Credit: C.C. Chapman
I get it. I do. Visual storytelling is incredibly powerful. Evocative. Inspirational. Images and photos can transcend words and cut right to the emotional core of an issue. I personally enjoy photography, and you can usually find me shooting photos at events I attend. I'm sharing photos all the time into Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.
... lately we seem to be seeing in the corporate PR / marketing / social media space a really severe case of "bright shiny object" syndrome. All over the place... large enterprises, small startups... and everyone in between.
Oooo... let's post a bunch of photos to Instagram because we'll look hip and cool! Hey, clearly we need to be pinning all the photos we can to Pinterest boards, because "everyone" is doing it! Hey, look, another new mobile app that lets us do _____ with our photos - cool! Wow, look how cool we are because we can post a photo with some pithy quote written on top of it in a funky font! And let's not even jump into the cesspool of poorly done infographics...
All of this without answering a fundamental question:
WHY are you posting those images? Why are you using that service? How do the images help communicate your message to your audiences? How do they help get your message out? How do they facilitate sharing? How does posting the images to ______ increase your interaction with your audiences?
Now, don't get me wrong... experimentation is awesome and necessary. And I'm the last one to talk about chasing bright shiny objects... that's what I love to do (and in fact write about). Experimentation is really required if you are going to stay on top of the insane pace of new products and services appearing on a daily basis. But there is a difference between experimentation and trumpeting the fact that you are now using these services, as if the use of those services will somehow make you cooler and help you communicate better.
They might help you communicate better, and you won't know unless you experiment... but as you experiment you need to think about the why.
Ultimately these services are all tactics that need to line up with a larger strategy.
Why are you using them? Why are you posting the images you choose to post?
Do the images help educate your audiences about your products? your mission? your services?
Do they help humanize your organization and show a more personal side? or show the people behind the name?
Do they entertain or amuse people and help build your community?
Do they inspire people because of how beautiful or artistic they are?
Do they promote your brand name or social account? Will you gain more followers/fans/etc?
How does posting images to service X fit within your larger strategy? Now, maybe you are posting that LOLcat image purely as link-bait to build your followers... that's okay, just call it what it is. And this doesn't mean that every image needs to be serious and "on message" - images can certainly be posted "for fun"... and maybe that's one of the purposes they serve.
The point is that some conscious thought needs to be given to the use of images and the use of the various services... rather than just doing it "because everyone is doing it"!
As I was thinking about this, a trio of posts yesterday on this precise topic caught my eye:
First, in "Pictures With Words", C.C. Chapman provides this awesome photo that I've included here and hits the point:
If your brand is thinking about diving into this because everyone is doing it, remember that it is a tactic and not a strategy. Where does it fit into your other marketing programs and what can you do with this trend that is unique and relavent to your business? Always ask why before you do anything. Make sure it is a fit and that you are not doing it simply because everyone else is. Following the herd rarely gets you noticed.
We as a society love shiny new toys and are scared of doing the grunt work. We see other people doing things, so we have to do them. If there is a shortcut that looks like it’ll make things easier we take it.
Second, in "The Rise of the Junkweb and Why It’s Awesome or At Least Inevitable", Chris Brogan talks about this new love of images as the "junkweb":
It’s the Junkweb. Why “junk?” Because the original intent of the Internet was that links were gold, that searchability was key, that this ability to find anything and use resources from wherever was magic. And this new web? The web of pictures with text over them? They’re junk. They’re a dead end. The picture is the payload. They don’t lead you elsewhere. They are the stopping point, the cul de sac.
But goes on to say that maybe this is okay in our new world and that the new tools we have access to have in fact made it easier for anyone to participate and share. He concludes offering three suggestions for people to engage in the "junkweb":
1. Make interesting graphics worth sharing.
2. Make it easy to share them.
3. Evoke an emotion.
And for Chris the "why" is because this world of sharing images is where the sharing and interaction happen between "regular" people and thus is worth investigating. Good article and, as with many of Chris' posts, the comment stream is well worth a read, too.
Finally, in his AdAge column titled "The Revolution Won't Be Televised; It Will Be Instagrammed" and subtitled "Businesses That Bank on Photographic Storytelling Will Win", Steve Rubel discusses why businesses should pay attention to what is going on with the rise of visual storytelling through photography. Inadvertently aligning with Chris Brogan's "junkweb", he writes:
Visual storytelling today is blissfully cliche. Photos are deliberately over animated, over filtered and even over exposed. They ignore all the rules. Just as the proliferation of texting arguably made the written word less formal and YouTube did the same for video, the ubiquity of smartphones has changed the expectations of what's considered "good" photography.
On this last sentence my professional photography friends can definitely agree! Steve goes on to basically offer suggestions for people involved with advertising to get involved with this space. Earlier in the article, too, he makes some interesting points with regard to why photos will be more important that videos, particularly with regard to mobile devices.
He doesn't touch on the "why", though, beyond the fact that this is the "new normal" and businesses need to be embracing it.
Which goes back to my original points... WHY are you embracing the use of images? Or perhaps more HOW are you going to embrace them? How does it help you?
Are you asking these questions?
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