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Instagram is at the forefront of the visual media revolution, challenging norms on text heavy social networks. Facebook’s acquisition of the network and its ensuing growth legitimized the visual communications revolution, and challenged brands across America to change the way they market.

My friend Christian Adams wrote an eBook on visual storytelling called InstaBRAND, and it’s pretty damn good. So I asked him to guest blog and share some insights. Here’s Christian’s post.

2013 will be the year you start to see a noticeable change in content marketing strategies. Are you prepared for the shift? When I started writing my eBook, InstaBRAND: The Ultimate Guide To Visual Storytelling Through Instagram I felt there was something missing in the world of content marketing and integrated marketing campaigns in general. An imbalance of sorts.

There seemed to be a tipping point starting in 2012 with a little bit of a backlash from marketers who were tired of public relations and social media types owning and pushing content marketing strategies. Which led to the information overload we have today. Pushing content without consistency or context is not a lead generation strategy. It is a diluted/watered down version of a brand’s core storytelling experience.

I’m probably going to piss off a lot of PR, SEO and social media types, but the truth is most marketers and consumers are tired of hearing the record stuck on repeat. Geoff calls it the end of the Social PR Revolution.

Grassroot efforts with good intentions have been replaced by social networks looking for top dollar from advertisers. Add to that Google’s search algorithm changes has essentially flattened how SEO is created to include a more emphasis on crowdsourced authority building search results. Content isn’t necessarily king, anymore. Context and value added relevancy, which is replacing volume.

People always ask me, “Quality or Quantity?”

My answer: Both. You want quantity for new discovery, but you want quality for retention. What you need above all else is consistency across the channels. When all is said and done it is context.

The biggest challenge for any company then becomes consistency in messaging online and offline. The biggest hurdle for most brands isn’t the execution, but getting rid of the silo effect of using multiple agencies for specific needs.

We all know it as the shiny object syndrome. With the exception of video, good digital agencies should have you covered. True integration of online and offline marketing campaigns without a noticeable disconnect of silos with regards to production (aka – Brand Message Continuity).

Experiential Marketing Is Visual

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Experiential marketing will become more commonplace and that involves a higher emphasis on visuals. The immediacy of mobile marketing and responsive design is lending itself to visuals and featuring photography and video prominently.

Do I want to watch/listen to a brand’s latest update on Instagram, QuicktTime, Youtube or Vimeo or do I want to read a long blog post about a book review on marketing strategies?

Consumers say they have their preferences on one or the other, but studies show that in the hyper fast real-time environment that mobile has created they will pick the photo or the video. You are talking about future generations that are used to bite sized snacks and not mom and dad’s luxury time newspaper read.

They want instant satisfaction so they can get what they came for and move on to the next thing on their to do list so they can enjoy luxury in their own way. We have to give the consumer the option.

Even in the world of high fashion photography there is less convincing needed in visual storytelling than the amount of hours put into placing stories so long as you have built up a network of brand advocates. As we all know in social that takes time and consistency.

The balance between optimized SEO copy for search engines and images that tells the story of your company’s reason for existence. You’ve already seen this evolution in mobile news apps like Flipboard, Flud News, etc. and now you are starting to see it from a responsive design perspective from brands like Sony, Coca-Cola, eBay, and more trying to replicate the success of Pinterest, but with specialized context through visual storytelling.

I wrote InstaBRAND to talk about the coming shift brought on by the evolutions in technology that will force CMOs, brand managers and community managers to think long and hard about how mobile is changing the way we do business. You are going to see the rebirth, so to speak, of traditional media in the digital space which will lend it self to a more seamless integration of offline and online marketing tactics.

Visual storytelling will play and ever increasing role in connecting with brand advocates and consumers.

What do you think?

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  • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

    Hi Christian,

    I’m a PR guy and I’m not pissed. You are entitled to your views.

    As for me, I don’t agree that the PR social revolution is over…in fact, I don’t think there was a revolution to begin with.

    Instead, I believe PR people have a natural skill set that lends itself easily to content and social media. As for advertising, it’s true that social networks are looking for advertisers. But with the exception of Facebook, none of them control what content moves or how it moves, even if they place a signal emphasis on it’s movement.

    For a PR pro, this is the sweet spot — it’s earned media any way to look at it — though I do not discount cohesive paid approaches. I’m a pretty big proponent of them, but because of the relevancy factor, it’s a different world than the traditional advertising focus.

    In any case, the one thing we can agree on, is that no matter who is writing, quality is really important. And I think that unvarnished look is going to become an increasingly important competitive point of differentiation for brands now and for the foreseeable future.

    Nice work though — and congrats on the guest post spot. I don’t see many of those on this blog so you’ve clearly earned your street cred with Geoff.

