A Picture Is Worth a 1,000 Words

Photo courtesy of Soles 4 Souls

Editor’s Note: I’m happy to have Ken Mueller guest posting again! Ken is the proprietor of Inkling Media, with 30 years of experience in the media industry. You can read his last post about how businesses can partner with nonprofits here.

We’ve all heard that phrase, and while the sentiment may go back centuries, it actually dates to ad man Fred Barnard, who promoted the use of images on bus signs by writing in 1921:

“One look is worth a thousand words”

And then he revised that sentiment in 1927:

“One picture worth ten thousand words”

What Barnard understood was that in marketing and advertising messages we have the ability to communicate so much more through visuals than we can through any amount of text. We’ve been there. We’ve suffered through reading (and writing) lengthy donor plea letters where the nonprofit felt they had to include every example and every bit of research.

A Visual Society

We are a visual society, and images tell stories. Even a short video can communicate so much more than even a few paragraphs of writing. We can see emotion, we can see context. As nonprofits, we all have stories to tell and for years we’ve been telling them in the form of letters, articles, newsletters, and more. Our pleas for funds usually take the shape of a lengthy letter, laying out the very real need for our services.

Haiti relief efforts from LCBC
Photo by Matt Parks, LCBC

The social media landscape is perfectly tailored for us to use images and video to tell our stories and better engage our constituents, whether they be donors, volunteers, or those for whom we provide services. Consider this:

  • — Facebook’s Timeline is designed with visual appeal in mind, and offers all sorts of opportunities to use images creatively.
  • — YouTube is the site with the third heaviest traffic in the world; a platform that promotes the creating and sharing of videos.
  • — Instagram has quickly become the photo app du jour, giving everyone with a smart phone the chance to take better quality pictures.
  • — Pinterest, the newest sensation on the social block, is built around the sharing of images.
  • — While Google+ hasn’t taken the social world by storm, its Google Hangouts feature has become incredibly hot.

Anecdotally, I can tell you that when my clients upload either images or videos to Facebook, they seen an increase in engagement. This is confirmed by the latest Digital Market Intelligence Report from Yesmail Interactive:

Facebook Image engagement

While another study from Momentus Media indicates that posting images on Facebook can generate a 200% higher interaction rate than links.

To paraphrase Barnard,

A picture is worth a thousand likes/comments/shares/pins/retweets

The reason? Images and visuals draw us in. As you post photos of the work you are doing, you can show us both the need for your work, and the results of that work. If you’re helping provide relief in the wake of a disaster, seeing an on-site video of the devastation in just one area speaks more loudly than merely telling us how many have lost their lives or have been displaced. A simple smile on the face of a child who has just received his first pair of shoes speaks volumes.

Providing visuals of your clients, volunteers, and staff is easier than it’s ever been, with smaller, more powerful mobile devices and free or inexpensive editing software. Nearly everyone has the ability to capture visuals at nearly any time, and post them to your social channels.

Give it a try. Start posting more visual elements more regularly on your social platforms and website. I guarantee you’ll begin to see more action, and if you plan it properly, it will translate into an increase in engagement, likes, followers, and possibly even donations.

Tell your story, but tell it with pictures.

9 thoughts on “A Picture Is Worth a 1,000 Words”

  1. You know I’m not someone who goes around saying ALL companies need to be on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and Pinterest (I LOVE PINTEREST) and Instagram and blah, blah, blah. But, with the Timeline and the ability to tell your story in such a compelling way, it seems like a no-brainer to not use it. I think the stat is something like 84% of us are visual learners. Why are so many organizations behind the curve on this?nnI met a guy last week who runs an organization that employs blind people. As I’m learning more about what they do, it comes up that one employee is a famed gospel singer, another climbed Mt. Hood without a guide, and another does Ironman competitions. I nearly jumped out of my chair to strangle him because they aren’t telling these stories in videos and photos.nTell the stories!

    1. Oh no, those would’ve made awesome stories! You’re totally right about most people being visual learners, but at the same time, I think NPOs are so busy, sometimes too busy, to step back and think about how to tell their story creatively. That’s why, personally, I advocate for small NPOs to pick a creative, enthusiastic person on the team to block out time in their busy week to get out of the box and be creative with their storytelling.

      1. It’s the short term vs. long term thinking. Short term is so focused on fund raising, that they often don’t do it properly. Long term understands that things like telling your story will actually help you raise your funds more easily over the long haul, because you are able to communicate something meaningful, rather than merely go into crisis mode all the time.u00a0

      2. It’s not just small NPOs, either. It’s all small- and mid-sized organizations. We all have only 24 hours in our day and adding one more thing is stressful. So I really like your idea of having one person on the team to block out time to tell the org’s stories every week.

    2. Agreed. Every non-profit has stories to tell. We get tired of hearing big numbers that no longer mean a lot to us. Show us the problem through visuals. Show us the solution through visuals. That has a much greater impact on us.u00a0nnSo many people and businesses seem to hate the Timeline, but I’m like you, Gini. I LOVE TIMELINE!!!!!

  2. Fantastic post – had to share it on my page. The single most common mistake I see Small Business make on Facebook is not using images. u00a0Great post.

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