Visual Storytelling: Seeing Is Believing

There is a reason why “Pics or It Didn’t Happen” is a popular social media meme. People don’t just want to read about something, they want to see it too.

Actually, that’s not all…. People want to see and experience authenticity. So, while visual storytelling has been around since the time of primitive man, now it’s a fast growing marketing trend, mainly thanks to the internet and social media. Businesses can use visual storytelling to let their audience experience the business in a multisensory way.

Don’t just tell me, show me!

Visual narratives are a big part of social media. Social media technology makes it easy to for people to share everything in their lives, as and when it happens, with apps and platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Flickr. Images are an indispensable part of social media content.

But what makes visual storytelling successful for a business? And is it possible to get it wrong? Visual storytelling is about more than just selecting a few boring stock images and coupling these, poorly rendered, to ho-hum texts or tweets. Visual storytelling needs direction, passion, and vision. And above all, it needs to feel authentic.

Here are three tips to help you achieve more powerful visual storytelling.

Choose Quality Images

It’s surprising how much this basic element is so overlooked by many businesses, but the quality of images used is essential. Quality here doesn’t just mean images that are in focus; it means images that depict something that is relevant to the audience. Relevancy can be elevated by intriguing or personal images, so steer clear of stock photography. Stock images usually lack the all-important authenticity that you need to be successful in visual storytelling. Bluntly put, stock photography usually looks fake or staged, so audiences don’t identify as much with these types of images. High quality images of actual employees of the business, on the other hand, score much higher in the authenticity stakes.

Use Recognizable Images

Images used in visual storytelling need to be recognizable to a wide audience. An image that illustrates this concept perfectly is the somewhat controversial “Portrait of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge” by artist Paul Emsley. The artistic interpretation divided audiences and critics alike. Many were turned off by the image, simply because they didn’t see a likeness to the real duchess. This disparity between image and reality was enough to create a negative response towards the painting and the artist who painted it. So, you may want to be clever or artistic, but you want to avoid alienating a large part of your audience by misunderstanding how they look at images.

Manage Audience Expectations

Things can go wrong when you see visual storytelling as nothing more than telling a story with pictures. You may know the story behind the pictures, but your audience doesn’t. This leaves them open to many different interpretations, including ones you probably won’t like. You need to make sure you are on the same wavelength with your audience. One way of managing your audience’s expectations or reaction is by adding text to the images. Visual storytelling works better for marketing purposes when you combine text and images. Fewer misunderstandings can happen that way.

In sum, every time you post something to your blog or Facebook page, and you want to use an image, make sure it is personal, relevant, and authentic. Always add a short text, either to direct your audience’s thinking or to explain what is going on in the photograph.

A lack of material shouldn’t be a problem for a business wanting to engage in visual storytelling. Every event, every part of your business, and you yourself are all part of the story that is waiting to be told. When you use words and images to tell your audience something about yourself and your employees, as well as about the business, people will have a better idea of who they are dealing with and what they can expect from the business. Visual storytelling can help mitigate misunderstandings about what it is you do or what kind of work you are involved in.

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