Visual storytelling is the classic case of show and tell that is used on toddlers in elementary school. Children learn at a faster rate when they actually see and feel the object rather than learning about it in books. Similarly, we as adults perceive a visual image of a story far better through videos and pictures across digital media. And by digital media, I specifically mean social media that widely uses visuals to convey a message.

Take a look at Buzzfeed for example, it uses creative visual storytelling in most of its articles. One such example is this article on Pictures Showing The Restoration Of Detroit. In today's blog post you are going to learn why there is a rising need for the use of visual storytelling with some supporting statistics, what are the types of visual media used for storytelling on social media and what tools are available to help you create your very own visual stories.

Statistics That Drive An Increasing Demand For Visual Storytelling

Take a look at some staggering statistics concerning visuals on social media:

  • 93 percent of the most engaging posts on Facebook are photo posts (source:
  • Blog posts with visuals drive 180 percent more engagement. (source:
  • Almost half of your brain is involved in visual processing. One can interpret a visual in less than 1/10th of a second. (source:

Every year people's attention span decreases. You have three to eight seconds to capture someone's attention. After textual content, a picture or a video is the shortest form of telling a story. So, visual storytelling should undoubtedly be a priority for your social media marketing strategy.

Examples of the Different Types of Visual Media used for Storytelling.

There are different types of visual storytelling in social media and they can be in the form of slideshows, infographics or quoted images, like the one shown at the top of this post. Also, when it comes to pictorial storytelling, multiple pictures can be used, as opposed to using a single image.

Visual storytelling using multiple images

Image credit - Starbuck's Facebook Page.

In the above image, you see a collage that is actually used as a Facebook cover photo by Starbucks that visualizes their many fans in selfies drinking their coffee. It combines the personalization and a rising trend like the selfies. Win! And sometimes you can convey your complete story with just a single image, as shown in the example below:

Visual storytelling using a single image

Image taken from Coca-Cola's Pinterest page.

This image tells the story of how Coca Cola trucks used to look many years ago, reinforcing the idea of experience. This stand-alone single vintage photograph is enough to tell the history of the company without the need of a caption. If, however, you want to include text within an image just make sure the text is short and appealing, unlike shown in the screenshot below:

Example of a poor visual crammed with too much text

Image taken from

If you do have a lot of text make sure images are used at regular intervals between the text. Infographics are the best storytelling example for multiple images embedded within a lot of useful textual information. Take a look at the following sample of visual storytelling via infographs.

Visual storytelling using infographics

Image taken from

Some of the advanced infographs contain animations that make these still photos move. is one such example of modern visual storytelling. Even infographs and animagrafs can be limiting sometimes in the amount of information that can be shared in proportion to the images used. In such cases, slideshows are the next best method of visual storytelling on social media. Take a look at a sample slideshow screenshot that does visual storytelling impeccably well.

Mary Meeker & KPCB - Internet Trends 2013 from Alex Gorski

And, if you really want a huge amount of information shared in the fastest possible way, you can adopt visual storytelling via videos. It certainly takes a lot of time and effort creating a video story of your company or of any other information you think would interest your audience, but the effort is well worth it.

Videos tend to get highly viral on social media and will be linked by many third-party sites. They are still a much untapped visual storytelling medium that can be explored as your social media marketing strategy in 2014.

Take a look at the sample screenshot of a video infographic from

Example of a video using Infographics

Talking about videos, one cannot miss out on the mention of micro videos that have recently captured attention on social media as the fastest yet effective medium of visual storytelling in networks like Vine or Instagram videos. You can call it moving photos or micro videos, whatever it may be, the trend is hot and happening, and you need to take timely advantage of this. Take a look at a sample micro video by Dunkin Donuts where the coffees and lattes represent football players and pink straws are the goal posts. This video was shown as a TV ad for Monday Night Football and was soon tweeted and shared on social media online.

A short animation from Dunkin Doughnuts

Quick Tips For Visual Storytelling

Let's now list out some quick tips for visual storytelling on social media:

  • Caption For Images: Stand-alone images (ones with no text) can tell a story in most cases. However, it is advisable to use a caption, that may spark a conversation or even a debate on social media (and help your SEO).
  • Share Everything Brand-Related: Share every story from your brand. It could be something that must have slipped your mind, for instance, let's say your company involves in charity. Do not be shy to show a little visualization of it on your social media profiles.
  • Use Visual Networks: Facebook and Twitter are giving a growing importance to images, but remember "visual native" networks: Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube or Vine can be perfect vehicles for your content. Be creative!
  • Use of Hashtags: Visual storytelling is usually a non-promotional format of social media marketing strategy, however, if you do want to build a campaign around it, you can use hashtags.For instance, you own a coffee place and you use a #myfavoritelatte hashtag on one of your products. Encourage your social media fans to post their own pictures of their favorite latte with the hashtag on your profile page. This will not only create engagement but also help you track the reach of your hashtag.
  • Vintage Photos Of Your Brand: Share your brand history with the use of vintage photos of your company.
  • Products In A Live Setting: Use your products within a live setting of related objects or location around it. This tells the story of how your product involves in a real life setting. Take a look at the following screenshot, for example. It shows the product American Express Gold card with matching accessories. The obvious message of the photograph may be the matching fashion merchandise, but the hidden message is that you need that credit card to buy these products.

American Express Ad places product within the lifestyle photo

Image taken from American Express Facebook page.

  • Frequency: Visual storytelling is not frequently done. It is a story about your brand and hence if done frequently, you will probably violate the 70-20-10 rule. The 70-20-10 rule implies that 70 percent content is user-oriented, 20 percent is third party content and 10 percent is promotional or solely about your brand.However, if the visual storytelling is not completely about your brand, as in the case of infographics that quote trending statistics, it is OK to post them as frequently as you can.

Tools Used For Visual Storytelling

Now that you know how important it is to show and tell with visual storytelling, in your social media brand pages, let's list out some tools that will help you in the process:

Canva - Create designs for blogs, social media posts, slideshows with pre-made templates for free. You can also upload your own images.

PicMonkey - Free online photo editing tool that is perfect for visual storytelling.

TimeToast - Free timeline creator tool where you can add images and text to your timeline story. The basic version is free and the paid version starts from $5.99 per month.

Datawrapper - This is a free tool that allows you create charts and pie diagrams and embed it on your website.

Storify - This is a free tool that helps you tell a story with the help of multiple visual media elements dragged and dropped. You can search and curate from the social web and embed the story anywhere on the web.

Thinglink - Allows you to annotate images and video to make them unique. Free on a 14 day trial.

Taggstar - It is yet another free app that helps you create interactive images and tag them with multimedia such as video, pictures, text and maps and more.

Piktochart, & - These are three infographic creation tools. You can learn more about them in our previous post titled Top 3 Infographic Tools For Small Businesses.

These were some of the free online visual storytelling tools. You can also use some offline tools such as Microsoft PowerPoint. There is no limit to the kind of short stories you can create that revolve around your brand, product or service. Whether it is a visualization of the history of your company, some unique working style or even dressing code at your company, out-of-the-box uses of your product/service, timeline of the growth of your company, there is always a story to tell.

I would like to conclude this article with a link to a Bufferapp case study that shows how they increased their readership by 300 percent through the aid of visual storytelling.

Do you regularly use visual storytelling in your social media marketing strategy? What kind of stories do you like to put out?