The past year has seen an explosion of visual storytelling with the rise of visual social media. Brands that may have used more traditional methods to connect with their audience in the past are now branching out into easily shared images such as photographs, infographics, videos, and other visuals to tell their story, and potentially engage with a whole new customer base. While there is still a place for more traditional storytelling on websites and in marketing literature, brands are discovering the power of snackable visual content.
Recent research by M Booth and Simply Measured found that on Facebook's top 10 brand pages, photos and video drive the most engagement, while videos are shared 12 times more than links and text posts combined, and photos are liked two times more than text updates. Brands that can successfully tell their story with images and visual media can engage in new ways with their existing customers and even reach a whole new audience.
Here are some interesting ways to engage through visual marketing:
Tell your customers' stories. Many of the top brands know that storytelling is as much about your customers as it is about you. Email marketing company MailChimp has a whole section of its website where customers talk about what's important to them. Companies have been using customer endorsements for years, but what sets MailChimp apart is that the customers aren't simply talking about how MailChimp has helped their business - although video testimonials can be an engaging alternative to a more traditional case study - they are talking more generally about interesting aspects of their business. By letting customers tell their own stories, MailChimp built its reputation as a company that genuinely cares about the people it does business with, and comes across as a listening, responsive brand.
Let your customers get to know you. Many businesses say that their team is their biggest asset, but by telling the story of your team visually, you can share this with your audience and connect in a more meaningful way. Letting your team tell their own stories gives your business a more human quality and lends trust and credibility to a brand.
Design company WooThemes use its "Meet the Team" page to showcase its staff. Each one is written by the individual, which gives a real feeling of personality to the company. Magnus Jepson, for example, says: "Hey! The WooTeam calls me 'Flash,' because I like to do things fast and thorough… At WooThemes I cover all the bases, but I'm a heavy-weight when it comes to theme updating and making sure the forum is happy." The casual, informal tone might not be right for every business, but it really works in this case, and there's also a link to each person's Twitter account so you can literally connect with all the members of the team.
Experiment with different platforms. You might have solid communities on your site, on Facebook or Twitter, or even on YouTube, but there are a number of highly visual and popular sites that you might want to consider as well: Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, SlideShare. These networks have grown massively over the past several years and are garnering the attention of both professionals and teenagers.
SlideShare, for example, is a great network for engaging with your current and perspective customers and can drive a lot of organic traffic to both your site and your social communities, let alone be a great lead generation vehicle for your brand. I've written about the ways businesses can get more social with SlideShare in the past and the importance of this network. Being one of the top 150 sites on the web, enjoying 60 million visitors a month, and three billion slide views a month, SlideShare could be a crucial tool for your marketing.
HubSpot is a company that does a great job using visuals to share valuable tips and key marketing messages. Its SlideShare channel, "For the Love of Marketing," is creative, full of useful information, and its presentations are pleasing to the eye. The "Learning Lovable Marketing" deck is an example of the presentation that HubSpot created to celebrate Valentine's Day that includes advice from marketers around the world. Each slide can be instantly shared socially via the Tweet This button on the bottom.
Sharing is key! Just make sure that if you create visual stories you make them shareable: adding sharing buttons to your blog or website can help your regular customers share them with a new audience. A presence on social media sites such as Pinterest can allow you to create a visual story for your brand through images and even videos. Just remember to always link back to your website on your images so that people can find you, no matter how far they are shared!
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Ekaterina Walter is a Partner and CMO at Branderati. She is a social media trailblazer and an author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller "Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg." A recognized business and marketing thought leader, she is a sought-after international speaker and a regular contributor to leading-edge print and online publications. Ekaterina has been consistently recognized by the industry and her peers for her innovative thinking, most recently receiving a Marketer of the Year honor (2013 SoMe Awards). She sits on a Board of Directors of Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and is an active member of the Thunderbird Global Council at Thunderbird School of Global Management. You can follow her on Twitter: @Ekaterina.