology, they won back customers and received positive feedback across the internet.

Make a great infographic to sum up your content storytelling

Using infographics in your blog posts, social ads or email campaigns will turn long-form content into bite-size data that your audience will find easier to digest and much more interesting.

Infographics boost readability, particularly when you are writing a post that includes lots of stats or data.

Infographics boost readability, particularly when you are writing a post that includes lots of stats or data. Take this Halloween infographic by Sainsbury’s which shows why Halloween is fast becoming an important date for UK brands:

Image credit: Sainsbury’s

However, it’s not the raw data that draws readers to the articles, but the eye-catching infographic that decluttered the information. By telling a visual story about the findings, the infographic makes the data fun and engaging.

Our tip? Get seasonal with your storytelling infographic — holidays like Thanksgiving, Halloween or Christmas are a great opportunity to conduct surveys or use your own product information to produce fun and relevant visual content.

We’re naturally nosy creatures; people like to see what everyone else is doing, especially when it comes to the holidays. A well-designed infographic will appeal to this, and can market your product easily, especially if the story and stats are memorable.

Tie your infographic into a cracking Christmas retail campaign or a Mother’s Day campaign and you’ll have a visual storytelling strategy that’s shareable on social and extremely effective.

You can use free graphic design programs like Canva to produce your infographic, or hire a freelance designer if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself.

Finally, have a bit of fun with your visual storytelling! Although visual elements like infographics should be thought-out and designed well, not every image or video you publish has to be as refined and polished.

Particularly with live video and social media storytelling, you can afford to be a bit rougher around edges and show your authenticity. Visual storytelling on social media allows you to respond to trending topics, show your ‘behind the scenes’, interact with consumers, and let your audience see your fun side — all while remaining relatively informal.

Leveraging visual storytelling will help you to capture attention quickly and emotionally engage with customers and prospects alike; including it in your overall marketing strategy should be a must.