Using Visuals and Storytelling to Communicate Online

Being Seen and Heard Online

This post was authored by Marie Swift and originally appeared here on GuideVine.

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Financial advisors that build successful brands online have incorporated their personalities along with their business perspectives. Increasingly though, the next level of success means going beyond text and links, to using images, infographics, multimedia and videos. People learn in various ways and giving them choices based on their mood and personal preferences creates stronger engagement.

Fee-only financial planner Carolyn McClanahan echoed this sentiment when, during a recent Fidelity Inside Track event, she said: “People want to know you’re human. Don’t be afraid to show a bit of your personal life and what’s important to you when sharing.” She suggested some of the most effective ways to achieve this are focusing on are videos and visuals.

Also, consider these compelling statistics from Hubspot:

  • Photos and images are 2 times more likely to be shared than text updates
  • Videos are 12 times more likely to be shared than text and links alone
  • 100 million users are taking a social action on YouTube each week
  • Over 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube each minute

So what does this mean for financial advisors today?

1. Social media is getting more and more visual

Consider the rise of Facebook and Pinterest. Both are highly visual platforms. Photos and memes (quotes and images shown as graphics) are their “currency”. Even Twitter, which focused on text-and-links, has built in ways to add videos, photos and graphics.

This reinforces the trend that people have become lazy readers, especially online. And for businesses, no matter what social platform, dry, boring commentary and overt self-promotion is frowned on. However, visuals and videos can help create interest, engagement and a more personal connection on websites and social networks. The good news is that visuals are easier to capture and share than ever before, thanks to smart phones and digital cameras.

2. A picture is still worth a thousand words

With the rising use of visuals, the ability for an image to tell an engaging story is more and more important. Perhaps you remember this advertisement in major magazines a few years ago:

A handsome, man sits tall on the back of a white stallion. His long-sleeved designer shirt is wrapped around his neck, revealing strong arms and a flat torso. His white slacks are held snug with a brown belt that matches the brown designer boat shoes balanced lightly in the stirrups. The ocean waves roll up onto the white sandy beach in the background. White billowy clouds look like cotton candy in the azure sky. A look of manly pride exudes from his eyes as a drop of sweat glistens on his brow. Perhaps he’s just rescued a damsel in distress. One hand is resting on his hip, elbow cocked, while in the other hand, raised up and toward the camera, is a bottle of Old Spice cologne. The caption of the ad reads: “Smell like a man, man.”

This well-staged image, with very little text, stirs curiosity and sparks the imagination. It says more than words describing it can ever say – and does so in a fraction of the time it takes to read the description. Advisors who can tell stories visually, and not just verbally, draw people in.

3. Building social capital is important

Social capital is accrued through positive interactions, both online and offline. Negative interactions and snarky attitudes deplete this “goodwill bank.” The best business leaders know that they must build goodwill before asking for anything.

Online, this takes the form of people “up-voting” by either sharing the content they like and/or agree with, or by unfollowing companies and individuals that become pests. Financial advisors that can reliably produce “sharable content” will see a corresponding spike in activity on their social media sites. Being boring can mean being ignored. Being negative can have unpredictable consequences.

This is yet another way that social media has changed the traditional marketing mix: now, in addition to the “earned” category (traditional PR and media placements), the “owned” category (digital assets that one builds, maintains and controls), and the “bought’ category (anything paid for, typically ads and directory listings), we now have the “shared” category (the process of people in a social network helping good content and ideas ripple out to their friends and colleagues).

4. Emotions make people want to share

Why do people share content online? In a nutshell, it is because they either have a relationship with the content’s author (or want to), or they are emotionally connected with the content being shared. So it all boils down to relationship and emotion, which is same as it ever was.

In addition, keep in mind that people are drawn to plain English and simple, compelling stories. More and more, people want not just information and education but to also entertainment as they become enlightened. So think of yourself as an “edu-tainer”.

Click here for more on the psychology of sharing and lessons learned from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

5. Video can enrich the communication process

Remember the Hubspot statistics above? Video is 12 times more likely to be shared than text and links alone. Having videos on your website also improves search engine page rankings. Similar to visuals, these days videos are easy to produce and self-publish. Here are the four basic types, though some industry observers have mentioned that the cartoon and white board animations are overdone.

Financial advisors who want to learn more about visual storytelling and why people share will be interested in watching this 20-minute video conversation between yours truly and Craig Faulkner, CEO of FMG Suite: http://www.fmgsuite.com/market-in-motion/marketing-star-marie-swift

 

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