A picture is worth a thousand words

Visual storytelling has emerged as a powerful strategy to help marketers stand above the noise and grow into a vibrant and engaged community

A picture is worth a thousand words
The human brain pro­cesses visuals 60,000x faster than text. Web posts with visuals drive 180 per cent more engagement and viewers spend 100 per cent more time on web pages with videos. These are stats that no company or CMO can ignore. Ekaterina Walter, the cofounder and CMO of Branderati and Jessica Gioglio, the social media manager for Dunkin’ Donuts, talk about visual storytelling and how to get real time marketing done right. Their new book being launched at the South by Southwest festival (SXSW) in March is filled with valuable tips, tools and cheats sheets and is an excellent resource.

n The book is written through the lens of authors who straddle different sides of the fence. How did the notion come about?

Jessica: Ekaterina and I have been fortunate to work for large companies that adopted innovative social thinking early on. We have always talked passionately about social media strategy and the power visual content has to engage our fan bases and we have applied a lot of the strategies and tactics we discuss in the book in our jobs. Although the industries and roles that we now work in are different, we have found that the concepts of visual content and storytelling are applicable across numerous industries and company sizes: B2B, B2C, agencies, small and large companies and startups.

n Visual storytelling is changing the way companies are engaging with customers. How is this strategy helping in an age of “infobesity”?

Ekaterina: In the age of “infobesity,” visual storytelling has emerged as a powerful strategy to help marketers stand above the noise and grow a vibrant and engaged community. Consumers are faced with more messages and calls to action than ever before. With the attention span shrinking very year (now two-eight seconds), in order for marketers to cut through the clutter, they need to focus on creating and curating the best quality content that offers value to their consumers and brings them into the conversation. Leveraging visual storytelling will allow marketers to not only get noticed, but to truly connect with their audiences.

n “Relevancy has a deadline”. Can you elaborate?

Jessica: We’ve entered a time where agile and real-time marketing is both rewarded and judged. Marketers are now tasked with being more flexible, responsive and creative than ever before on social media. They’re also constantly being reminded to know their place, because jumping on every trend or event as a gimmick or knee-jerk response can actually generate a negative response. As a result, the smartest marketers know that relevancy has a deadline. They plan for what they can, like specific holidays, company milestones and big events, but also build out topical lists that could be the right fit with the right opportunity. In order to do this, understanding your audience and the context, as well as truly knowing your brand values and the story you want to tell will help your company develop an “always on” approach to social strategy and maximise on relevant real-time opportunities.

n A robust content strategy is critical for a strong story. How does it increase social engagement?

Ekaterina: Research shows that social media content that includes visuals performs much better than text-only content from an engagement standpoint. For example, posts that include a photo or album on Facebook receive 120-180 per cent more engagement, while viewers are 85 per cent more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video. Articles with images get 94 per cent more total views. While the use of visuals is a strong start, the combination of visuals with storytelling is what hits the homerun.

n There are some great examples and advice for B2C companies who seem to be using visual storytelling to engage with their community. What is your advice to B2B companies?

Jessica: 91 per cent of B2B companies are now using content marketing tactics to reach their target audiences. From thought-leadership to lead generation, boosting website traffic, and more, there are some incredible B2B visual storytellers out there. Tools like SlideShare presentations can help delve deeper into company offerings or raise the visibility of key executives. Infographics can be a powerful communications vehicle for thought leadership data. Quotes from executives can be overlaid on an images and shared across social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to inspire present and prospective customers. Video can also be leveraged for product demos, or to rally a customer community around key company values.

n You talk about the importance of real-time marketing. Can you expand on this?

Ekaterina: Marketing has always been about getting the right message to the right audience at the right time in order to drive a desired action. The rise and proliferation of social media platforms offer more opportunities than ever to drop into consumer’s lives and newsfeeds at the perfect moment.

The best real-time marketing requires an intelligent approach. First and foremost, real-time marketing requires strong understanding of your company’s values, voice and customers. Instead of getting caught up in the trendy aspect of real-time marketing, we encourage companies to think of it as a strategic way to spark a timely, yet meaningful, relevant dialogue with your customers.

The key to doing this successfully is to leverage social listening and data. While the types of tools will vary by company, tools can help companies shift toward an “always on” approach where they are more attuned to target the right time, platform and people. For some marketers, most notably those who are used to planning weeks and months in advance, this will require a culture and process shift within the organisation in order to be at the top of their game.

(Shaku Selvakumar is a US-based marketing and digital communications expert; and founder of Coeuredge, a digital experience company)

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