Visual Storytelling: Your New Best Friend

Storytelling has been a part of human’s lives since the beginning of time. It’s how we communicate, how we relate to one another, how we express feelings and emotion. Now, in the age of digital news, visual storytelling promotes engagement through immediate, impactful stimulation. We tend to gravitate towards those posts with pictures and videos, rather than a large bulk of text. Don’t tell me you’ve skimmed over a video of a dog eating peanut butter just so you could read that long-winded article about a dog eating peanut butter. You aren’t fooling anyone.


Individuals and companies have both turned to visual storytelling to promote their brands in a way that’s eye-catching and emotion-evoking. And there’s a million and one ways to do this. The Social Media Examiner listed a few different ways you can use visuals to strengthen your social media marketing. Post personal or customer stories, create a series, or take viewers behind the scenes. There’s going to a visual way to tell your story that will fit your brand, you just need to find out how to do it.

Instagram: An App Dedicated to the Eye

Instagram is a social media platform dedicated to visual storytelling. In Kyle Pearce’s “15 Brilliant Examples of Visual Storytelling on Instagram,” he highlights a number of ways people/brands use the app to tell a short, meaningful story that will interest its followers. On Instagram, both still photo and video are available and can be used to accomplish different goals.

Are you a makeup artist? Post fast-motion videos of your work on someone.

Are you a civil rights activists? Post documentary-style videos of interviewees fighting for a cause.

Are you a nature photographer? Post a series of photo collages demonstrating your skill.

Are you hardware brand? Post “how-to” videos for simple outdoor/indoor housing projects.

Are you a personal care brand? Post a video highlighting natural beauty… Like Dove.

Using Visuals to Tug at Those Heart Strings

Dove has been groundbreaking in its advertising work, specifically with its “Real Beauty” campaign and its dedication to change the conversation about the female body and the unrealistic beauty expectations of modern society. In this particular video, Dove Real Beauty Sketches, an FBI forensic-artist draws people the way they describe themselves, and then how someone else describes them. Not surprisingly, the results are vastly different. We tend to view ourselves more negatively than others do, perceiving ourselves with a list of flaws those around us would never even consider. This campaign struck a cord with millions of people.

Like me. I’m not saying I cried, but I’m also not saying I didn’t go through an entire box of tissues after re-watching the video 10+ times. Below… me, watching at 3 o’clock am, alone, in my bedroom, eating a bag of chips, feeling like a strong, independent, beautiful woman.


Dove’s campaign was a brilliant way to promote their brand and their mission through visual storytelling. Not only was the platform of the campaign through video, but within it, women were able to physically see – through visuals – how they perceive themselves compared to how others do. The results were quite beautiful, in my humble opinion. You see? This video evoked emotion and now I’m mentioning it here in this blog. FREE PROMO.

Snapchat: From Goofy Videos to Real Time News

Another way the Internet world is trying out visual storytelling is through Snapchat, an app designed for 10-second long videos, either in story form or through direct message. In Snapchat for Journalists: A Great Big Guide, the article explains ways in which journalists can use this new, millennial-based platform to tell real stories. Use the text captions, take clear, steady photos and videos, and create a “human connection”  between the presenter and the viewer.

Check out this unique way CNN used its YouTube and Snapchat presence to create a coherent, interactive storytelling experience.

Moral of the story? 

Visual storytelling is pretty cool, try it sometime. No seriously, otherwise you can’t sit with us.


Rebel to Internet Sensation, how bow dah?

If you haven’t heard of the newest catchphrase, “cash me outside, how bow dah?” then there’s a good chance you’ve been living under a rock. Or maybe you’ve just been smart and avoided social media since 2017 started because wow, it’s been a lot. Let me so graciously fill you in. The Dr. Phil Show, a popular talk show where the host, Phil McGraw, brings on people in crises for what can only be called an intervention, recently hosted a 13-year-old spitfire of skinny, redheaded fury with a mouth from the ‘streets.’ She went on the show after her mother deemed her “out of control” and when the audience started laughing during part of her segment, her response was simply…

Cash me outside, how bow dah?

And that’s when, ladies and gentlemen, the Internet lost its mind. 

Dr. Phil has a lot of guests on his show and a lot of their stories are pretty crazy. From little girls hearing voices in their heads to teachers sleeping with students to a teen who claims she’s pregnant with baby Jesus (yes, this happened), the show is no stranger to the weird happenings that we call humanity. So why did 13-year-old Danielle Bregoli’s famous line go viral?


The social media experts behind Unmarketing suggest picking one of the following areas to focus on: the message must be funny, have the WOW factor, or evoke emotion. Ding, ding ding… guess what this viral clip had? ALL 3. Triple blow-up!

Funny? Check.

WOW factor? Um, check.

Evokes emotion? Let’s be real here… check.

“Cash me outside” was a very specific type of virality, called “outbreak virality.” This is the notion that some things spread simply because they’re fun to share. I don’t know about you, but my friends and I have been talking incessantly about Queen Danielle Bregoli, following her on her social media, keeping up-t0-date on her new interviews, watching her get in an airplane fight with a passenger (yep), and anything and everything related to this Internet meme.

