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Three Steps To Master Visual Storytelling 70% of college-aged millennials report posting on Snapchat at least once a day versus just 11% reporting that they post on Facebook with the same frequency.

By Abdullahi Muhammed

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If you want to target millennials within your digital marketing campaign, it is no longer enough to just be present on Facebook and Twitter.

The shift towards visual social media networks is there. Snapchat and Instagram now rule the party. Facebook may still be dominant, as 72.6% of millennials do have accounts there. But Instagram (43.1% demographics penetration) and Snapchat (32.9% demographics penetration) are catching up fast.

Besides, 70% of college-aged millennials report posting on Snapchat at least once a day versus just 11% reporting that they post on Facebook with the same frequency.

Additionally, 64% of millennials report watching Snapchat stories on a weekly basis and 46% do the same on Instagram.

If you want to move your brand forward, you will need to engage with them on these platforms. Hence, it's time to master visual storytelling. The following is a guide that will help you to do just that.

1. Create and fine-tune your content

Obviously, in order to create engagement on visual platforms, you have to create visual content. That's not an easy task. Stock photos, pictures of your products, etc. posted onto your blog or social media don't tell a story about your brand or your products.

Instead, you have to begin with figuring out exactly what it is that you want to say. This decision making process needs to be done on two levels: macro level and micro level.

Macro level storytelling: This is where you decide what your overall storytelling strategy is going to be. In other words, how are you going to use storytelling to communicate your values, ideals, and branding to your audience?

It's important to remember that being genuine is absolutely key. Your stories should reflect your brand's persona. Audiences will see right through your efforts if you pander or are disingenuous in your storytelling.

Does this mean that a serious brand can never share a story that is humorous, or that a brand that is known for being a bit irreverent can never share a serious or touching visual story? Of course not. It just means that your overall storytelling should complement your other content marketing efforts.

Micro level storytelling: Once you have defined what your overall visual storytelling efforts will look like, it's time to think about the stories that you plan on telling individually. Each story should have a purpose. What message are you trying to send? If you cannot define that, then you probably don't have a story. If you can define it, it's time to select or produce the visual elements that you will use to create your story. Here are a few tips.

A. Select visuals that provide context The fewer the words, the better. Specifically, avoid "setting the scene'. That's what your visuals are for. For example, if you are trying to tell a story to potential employees that you offer a supportive and laid back work environment, select pictures and videos that make that point clear.

B. Be restrained If a single photograph communicates a story, let it. Very few stories benefit because someone insisted on adding just one more image, but many have been improved when they were pared down.

C. Everything should contribute something visually Yes, even your headlines and text. Text placement, font size and selection, even the words you use should complement the visuals. They should also reflect your branding. Let's say that an art gallery has decided to use Instagram to reach out to potential customers, they could post beautiful images and videos of the artwork that they have to sell, interviews with audience members, etc.

However, if they paired those visuals with a standard font such as Arial, instead of selecting a beautiful hand drawn font, for example, they would be missing an opportunity to make their stories even more compelling.

Choose colors that will help you to send the message that you want to send. There's a reason why the color blue is featured so prominently on IBM's website and in their content. The color blue evokes feelings of trust, professionalism, and security.

2. Make it coherent and turn it into a continuous story

Once you have your storytelling framework in place, and you've selected the visual elements (images, videos, infographics) you want to use in your story. The next step is to put them all together in a way that tells a cohesive story. Sometimes, the visuals themselves will inform this process.

Here are three great examples of coherent storytelling with visual elements:

What's common to these? They tell great stories, use compelling visuals and are presented in logical sequences. Study them and you can replicate their successes.

3. Use these hacks to boost engagement and conversions

Once you've defined the type of stories you need to tell, and you've begun to create these stories, your next step is to find ways to increase engagement, and to turn that engagement into conversions.

Invite engagement It's a simple thing that so many brands ignore. Invite people to comment and share. Add CTAs to your post captions e.g. tap if you agree or tag the person you want to be with here and so on.

Be responsive Reply to comments. Follow people who follow you. Share interesting visual content that others have produced. Reach out to complementary brands.

Use the CTA that fits If you are using Instagram to tell a story that introduces your brand to people who have never connected with you in the past, you don't want to combine that with a call to action to purchase your product. Instead, your CTA should be an invitation to visit your website, or to become a follower on social media.

Be consistent Just like other content marketing efforts, successful use of visual storytelling requires a combination of quality content, and consistently creating new content for your audience.

Is visual storytelling for you? Consider this: How do you remember things? Try to think of your most recent vacation. Is there a wall of text scrolling through your head? Of course not! Your brain is most likely bringing up images of the things that you saw and that you did. That's the impact that visual storytelling can have on your audience.

Related: Six Tips For Companies Who Want To Create Viral Content

Abdullahi Muhammed

Founder and CEO, Oxygenmat

Abdullahi Muhammed is a writer, entrepreneur and the proud founder and CEO of Oxygenmat, a content marketing company. He regularly writes for Forbes, The Huffington Post, and a few other sites.



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