Moments make a movement

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When I began making digital content in the late 1990s the trend was for ridiculously long Flash intros. Animated menus would fade in and bounce around for eons. And once a button was clicked there would be an epically plodding transition to a new page. Examples from the time such as Gabocorp are laughably slow-paced and self-indulgent.

Since then branded visual communication has evolved to become ever more compacted and condensed so as to compete with the ever increasing scarcity of attention.

So how can visual storytelling remain surprising, delightful, informative and memorable when communicated in a nanosecond?

What’s the best approach for communicating a big vision that resonates in an age of micro content and micro attention?

Instagram is flourishing as a social channel as it is primarily visual with negligible mental engagement needed to process messages and has super-simple core behaviors. It is the social channel that best lends itself to ‘compressed’ storytelling.

So what works for brands and organisations on Instagram?

1. Profile statement

Distil your brand purpose into a single proposition statement on your profile page. For example, Krochet Kids use the hashtag #knowwhomadeit as a distillation of their mission statement. The company aim s to empower the women of Northern Uganda and Peru with the assets, skills, and knowledge to lift themselves and their families out of poverty, specifically by teaching crochet skills and selling the products made.

Social good shoe retailer Toms uses #oneforone as a summary of their proposition: “With your purchases and our partners, TOMS helps give shoes, sight, water and birth kits in over 70 countries around the world.”

The profile statement defines, encompasses and summarises your ‘long-story’ – your vision and organisational purpose. Each image can then be laddered against it; each post should be an emotive expression of the sentiments within it.

2. Define your themes

Create tightly defined themes that can be varied and refreshed, whilst remaining coherent and consistent with your proposition.

3. Storytelling in a single image

The following image posted by Charity Water nails it for me as it conveys not only what they do (bring clean and safe water to developing nations) but also why it matters.

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The image captures a poignant moment when they make a difference in the world – it powerfully communicates the problem they solve and what it means for the people whose lives they have transformed.

And in seeing the delight on the faces of the children I am prompted to wonder how life was up until that moment and what it would be like from now on. In being presented with the middle of the story I am moved to ponder on the beginning and the end. It is the viewer who does the work of joining the dots and perhaps there is a greater ownership in doing so then if we were spoon-fed every connecting event.

4. Image captions

Brevity is also important in terms of image captions. Charity Water’s is just enough to give some context and add to the personality of the brand but otherwise it lets the image speak for itself. If there is more to say then set this up with the image. Where possible image captions should be shorter than a tweet, many people will scroll past anyway.

And where you have a strong image no caption is fine too.

Whether founding stories, company culture or the impact being made these moments, when consistent, beautiful and emotive start to shape the perception of an audience. Images that make you smile, uplift or move you are memorable and become sharable ‘social objects’ that effectively enroll people into your story.

So until Flash Intros make a comeback (pretty sure it’ll be next year) choose your moments to make your movement.