Social media has been and will always be grounded in visuals. Why are consumers spending so much of their time scrolling social on their smartphones whenever they have the free chance? The internet and social media has transformed society into visual carnivores, hungry to consume visual content. The average person has become self-trained marketers, photographers, videographers and graphic designers overnight. We are all inundated by and contribute to the massive amount of content that is shared on social every minute of every day by simply using our smartphones. It still amazes me how quickly this lifestyle change was adopted by the general population. As few as five years ago, I’d tell you were crazy if you told me that my retired father who was a dentist by trade would be taking better photos with his iPhone than what exists in the portfolios of many freelance photographers that have tried to sell their services to our social media agency.
We live busy, busy lives and social media is requiring more and more of our time. Which posts ultimately receive our focused attention? If you’re like me, the posts which attempt to connect with me on an emotional level through compelling visuals will always make me stop and investigate further. Whether it’s a selfie pic from an old friend to a promoted engagement graphic from a brand floating in my social stream, a well-crafted visual will always receive more attention than a wordy caption that can easily resonate as self-absorbed, or worse, a blatant sales pitch. Think back to the last promoted LinkedIn or Facebook post that made you curious enough to stop your scroll down your social stream. What made you stop? What made you investigate further? It’s highly possible that the company behind the post was using the opportunity to SHOW you the essence of their brand, not simply using social to pitch you a line of products or services. The purpose of business storytelling on social media should be to build a connection between your company and the public through visual storytelling over time, avoiding the temptation to use social posts as cheap sales pitches.
Stories Aren’t Told, They’re Shown
Back when I attended film school several decades ago, there was a very simple storytelling technique that both my screenwriting and directing professors were constantly trying to drill into our young filmmaking minds: Don’t tell what you can show. Initially, this concept seemed so obvious. Everyone knows this, right? It might be the case that everyone knows it’s always better to show than tell, but so few are able to effectively execute this concept. In my screenwriting classes, we’d be tasked with a myriad of writing projects. Even though nearly every project assignment was prefaced with making sure we each focused our writing efforts on “showing” in our scripts, our professor’s disappointment was always reflected in red ink crossing out line after line with the word “show” written in its place. In directing class, I remember having to watch several films without the sound on. Afterwards, we discussed the story we had just watched, not a story we were told. This educational technique had a profound effect on my understanding of the importance and power of showing vs. telling.
The Brand Benefits of Showing vs Telling
It never should have surprised me with all the daily pounding of this “show not tell” concept back in film school that I would eventually make it the foundation for all of my agency’s social media services. Whether creating graphics to be featured on company blogs or daily branded photography or videos to be posted on social, our philosophy is to place showing before telling. With all the content flowing down the social streams of consumers, a brand needs to show the essence of their brand through visuals which tell a story. Visual storytelling helps consumer quickly identify with your brand messaging, helping them connect with your brand on a deeper, emotional level, even if it’s only for a few extra seconds.
We not only educate our clients on this visual philosophy, but we also practice what we preach with our very own social media marketing strategy. For all of our branded content that we publish and promote on social media on a daily basis is stacked with storytelling visuals. We want people new to our brand to be able to scan our social stream and understand that ImagiBrand is an agency infused with imagination and marketing energy without us having to TELL you our brand essence.
For instance, here is the graphic for one of our blogs entitled, “Bowling Strikes with Social Media Engagement.”
— ImagiBrand (@ImagiBrand) February 26, 2015
Doesn’t that graphic pique your interest to investigate further? We could have been lazy with our graphic and instead used a generic image of a bowling ball striking some pins.
Would you have been more or less inclined to read the blog if we had instead used this photo? I’m going to guess the latter. The graphic we created is much more engaging, tells more of a story with just a single image and helps communicate our brand essence. We hope that this graphic in some way helped our brand message linger in your mind long after you fell upon it in your social stream.
Here is another example showing us taking an ordinary social post containing a quote, infuse it with some visual storytelling, and then, bam, the essence of ImagiBrand is ready for some engagement and social shares.
— Brian Solis (@briansolis) February 21, 2015
The Power of Connecting with Audience Emotions
Far too many people think business branding is all about a brand name and a logo design. While an important component in the branding puzzle, these elements mean nothing without a strategy to link consumer EMOTION to thoughts about your brand. One of the key objectives for brand marketers is to create that emotional connection between a brand and their consumer. Established clear emotional associations for a brand, is vital to inspire a consumer to want to learn more about a brand. Although some misguided companies on social try to TELL consumers what emotions they should be feeling about their brand, you cannot TELL consumers what to feel. In today’s online world, successful brands SHOW their brand essence through visual brand storytelling .
Surprisingly, there are far more examples of misguided business branding on social than brands smartly leveraging the art of visual storytelling when marketing through social media. There are however a collection of brands doing a wonderful job communicating their brand essence through the consistent use of daily social visuals. Here are a few brands that quickly come to mind:
Starbucks knows how to tap into the emotions of their fans. Whenever I see their photography in my social streams, I feel that strong connection to great moments shared with good coffee and even better conversation. Maybe I’m just a sucker for meetings at Starbucks, but all it takes is a simple photo to remind me of my need for this brand experience.
Soaking up the spring time. pic.twitter.com/inIneaxnky
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) April 25, 2015
When it comes to working on the home, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see Lowe’s as a DIY solution provider by all their creative visual demos and home improvement ideas on Vine and their #lowesfixinsix hashtag.
— Lowe's (@Lowes) April 22, 2015
Social media has always been conducive to fashion brands, mostly because fashion is so easy to share. Therefore, it’s relatively easy for a fashion brand to develop an online presence. However, a large percentage of fashion brands are squandering the great opportunity social presents for their industry and continually post blatant advertisements. Free People is a fashion brand using social to its full potential through its brand photography on social which never feels like advertising. Their Instagram feed reflects a brand that is equally creative and adventurous as it is intelligent and comfortable.
No need for GoPro to tell you what their brand is all about. We’ve all seen their jaw-dropping videos showcasing their core consumer base of outdoor and extreme sports enthusiasts. Their video content is heart-pounding and extremely addictive. GoPro is an extreme example of a brand that has experienced epic growth literally by showing their brand in action. Crazy stuff.
Is Your Brand Showing or Telling?
If your brand has been using social media up to this point to merely tell, tell, tell, then it might be time to revisit your social strategy and consider implementing a more visual approach to tell your brand story. Today’s online consumer expects more from brands they encounter on social media. People are on social to connect with others. They’re not on social to be told what to think, what to feel, and definitely not to be told which brands to follow, like and share with their networks. If your brand is more creative and thoughtful in its approach to using social for business storytelling, consumers might be more willing to take the time to give your brand some of their precious attention.
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