    • http://www.sigmacreativeonline.com Christian Adams

      Thanks for the comments, Frank. I guess my main point is that you have to grab people’s attention visually before you can retain their it with quality. It is a quick hit. So long as you get that and then also have the wherewithal to back it up with long tailed written storytelling you are good to go.

      When social first started it was owned by bloggers and in someways still very much is, but traditional media has finally caught onto how to do social. Because the stream is so flooded by SEO/PR copywriting and industry “experts” some end-users don’t know where to look first. Integrated is so crucial and there are only a handful fo companies doing it well.

      When I wrote the book it was originally intended to be a blog post about brand consistency or the noticeable lack there of. The case study that started it all was when Geoff invited me to go with him to meet the organizers of the Citi Open tennis tournament during a home visit to DC. Organizers were trying to figure out how to bring attendance back to its heyday when you had big draws like Andre Agassi, Brian Chang, etc. We both started talking about quick fixes and long term strategies that would help tournament organizers stick to a consistent organic approach to generating a socially crowd-sourced buzz. It started with more visuals online and off.

      It is only one part of a content marketing strategy, but is a easy and quick fix from a content strategy over the man hours spent writing and pitching press stories to media outlets. Twitter’s 140 character limit. The power of less is more (except for this). Heh.

      Half the battle for most companies committed to doing social is getting what used to be a six month hurdle that has turned into a nine month hurdle (because of the aforementioned deluge of content that has created the skeptical consumers we used to see in traditional). Twitter’s Vine App is a perfect example of “innovation” hype. In the book I’m critical of online news outlets like Mashable and Forbes because journalism isn’t what it used to be. When media outlets are clamoring for ratings by outdoing each other with sensationalism and ad dollars a picture or pictures over time gets straight to the point from an number of impressions for a brand that is transparent with potential consumers and existing brand advocates.

      I agreed with you that paid media works, but public relations from and earned media standpoint gets tougher everyday when everybody is a blogger pitching they are the expert. Social has become a lot harder than when it first when mainstream in 07-08. I look forward to B2B getting back into video and companies like Chirpify and Stipple changing the rich media delivery this and in the coming years where mobile has become a commodity. I’m waiting for the news when a company like Best Buy files for chapter 11 and goes the way of Circuit City because mobile is changing the way we buy and make purchase decisions.

    • geofflivingston

      For some reason, Christian’s response is not showing… Here it is from my email:

      Thanks for the comments, Frank. I guess my main point is that you have to grab people’s attention visually before you can retain their it with quality. It is a quick hit. So long as you get that and then also have the wherewithal to back it up with long tailed written storytelling you are good to go.

      When social first started it was owned by bloggers and in someways still very much is, but traditional media has finally caught onto how to do social. Because the stream is so flooded by SEO/PR copywriting and industry “experts” some end-users don’t know where to look first. Integrated is so crucial and there are only a handful of companies doing
      it well.

      When I wrote the book it was originally intended to be a blog post about brand consistency or the noticeable lack there of. The case study that started it all was when Geoff invited me to go with him to meet the organizers of the Citi Open tennis tournament during a home visit to DC. Organizers were trying to figure out how to bring attendance back to its heyday when you had big draws like Andre Agassi, Brian Chang, etc. We both started talking about quick fixes and long term strategies that would help tournament organizers stick to a consistent organic approach to generating a socially crowd-sourced buzz. It started with more visuals online and off.

      It is only one part of a content marketing strategy, but is a easy and quick fix from a content strategy over the man hours spent writing and pitching press stories to media outlets. Twitter’s 140 character limit. The power of less is more (except for this). Heh.

      Half the battle for most companies committed to doing social is getting what used to be a six month hurdle that has turned into a nine month hurdle (because of the aforementioned deluge of content that has created the skeptical consumers we used to see in traditional).

      Twitter’s Vine App is a perfect example of “innovation” hype. In the book I’m critical of online news outlets like Mashable and Forbes because journalism isn’t what it used to be. When media outlets are clamoring for ratings by outdoing each other with sensationalism and ad dollars a picture or pictures over time gets straight to the point from an number of impressions for a brand that is transparent with potential consumers and existing brand advocates.

      I agreed with you that paid media works, but public relations from and earned media standpoint gets tougher everyday when everybody is a blogger pitching they are the expert. Social has become a lot harder than when it first when mainstream in 07-08. I look forward to B2B getting back into video and companies like Chirpify and Stipple changing the rich media delivery this and in the coming years where mobile has become a commodity. I’m waiting for the news when a company like Best Buy files for chapter 11 and goes the way of Circuit City because mobile is changing the way we buy and make purchase decisions.

  • http://twitter.com/transmediahwood Transmedia Hollywood

    Great post, Geoff.

    It’s imperative to deliver stories–albeit a story that’s directed at a consumer, advocate, marketer–through the medium of images. Short, to the point, visually appealing: all of these things sell!

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