The power of visual storytelling on Twitter (and beyond!)

It’s no secret that in the never-ending stream of 140-character messages that is Twitter a snappy visual can make yours stand out; Twitter themselves did a study and found that across different content categories adding an image to your tweet boosted engagement in the form of a higher retweet rate.

So simply adding photos to your tweets is a great starting place and one that we’ve discussed before as Twitter has rolled out more image-friendly updates. But if you want to take it further than just adding relevant visuals to tweets, design a way to tell a visual story on Twitter. Put together something where the pieces can stand individually- after all, your tweets will be part of your followers’ stream- but when a prospective follower or curious fan looks at your homepage, they also see a cohesive visual story that communicates your campaign or company values, whatever it is that you’re trying to get across.

What does this look like?

Starbucks is great about using their timeline to tell little mini-stories, and they incorporate their fans and followers in them by retweeting their tweets as well. A great example is a recent celebration of National Croissant Day:

Starbucks visual storytelling Twitter

 

This example also takes it further, by integrating Snapchat. (We’ll talk more about expanding to other platforms in just a bit!)

Keeping things to Twitter, look at the timelines of any major brands you admire and ask yourself what makes their presentation successful or unsuccessful; do their visuals feel cohesive? Do they work together towards telling a single story and letting you know what they can do for you? Figure out how you can answer those questions and provide value to your own fans, followers, and customers.

Take it beyond a campaign.

Twitter shouldn’t just be about selling to your audience; using it like a bullhorn to shout at your fans and followers is unlikely to result in a reciprocal, engaged relationship with them. Use your social presence to tell any number of stories about your brand. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Tell the story of how your company came to be
  • Tell the story of how two companies came together as one in a merger, or the story of a rebranding
  • Show off company culture: Share spontaneous images your employees take of one another and let them tell daily office stories in their own words
  • Show off company values: Share the story of a day spent volunteering, or the different charitable things employees do on their own time and how you support them
  • Tell the story of an event or anniversary of your company
  • Tell the story of a partnership of two brands or a brand and a celebrity spokesperson around a campaign

All of these are ways to show off the human side of your brand, in addition to giving your employees some storytelling power.

Take it even beyond Twitter.

Go beyond just adding a photo to your tweets and use photos to tell a story not just on Twitter but across platforms: Tailor your story so that it’s told on your Facebook timeline, on your Tumblr, across your Instagram page. You can choose different parts of your story to tell in each place, if that feels more appropriate for your brand. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your narrative as long as you stay true to your brand values and the voice you’re trying to build or strengthen. 

See an example of each for inspiration: IKEA built a catalog on Instagram last year, Charity: Water mixes in stories from their different well-building campaigns with user-generated stories on their Facebook page (also seen below), and Sephora’s Tumblr acts as a combination catalog and digital magazine repository of inspirational images, tips, and tricks for their followers.

Charity Water FB

One woman even used Pinterest to tell the story of her Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler, which eventually expanded to a presence on other networks and a book. In that case a powerful visual story became a brand.

Test content types constantly.

Finally, use the engagement levels on the types of visual content you use- images with words superimposed on them, images without words but with captions, etc- to plan content types moving forward. And you’ll want to keep testing; your audience’s tastes will most likely shift over time.