4.2. VISUAL STORYTELLING: New Language for the Information Age

«We now live in a world where information is potentially unlimited. Information is cheap, but meaning is expensive. Where is the meaning? Only human beings can tell you where it is. We’re extracting meaning from our minds and our own lives.»
George Dyson

As futurist George Dyson expresses it in a perfect way, there is a growing disconnect between information and meaning in the age of data overload. Over the past several years, our quest to extract meaning from information has taken us more and more towards the realm of visual storytelling.

Technically, visual storytelling is the art of conveying a message with the visual images of a story. From hand-drawn diagrams to sophisticated data visualization, by way of graphic design, illustration, photography, and information architecture, visual storytelling offers us to convey information with equal parts clarity and creativity, speaking with remarkable aesthetic eloquence about the things that matter in the world today. Because people are uniquely wired to receive stories, it’s important to understand this art which is necessary for every individual from students to entrepreneurs.

It is important because visual storytelling offers us meaningful opportunities to tackle with traditional communication channels which derive from language, attention and instinctive factors. But what is the core of developing and implementing successful visual storytelling? Here are seven tips from the book, The Power of Visual Storytelling, to help jumpstart your strategy:

1) Embrace Visual Imagery
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of visuals! The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text,4 offering a powerful advantage to companies that can curate social media-friendly visuals that drive an immediate response. From images, to videos, infographics and presentations, the magic is truly in the mix with more visual mediums than ever before to bring your story to life.

2) Personalize, Don’t Spray
Gone are the days where it’s okay to spray the same piece of content across multiple platforms. Instead, today’s social media leaders are embracing the special features, capabilities, and audience demographics of each platform to foster different types of engagement and storytelling.

3) Make Yourself Useful
Want to make your visual content more engaging to your audience? Focus on being useful.
Shape your visual storytelling strategy by listening to your audience, from their frequently asked questions, to popular conversation topics, timely events, and issues they care about. Then, strategically leverage visuals to draw more attention and engagement around these popular content topics.

Earlier this year, the BBC News launched an Instagram video news service called Instafax. The program displays 15-second news clips via Instagram video as a way to deliver timely content to its busy community that doesn’t always have time to watch the news. Although positioned as a short-term experiment, the BBC is still producing daily Instafax video content on Instagram, proving the usefulness of this content to its community.

4) Be Human
Visual stories perform better when the content has a human element. From tapping into user generated images, to showing behind the scenes content on how a product is made, consumers like to see the human side of your story or organization.
As seen with Crest, being human can also mean using visuals to shape your story around the issues, causes or interests that are important to your community or audience.

5) Tell A Story
As seen with the visuals thus far, your content’s storytelling element is just as important as the visuals you use. Start with a strong story concept that aligns to your overall social media strategy and goals and the end result will be that much more impactful.
A unique example of using visuals to tell an important company story came when the Calgary Zoo published its 2012 annual report on Instagram. Fifty-five photos and captions served as “pages” in the report, all of which came together to form a powerful story of the good work the zoo did over the course of the year.