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The Rise of Visual Storytelling In Marketing

This guest post is by Magdalena Georgieva of Hubspot.

The September 2011 introduction of Facebook’s Timeline proved prophetic. “It’s a lot more visual,” wrote Sam Lessin, a product manager at Facebook, about the new look of the social network.

Visual, as it turns out, is also the direction in which the world of online marketing has headed.

The rise of visual storytelling as a means of spreading a marketing message couldn’t possibly have evaded you. A number of image-based platforms out there, including Pinterest, Instagram, and SlideShare, have already made a strong statement about how visual content can impact business results.

Images, presentations, and infographics are getting shared with ease, attracting thousands of views and sending tons of traffic to their original sources. Then, marketers assume the responsibility of qualifying the new visits and converting them into leads.

What’s so irresistible about images?

Images on the web can take control of your time in an instant and lead you down a path that you didn’t intend on taking.

You must have experienced the irresistible urge of flipping through photos during your lunch break and letting them distract you for a minute or two. One moment, you find yourself laughing over the images and the next moment, you are sharing them with friends.

Not surprisingly, six out of the ten most popular pieces of content that HubSpot has shared on our Facebook page in the last 30 days are images. Their cumulative reach was in the range of 7,000-12,000 views.

Let’s take a look at the platforms that brought about this rise of visual storytelling in marketing.

Pinterest

Since December 2012, news of Pinterest, the popular image-based sharing platform, has dominated the technology and marketing blogs. The website has now exceeded 11 million unique visitors and is quickly becoming a big referral source for many organizations.

In our new ebook, How to Use Pinterest for Business we reveal that the network has been sending more traffic to HubSpot’s blog than Google+ has. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how much of that traffic is actually qualified and converts into new leads.

Editor’s note: Later today, ProBlogger will show beginners how to get a head-started Pinterest. So if you’re not already hooked, look out for that post!

Instagram

The photo sharing application Instagram has accumulated 15 million users and is quickly outgrowing Foursquare. The iPhone app is a great way to successfully tap into the mobile and social marketing trend and enable users to experience your brand in a different way.

“Think about the artsy ways you could showcase your work, your staff or your customers with this tool,” writes John Jantsch.

Starbucks, Red Bull, General Electric, and Marc Jacobs are among some of the brands that are using Instagram for great marketing.

Slideshare

Slideshare is a platform that enables businesses and individuals to upload their presentations online and share them for free. It’s a great tool for B2B companies, for which presentations have remained a powerful form of social media.

In 2011, HubSpot’s presentations hosted on SlideShare accumulated more than three million views and thousands of downloads and social media shares.

Just like with Pinterest and Instagram, SlideShare can yield positive results for your organization if the presentations you are sharing convey clear value in a well-designed form. “Take an extra hour or hire a designer to make sure that important presentations are visually powerful,” advises HubSpot’s Kipp Bodnar.

Naturally, there are many other image-based platforms out there that can be used in combination with your other marketing activities. For instance, you can upload pictures to Flickr and share them on Facebook or Twitter. ISSUU is another website that hosts visual content, such as magazines, ebooks, and other documents.

What should you do about the rise of visual content in marketing?

    1. Get on board: Join a visual storytelling platform and start posting some of your existing image-heavy content. Make sure the pictures you upload convey value and are consistent with your brand identity. Don’t forget to optimize the description of your posts and include links back to your website.
    2. Include calls to action: Make sure that your visual content includes calls to action that take viewers to a landing page on your website related to the specific visual content. This will be your way of qualifying prospects and getting them to convert into leads. For instance, you can include calls-to-action at the bottom of infographics, in the descriptions of images, or on the last slide of presentations as a natural next step for readers who want to further engage with your brand.
    3. Measure impact: At the end of the day, what’s going to matter most is the levels of traffic, leads, and customers you generate via a specific platform. Use marketing software that tracks how your traffic is changing, and has the capability to compare different sources and provide you with reliable reporting. With access to such insights, you can revisit your strategy and prioritize the efforts that deliver the best results.

Have you started using visual content to market your business? What is your number one tip for newbies?

This is a guest post by Magdalena Georgieva, an inbound marketing manager at HubSpot. HubSpot is a marketing software company based in Cambridge, MA that makes inbound marketing and lead management software.

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Comments

  1. Simon says:

    “What’s so irresistible about images?”<—–they say a thousand words.

    "or on the last slide of presentations as a natural next step for readers who want to further engage with your brand."<—really shows you know marketing; seamlessness. nice.

  2. Janmejaya says:

    The Pinterest network is giving much more traffic for website. This an experience by website.
    Thanks for nice tips.

  3. Taline says:

    So true about the how visuals really make a huge difference! I have noticed that with the articles I utilize pitcures in, I get a lot more comments and reads than with ones without them. I guess we really like visual images/pictures :)

  4. Combson says:

    We have been getting huge number of visitors on our fashion blog the last month…New trendy collections are being shared over and over or should I say pinned. Great idea for a social network!

