Are your prospects and customers not responding to your content marketing efforts?
The issue might not be the substance or information you’re providing, but rather the format in which you’re delivering those messages. It’s probably time to start looking at visual storytelling as a medium for communicating your brand’s message.
Visual storytelling for Internet marketing is about captivating audiences with interesting tales in the same way filmmakers and novelists do. Arm yourself with this comprehensive guide before you start planning your next content marketing campaign. You might just start to see that needle move in the right direction.
Visual storytelling is, for many, crafting a narrative through images, usually still photography or video. Communication in this form doesn’t depend on dialogue so much as the interaction between the viewer and the images. The medium is immediate, generating emotions within the viewer in an instant, where written content could take pages and pages to produce a similar effect. Photo journalism, evolving from print news to online content, is a classic example of visual narrative, a still image evoking myriad emotions while also encapsulating a moment’s crisp circumstances and kinetic energy.
When you watch a movie, you’re experiencing a tale built primarily through a visual medium. When you see a Calvin Klein ad in a magazine, that’s also visual storytelling.
The qualities used by each are the same:
As an Internet marketer, if you don’t leverage this technique as part of your larger online campaigns you are only giving ground to the competition. Lost brand presence isn’t the only reason that this medium is so vital to modern marketing, however.
In the modern world where content consumption is a constant churn, images can arouse stronger psychological responses faster than the written word alone. Many people don’t have time to read a 1,500 word blog post about your latest product or service, but they scan your infographic for valuable info in seconds.
A famous study conducted by Microsoft shows that…
This is sadly shorter than a goldfish’s memory.
Narrative told through images, moving or still, helps fight this trend by bolstering engagement with visual content that has a low barrier to entry. Prospects and customers can engage with your brand in a meaningful way in seconds, leaving them with an emotional connection that can lead to opportunities for conversion.
In fact, “searchers clicking on images of people are 200% more likely to convert into sales,” says the Marketing Tech Blog.
As display network and video advertising continue to grow, visual narrative is an essential tool in your campaign toolkit. Without it, you’re missing out on potentially millions of impressions on your campaign materials.
Could your reporting survive all those missed opportunities when you’re trying to communicate wins to your stakeholders or produce an ROI for your own business?
While any Hollywood film that turned a profit could technically serve as an example of successful visual storytelling, that route doesn’t give you any actionable tips for your marketing.
What can serve as a prime example, however, is an image-based narrative of a film’s complex plot, like 2010’s INCEPTION. Check out Inception Explained, a website dedicated solely to helping viewers understand who was really awake, if it was all a dream, and whether or not that spinning coin ever really stopped spinning.
Notice that the viewer is in direct control of the narrative’s pace. You’ll also see that the text is minimal with moving images as needed to help keep the viewer oriented to the characters and their actions. The layout’s simplicity triggers positive emotions, moving in a straight line down the belies of Christopher Nolan’s tangled story of dream thievery. Because the format makes the plot so easy to understand, you also experience the tale’s tension, giving the paired-down version’s sneaky emotional depth.
Cut to the end of the site’s story and what do you see?
A call to action asking viewers to share the site with friends and family. There’s also a link to buy the movie on Amazon in the bottom right.
After having such an enjoyable experience in so short a time, don’t you really want to watch the movie now?
Implementing effective visual storytelling requires a detailed strategy as part of your larger marketing campaign. As with all advertising efforts, there’s more than one step to convey your brand message to potential customers.
Here’s the breakdown:
Regardless of particular narrative across content channels, every story you build needs to fit under a campaign’s overall theme. Sometimes, that’s as simple as starting a campaign for a given holiday or season. You wouldn’t launch Halloween visuals during Valentine’s Day anymore than you’d talk about the common reasons couples get divorced during wedding season. Deciding on a theme and sticking to it can help you tell what story ideas can work with your campaign and which elements need to hit the cutting room floor.
Every stable structure needs scaffolding during its construction to keep the moving parts organized. When it comes to storytelling, your narrative framework are the answers to important questions concerning your brand’s mission statement, short-term and long-term goals for marketing, and company passions. What does your product or service do or offer that no other company in your niche does? What excites you about the brand’s direction? Answer these questions in detail and you’ll have your starting point.
Your company’s mission statement expresses your core beliefs regarding why you’re in the market in the first place. Does your business want to make life easier for consumers? Do you want to deliver the highest quality products? What about the most cost-effective services? Your visuals within your content marketing and storytelling campaigns should reflect this mission statement down to the last detail. For example, if your company mission statement is to make complicated solutions simple, then you want streamlined visuals that are easy to understand.
Who is the real-life hero of your story? What is the hero’s main goal? What about the villains or challenges your hero encounters? Answering these questions gives you insights into the right point of view for your visual narrative while also setting up the kind of tension that keeps viewers interested enough to stick with the story as it develops.
