Posted by Molly Coke

Social media has made connecting with your audience both easier and harder than ever. It’s easier because you have so many avenues and opportunities to engage with both your constituents and prospects. At the same time, competition for people’s attention is stiff, and reaching your audience requires compelling content that people will notice.

This is where visual storytelling comes in. Basically, visual storytelling uses graphic design, infographics, illustration and photography to convey information in the most informative and engaging way. You can use visual storytelling both on your social media channels and on your website with these simple guidelines.

  1. Be authentic. Stock photography is fine, but truth be told, it won’t carry the authenticity that your own photos will. Your readers will better connect with the human side of your work if you use candid shots that illustrate how your mission is being carried out. Your images don’t have to be perfect—they just need to stir emotion.
  2. Make it about people. Show the faces of people you’re helping, your volunteers, community members and supporters and whoever else plays a role in the story of your organization. We are biologically programmed to engage with people looking straight at us, so eye contact even in your images will draw people in. And when you’re out shooting with your camera, take lots of pictures—more than you think you’ll need. You’ll have a better chance of getting just the right image, plus have several to choose from for all of your marketing materials.
  3. Make your mission apparent. The instant someone lands on your website or Facebook page, your mission should be crystal clear. Are you an organization that promotes education? Include photos that are obviously of students. Are you an animal adoption center? Post those cute puppy pics. Your images should communicate your cause clearly and immediately to those who may be coming to your site for the first time.
  4. Think outside the photograph. Visual storytelling isn’t limited to photos. You can use infographics, videos, illustrations and other design elements to communicate your story. Be as creative as you want—just remember that your goal is to connect with your audience on an emotional level. Tell stories that are real, relevant and reflective of the unique work that your organization is doing.
  5. Align your pictures with your messaging. While a picture is worth a thousand words, you may want to include captions or other descriptor text along with images to make your story clear and complete. Just be sure that your images and your text align both with each other and your mission. For example, a study found that using pictures of people smoking with an anti-smoking message had the unintended effect of encouraging, not deterring, the use of cigarettes. Ask yourself, if the images on your website stood alone without text, would they clearly communicate the right message?

Make visual storytelling a key part of your marketing strategy, and you’ll find your audiences engaging online with your organization in a whole new way.