The Power Of Visual Storytelling For Social Impact

We are living in an age of content overload, our phones and social networks have connected us to an unstoppable stream of content. The only thing we lack is time and patience, usually scanning through or ignoring most of what we are exposed to. In this new world, brands have to work harder to be relevant and really stand out if they don’t like being ignored.

All brands live to connect with their audience, social media has made that easier than ever and at the same time harder than ever. You don’t have a choice the only true way to touch your audience is through creating amazing and compelling content that makes them take notice.

Social good brands like charity:waterKrochet KidsSevenlyInvisible Children are a few that really get it. Take a look at their Facebook and Instagram feed and you’ll know why. These brands have internalized into their culture the need to constantly delight people through micro storytelling and high quality visuals. In a recent talk at Social Media Week, Paull Young, Director of Digital at charity: water shares how their nonprofit lives on storytelling to inspire people and drive action.

For charity: water’s India campaign last year, we sent a 8 person team for 10 days to get stories. Big commitment. We spent a month editing the page. We had about 250,000 views, had 2000 people sign-up for fundraising campaigns which went on to raise 2 million dollars for charity: water – Paull Young, Director of Digital, charity: water

Visual Storytelling is the latest marketing trend that’s growing bigger by the day and works amazingly well in getting people’s attention. It’s a fact people respond to visuals far more than text. The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Web posts with photo drive up to 180% more engagement than those without. Given the attractiveness and high engagement around visuals, even popular social networking sites Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have begun to adjust their newsfeed to give more exposure to images.


In the recent months we’ve seen even Bill Gates embracing visuals to spread his message across the web. He started the year by creating a viral video to get people to read his 2014 Annual Letter. In just a week of its appearance on Youtube, the video had over 1 million shares and thousands of comments. Again last month we saw Bill Gates come out with some really powerful shareable content on the occasion of World Malaria Day. He released an infographic with an attention grabbing title The Deadliest Animal in the World which instantly went viral across social platforms and got picked by almost all major media sites.

While it appears that Bill Gates, charity: water and others benefit tremendously from the organic spread of their content without having to spend a dime on advertising, but in reality behind the scenes these organization spend great deal of money and time in developing excellent, artful media that’s crafted to appeal to people.

Krochet Kids

I recently had the opportunity to connect with Esther Havens, a humanitarian photographer and storyteller who has worked with some of the top and most inspiring social good brands of our times. TOMs Shoes, charity: water, Warby Parker, Malaria No More, Raven+Lily are few of the brands that have worked with Esther to help them tell their story through her photographs. I asked Esther if she had any advice for social good brands on how they could create compelling visuals. This is what Esther had to say:

I highly recommend social good brands to invest in creating good media whether it be having a creative team or investing in good design or a videographer who delivers an excellent product and see the difference it makes.

Today it’s really essential to delight your audience everyday and this requires you to keep investing in creating high quality evocative visual content. In the future we see graphic designers, photographers, videographers, copywriters, content strategist, storytellers playing a key role in driving the sector forward. Gone are the days of fundraisers, it is the era of visual storytellers who will be the drivers of raising public awareness and funds for social good organizations.

The Rockerfeller Foundation recently published a report, Digital Storytelling For Social Impact with the purpose to help nonprofits adopt digital storytelling. Medium, the new publishing platform started by Twitter Co-founders also announced a non-profit grant program, Storytelling For Good to help nonprofits craft and share beautiful stories. These are two recent examples that highlight the importance of visual storytelling in driving social change and why your organization should take this trend seriously – Follow Dutiee for more insights and thoughts on visual storytelling for social good.