The Tricks and Tools of Great Visual Storytelling

By Ben Carpenter


What’s better than an attention-grabbling headline? An attention-grabbing headline coupled with powerful imagery.

That’s because 65 percent of the population are visual learners — meaning they’ll respond better to image-laden information than plain ol’ text. Studies back this up with numbers showing that blog posts with graphics are 180 percent more engaging and that viewers spend 100 percent more time on pages with embedded videos.

With the average adult attention span hovering at around just eight seconds, companies would be smart to use visual tool at their disposal to keep customers’ eyeballs glued to the page. Here’s the lowdown on what stories make for good visuals and the latest tools of the trade, plus some shining examples from companies who’ve gotten it right.

What to Share

If your brand has been around since the first half of the last century, images of its vintage ads or products are perfect for sharing over Pinterest and Instagram. Infographics and animagrafs — still graphics with one animated element (see Ford example, below) — work well in blog posts.

Videos offer the chance dig into something you may have overlooked in your content marketing. Because videos are often brand-focused and not necessarily service-oriented like other content, they may be commercial-like. These types of videos should be published infrequently, about 10 percent of the time. If your company partners with a charity organization, try a short clip of your colleagues volunteering or a behind-the-scenes look at event setup.

Product demos and products used in a live setting make great video subject material as well. In fact, according to Veedyou, “72% of consumers prefer video to text content while researching a product or service” and the computer giant Adobe found that those who watch demo videos of their products are 1.8x times more likely to buy than those who don’t.


There’s no shortage of nifty software and sites to assist in visual story telling. Here are some of the top picks for:

  • Social media: “Visual native” networks such as Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Vine and Snapchat were made for graphics and videos. Just keep it short and snappy (Instagram and Vine have 6- and 15-second limits on videos, respectively). Always include a caption to help SEO and incite conversation.
  • Photo editing: Picmonkey is a free online tool that allows cropping, resizing and adjusting exposure on images easy.
  • Visual timelines: Create timelines with text, images and videos with TimeToast and Dippity. Both tools offer free basic versions, with paid versions starting at $4.95 per month and up.
  • Infographics: Datawrapper (free) lets users create charts and pie diagrams to embed online. Other small-business-friendly infographic tools include Piktochart (free trial; $29 per month afterward), (free) and (also free).
  • Video syndication: Though mostly used in an enterprise setting (and definitely not cheap) video-publishing solutions allow such as AOL On and AirMedia allow users to curate “video experiences” from massive collections of syndicated clips and, in the case of AOL On, share ad revenue as well.

Examples of Great Visual Storytelling

Ford: The American automaker commissioned graphic designer Jacob O’Neal to create an “animagraf” explaining how its new Ecoboost turbocharger engine works.

H&R Block: Last spring, the tax giant employed a serious of humorous videos and the hashtag #HipsterTax to communicate the “hipster tax crisis.”

Lowes: It’s 3.4 million Pinterest followers love the home-improvement brand’s “Build It!” board, which gives instructions on DIY projects such as reupholstering benches and building custom tables and desks — with very little product placement.

Nike: The athletic-shoe goliath tops the list of most popular brands on Instagram, with more than 7 million followers, and experts say its PHOTOiD campaign on Instagram is the most successful campaign of its kind to date. (PHOTOiD asked fans to design their own Nike shoe online and an image of it via Instagram.)


Want to learn more about how companies are using content marketing to help their customers — and their bottom line? Check out this free data showing how thousands of organizations are providing content to generate business.


Ben Carpenter

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