  5. Tams says:

    It all makes sense. It all goes back to the familiar phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
    I prefer photos as demonstrations or those simply placed to give my eyes a break. Thanks for the insight.

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  7. Tammy says:

    Everyone is talking about Pinterest and I just started to get familiar with Google+ and its recent changes. It seems Pinterest is the next major social media and I’ll have to get on board. I find visuals more difficult to work with than content but once again, need to roll with these changes. I also noticed articles and blogs posted with visuals get a lot more attention and views.

  8. Pictures can tell story with a single glance!
    Infographics are creating so much buzz in the blogosphere for the past few weeks.
    Time to get on board with pinterest!

    • Matt says:

      I find that visuals need to used because the more interested you are the more reading you need to do to keep up with the subject. I was just getting used to Facebook and then along came timeline very confusing.

  9. Kyle Kam says:

    For me, visual method is best when using it for informative purposes, such as storytelling. It helps add creativity to what is going to be presented.

    Use the power of Social Media to broaden your chance when it comes to marketing. Take advantage of it (in a good way). For now, using social media is the best strategy if you want to keep up with today’s strategies.

    I suggest also to use/insert creative images in your blog/content to please your audience. If you do the proper way for it, then, expect great results for you.

  10. I never heard of Pinterest until last week. Now, it’s everywhere. Thanks for the details but my questions are, Do you use the pinterest pictures on your website, or still find other pictures to use? I’m not sure how the website and Pinterest overlap, or do they? It seems to me slideshare is an added layer of credibility for your website. Pinterest also seems like a nice way to attach related material, and way to drive traffic. But I’m missing how it connects to the meat of what your website is about.

  11. Scott Dzierzanowski says:

    Definitely a big fan of visual storytelling in the online realm. The next steps will be to take this approach and make it dominant on all forms of the web (blogs, mobile, news, etc…)

    There is definitely some cool stuff going on with the tech surrounding monetizing images. Stipple is doing a great job allowing publishers to incorporate content into images, monetizing the images, and federating them (so the images don’t run away!)

    I can’t wait to see more and more brands adopt visual storytelling into their efforts. Overall I can’t wait to see where images will be at in a few years.

    Curious to see how the use of text changes as well.

  12. Great article. The opportunity for retailers to embed “Pinterest” like functionality directly on site if huge. Valuable cross-consumer product interaction could be generated that retailers own and power themselves. Through our technology and proprietary analytics suite we enable retailers and fellow shoppers to become more aware and sophisticated in their discovery, research, and engagement along the purchase path.

    Thanks and please excuse the shameless plug.

    David

  13. “A picture is worth a thousand words” That familiar quote says just how important images are. If a reader has a choice to read an article with 6 paragraphs or on with the same amount of information but with 3 paragraphs and a couple pictures, it is not hard to figure out which one they will want to read.
    Thank you for such a great article.

  14. Harman Gill says:

    A graphic is much easier to follow than a text paragraph.

    Run this experiment on your FB page and results will br shocking.

    Take a quote you shared on your wall and post that same quote in a blank graphic. A 500x500px image with black background and white text using a nice looking font (eg. Century Gothic).

    This post will get a lot more likes, shares and comments than your previous text post.

  15. Matt says:

    Sure does I find I scroll down the face book page looking for easy to read graphics

  16. I agree, Harman! We have definitely seen the same phenomenon on the HubSpot Facebook page – the updates sharing visuals attract the most views and engagement. It’s really fascinating.

    And it’s actually a surprising low-hanging fruit for businesses to take advantage of this dynamic.

  17. Adrian Scott says:

    Typo : Since December 2012…??!!?!
    Wow social media has leaped forward….!

  18. I use Pinterest and Slideshare and I’m all for more social networks with a heavy emphasis on visuals. I love reading offline but online I prefer content to contain mostly images and a small amount of concise text. I also like that because there is less text, people are pushed towards posting things of actual interest to others rather than solely posting about themselves.

  19. sea says:

    I prefer the level of image to be at “concept” level. conveys a story in itself. Rather than static image level.
    both images

    but at concept, the story is within the image. Dave Gray over in his connected company blog is brilliant at this I feel.

    —-
    what I cannot find is any app out there that allows me to create my own “concept images”
    adobe illustrator does it for professionals
    but I want an omnigraffle (flow chart version) or storyist (movie scriptwriter composer ) or comic composer version

    for visual stories….

    anyone seen anything like this…
    I have heaps of photo album viewer apps, storyboarding with 6 or 20 images..
    but nothing that handles 1000 images or so
    that I can drag, drop to grid…. play… ike on a gameboard.


    any help much appreciated.

    PS: GREAT POST!