Who is your target audience for your given campaign? Using persona building, dig deep into your target demographics, finding out what they’re interested in knowing about your brand, what they like and dislike the most, and what the prevailing assumptions are in the market. You can use this information to craft your story, giving your target audience content they’re most likely to engage with because they’ve already told you it’s what they want. If they want to know more about your production facilities, then include floor-level visuals with real employees as your story describes how your products get made.
Think about the emotions you want your story to conjure within viewers. Do you want them to feel inspired by the narrative you’re creating? Would you rather them laugh or cry? Focus on why people should care instead of how you’re going to make them feel a certain way. This tactic helps you land on the desired emotional impact without exerting authorial control that could turn viewers off.
Next, infuse emotion into the story through imagery that advances the tale through action. As viewers engage with the imagery you’ve chosen, they need to get a sense of movement for them to continue to interact. That action can take many forms, including eye movement when processing an infographic, physical action captured in video, or even parallax scrolling on a web page. If they believe the narrative is moving up, they’ll continue to follow along with it and in turn get greater exposure to your brand messaging.
Statistics and interesting company details can lend much-needed credibility to your imagery, increasing the chances that you’ll capture viewer attention. “Keep the facts to as many as 16 punchy words and numbers, which helps with memory retention and later recall,” says Forbes. These elements can also make your story interesting, giving you a unique angle or point of view to situate your visuals that competition can’t begin to touch.
Images, coupled with authoritative information, can form a powerful tandem as long as people think it’s of use to them in their daily lives. For example, an interactive home buying guide for a home lending site tells a compelling story while also delivering relevant info for its target market. Making content that actually helps people increases the chances that they’ll share the content with others and keep it for later use themselves. These actions mean you’re getting repeated exposure and increasing your campaign’s reach.
Gone are the days of creating just one print ad or TV commercial for an entire campaign and sending the client an invoice. That “shotgun method” of marketing is never coming back and you shouldn’t shed a tear over its passing. Your audience lives in too many places online to reach everyone effectively using the same digital medium. What works on Facebook won’t play well on Vine and what gets likes on Instagram might nosedive on paid search. Personalize your visual story for all targeted channels, including social, organic and paid search, and display advertising.
Falling into common visual storytelling traps can harm your campaign’s growth, or worse, make it seem totally uninteresting and boring to your target audience. Breaking the rules is often the best way to innovate new techniques, but in this case, there are several methods, modes of thinking, and tactics you should avoid:
The bottom line when avoiding pitfalls in storytelling is to do everything you can to keep the user engaged with the content. Avoid static images that never change angle or distance from the subject. Keep viewer brains honed in on your story by showing them something new with every mouse click or browser scroll. Don’t be boring or take shortcuts to the finished product and you’ve already taken two important steps in the right direction.
Pulling off a visual storytelling campaign that hits its goals demands that multiple efforts across paid, organic, social, and offline channels work in close cooperation.
Each has its own responsibilities in terms of molding imagery to suit their given mediums to achieve its potential for greatest success, but you’ll need to keep other channels in mind.
Here are the main drivers and concerns for each channel as you look to carry out your strategy:
Functioning as a cohesive unit, these integrated channels give viewers different experiences all geared towards the same goal: delivering a compelling experience that convinces viewers to convert. You don’t need to wait to start one campaign before you begin another, meaning all facets can run in tandem provided you have orchestrated launch procedures for each phase. Don’t post on Facebook just because display ads are running. Make sure your whole team is ready first.
Search engines can have trouble with truly visual storytelling, unless marketers make sure searcher and search engine friendliness is in tandem.
There are also concerns with other rich media, including Flash, that you need to consider before your campaign launches. If you brush past this phase of project planning, your storytelling might hit a significant roadblock with search engines.
Here are some concerns you need to keep in mind:
Finding out if your storytelling campaign was successful is about identifying the right metrics and goals.
If the goal of your efforts were to increase brand presence, then the views, shares, and likes generated across social channels are an ideal place to start. Naturally, business owners will want a more clear path to revenue generation or conversion, but that’s not the end goal of these content marketing efforts. If you’re using paid channels like display networks and Adwords, you’ve already got dashboards that can clearly attributes revenue.
What you want to show is the increase in unique visits to your pages, both social media outlets and website, as well as increases in targeted geographies at the campaign’s conclusion. Also analyze bounce rates, page views, and time spent on site for storytelling pages from the campaign’s start through to its finish.
Online marketing continues to evolve, from vibrant interactive visuals to the devices consumers use to access the web. How your business and its marketing adjusts to these progressions will dictate the growth or stagnation of your efforts.
Getting started with visual storytelling is not nearly as difficult or resource draining as many people have come to believe. Start by grabbing your phone / camera and snapping pictures or videos of the things that compliment the story you’re trying to tell. As you get more comfortable documenting your experiences your eye for quality will increase and thus your story will become more interesting and easy to follow.
Need an extra push to get your visual storytelling efforts underway? Let’s talk!