As children, we often draw to tell a story, rather than write or accompany our writing with images to better illustrate what we mean. Imagery is a tool used by some of the world’s most famous authors; J.K Rowling actually drew a map of Harry Potter’s world before she wrote the story.
In 1996 Bill Gates predicted: “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”
In the last 19 years, content has become increasingly visual and the importance of photos and videos cannot be underestimated in any industry. With the average adult attention span somewhere between 2.8 and 8 seconds; marketers need to get their message across quickly and effectively.
Social media has made this instant connection between brand and customer a possibility, not just through written content but also through the use of eye-catching photos, videos and infographics. Text is frequently being abandoned in favour of eye-catching visuals, enabling marketers to amplify the shares, likes and comments they crave so dearly.
Pinterest has risen to our attention at lightening speed, launching just 3 years ago, it has pulled at our scrapbook-loving heartstrings and captured us in a way that other social media platforms have failed to do so. The introduction of Vine, Instagram and Snapchat has shown that the visual renaissance grows ever more prominent.
Some brands are ahead of the curve when it comes to visual storytelling, using the most innovative pieces of content. The following brands dominate Pinterest and Instagram and have used these channels to continuously enhance their reputations as social, trend-setting companies.
The best of Pinterest
As a global brand, Starbucks are unsurprisingly popular on Pinterest. What is surprising, however, is the techniques they use, namely sharing content produced by their followers rather than constantly posting pictures of their coffee cups, tumblers and mugs. This demonstrates that Pinterest doesn't have to be time consuming or expensive, smaller brands can capture the interest of their followers by understanding their audience and sharing visual content related to their service or products.
What they're doing right:
- Interacting with followers via comments and repinning their audience's images
- Topical and seasonal boards that are aesthetically attractive
- Including recipes and interior design pins and boards, showing they understand what is popular on Pinterest
- Using visual competitions to increase engagement and gain followers. Their #WhiteCupContest encouraged customers to decorate their white cups and upload them to Pinterest and other social networks.
Airbnb has been a visual brand from the outset. They invested in photographers all over the world to take the beautiful images of the homes you see on their website at no cost to the homeowner. It was natural for them to use an image-based network such as Pinterest to promote their brand and they are now one of the most innovative visual storytellers in their industry.
What they're doing right:
- Promoting their product and service through inspiring themed boards
- Creating topical boards such as "London Fashion Week" shown above, making connections between two closely related and popular industries on Pinterest - interior design and fashion
- Encourage their followers to share their homes using #Airbnb
- Share behind the scenes images of the company, giving their followers insight into their brand they wouldn't normally have access to
Plated is a continuity scheme based in New York that delivers healthy meals to busy New Yorkers. Much of Plated's publicity has come from their use of social networks such as Pinterest.
What they're doing right:
- Encouraging their customers to post images of their deliveries using #PlatedPics
- Creating practical boards, including 'kitchen hacks', kitchen tools and allergy specific recipes
- They know the trends of their industry defines their boards. They have diet based boards such as "Paleo Plates" and "Healthy Recipes" and boards based around events and holidays such as "Awards Night" and "Valentine's Day"
The best of Instagram
Britain's favourite TV chef was an immediate hit on Instagram, showing all those promoting themselves as a brand how it's done. He has taken advantage of Instagram's video function, posting videos of his favourite recipes or clips of his personal life.
What he's doing right:
- Posts regularly, ensuring followers come back daily to view his #Recipeoftheday
- Gives followers a glimpse into his personal life, posting images of his family, events he's attended and images along with humorous anecdotes
- Promotes all aspects of his business in equal measure, but not too often - recipe books, TV shows and restaurants
- Supports fellow chefs and other friends, adding to his "nice guy" image and encouraging followers to connect with his personal brand
Herschel began life as a small accessories brand in Vancouver. In just six years the company has grown from a start-up to global brand and social media has played an important part in that process. Herschel has promoted themselves as a lifestyle, capturing the same demographic that remains loyal to established fashion brands like Stussy and New Balance.
What are they doing right?
- Developed hashtags that aren't specific to the brand but represent their audience perfectly such as #WellTravelled, #CityLimitless
- Using third party images for the majority of posts, reducing their need for content creation and ensuring their feed is always updated with visually engaging images
- Giving their followers a coveted spot on their Instagram when they use their hashtags, in turn increasing their exposure amongst the right users
Urban Outfitters is a global fashion brand that sells clothes, music and home-wares alongside independent labels. Like Herschel, Urban Outfitters promotes itself as a lifestyle brand and has a dedicated following across its social platforms. Unlike Herschel, Urban Outfitters, being a larger company has the man-power and budget to have a main Instagram account (UrbanOutfitters) and location-specific Instagram accounts such as UO_Miami, UOEurope, UOToronto and many more.
What they're doing well:
- Expanding their social media presence with every store opening by creating store or location specific accounts to appeal to specific demographics
- Creating specific hashtags for their variety of products; #UOonyou for clothes, #UOaroundyou for home-wares and #UOlive for music
- Using these hashtags to find third-party images that represent the brand, this goes a long way to populating their increasing number of accounts
- Using a casual, friendly tone of voice in their captions that speaks to their target audience
- They have built up a following of fiercely defensive and loyal followers, meaning their negative feedback is limited and any questions from Instagram users tend to be answered helpfully by other followers
Social media is a free digital marketing tool and gives brands of all sizes ample opportunity to be innovative and creative with their marketing approach. For further information on how visual storytelling can benefit your business, contact us! We create tailor-made social strategies and offer training on channels such as Instagram and Pinterest amongst others.