Whether you love her or hate her, people talked.

Everyone wants to go viral. Some people intentionally try, and for others, it just happens. Why did this seemingly average (by Dr. Phil standards) video go viral? According to Ilya Pozin at Forbes, viral content must be “short and sweet.” It only took the short phrase, “cash me outside” to ‘cash’ the attention of millions. Viral content is simple, it’s shareable, and it’s fleeting.

Type “cash me outside, how bow dah” into Google. 1,120,000 results.

The Internet is a weird, weird place.

SuperBowl Ads in a Networked World

Another SuperBowl has come and gone, as has the initial excitement over the new, flashy, expensive advertisements that so gracefully plague our television screens during commercials. OK yes, while I usually mute the channel when a commercial comes on during my regular TV binge-viewing, I had a change of heart for the SuperBowl. I was (ashamedly) looking forward to seeing what the corporate monsters have thought up this time during the year’s biggest event. Except this time, the advertisements aren’t just trying to sell a product/service, but rather, hoping you’ll talk about them over social media. And talk, we did.


Social Media is Watching… and Judging

We all know by now that social media is relevant – it’s not going anywhere. It’s here to stay and it’s as loud as ever. And what does this offer companies looking to promote their brand? Like, A LOT. While the exposure can be either really beneficial (I’m talking to you ALS Ice Bucket Challenge) to dreadfully destructive (looking at you, Gerry Hamilton), social media is going to find a way to talk about it. In Scott and Alison Stratten’s book Unmarketing, the two social media experts explain that when there’s an issue with your product/service/(ad), the people of the Internet will come together and now “you have a good old-fashioned revolt on your hands.” Gone are the days of calling a customer service line and complaining (I mean, you could still do this if you were like, a dinosaur) and in are the days of complaining to @United on Twitter about how their airline lost your baggage and there was a loud, crying baby on your flight.

Anyways, how’d this year’s SuperBowl ads perform? 

Well, to put it simply, quite politically. At least, that’s how the Internet responded. In this current political climate, with newly appointed Donald Trump as president, 2017 has been anything but boring. In light of the recent controversial executive order on immigration, many people have taken to social media to express their thoughts and people were quick to notice underlying political themes in this year’s SuperBowl ads. And through this, lies emotion, which according to Alfred Hermida’s book Tell Everyone, is the reason people share and talk about content online. Emotions that “trigger a response” are more likely to be shared, and that’s exactly what happened.

It’s a 10 hair care poked fun at Trump’s locks, Budweiser talked immigration and the American Dream, Google Home boasted diversity, Audi tackled the wage gap, and Airbnb encouraged acceptance. In a climate of uncertainty, these brands decided to take a stand and send a message. How it was received was up to the public.

When Ads Go Awry

This didn’t go over as seamlessly for 84 Lumber, a – you guessed it – lumber company whose advertisement swept the public by storm as they took to social media to discuss the brand’s intentions. For a brief recap, the ad followed a mother and daughter as they traveled from Mexico to the U.S., entering through a door (made of… lumber).

Interpretations? There were many.

Some criticized the ad for promoting illegal immigration..

…While others praised the ad for its message about inclusion and rejection of the president’s stance on immigration.

In the end, the company’s owner ended up confessing the ad was really just a pull on the heartstrings, not meant to be politically-driven whatsoever (in fact, the owner is a Trump supporter). The company’s website crashed, the Internet lost its mind, and a point was proven – social media matters in a networked world. It’s changing the way we consume, the way we interact, the way we communicate.

How to Respond to the Feedback

If you ever find yourself in the middle of a social media crisis, engage. According to a blog post on Start a Fire, one major social media mistake is ignoring comments and conversations relating to your brand. A way all of these controversial ads could better market themselves is to engage with the audience, respond to their concerns, thank them for their support, prove there’s a human behind the brand.

Tweeters Gonna Tweet

Moral of the story? The Internet is going to talk about you. If you’re a believer in “all publicity is good publicity,” more power to you. If you’d rather not have the whole of the Internet ravenously tearing you apart, keep in mind the unforgiving immediacy and unfiltered opinions that is social media when creating your next advertisement.

Side note: I would talk about the absolute explosion social media had over Lady GaGa too, but I think that’s been thoroughly covered. I’d rather not bother you when I’m sure you’ve been bombarded with gifs of her flying through the stadium like a gosh darn sparkling comet. I bow to the Queen of Pop. 

Social Media & The News Revolution

We don’t consume our news the same as we used to. It’s a fact as simple as the sun will rise and pigs can’t fly. Gone are the days of purely print and TV broadcast news, in are the days of Facebook posts, tweets, live video streaming, news apps, and a whole plethora of other options that are effective tools for media consumption. We live in the age of quick, easy, and fast content, wanting our information and wanting it now. Social media has changed the way we engage, communicate, and interact online – offering a space for users to curate the content they want to see by picking and choosing the information that’s relevant and intriguing to that individual. Whether you’re an entertainment news junkie or political follower, there’s a news source out there for you online, ready at the click of a button or a swipe of the finger.

The People as First Responders

Social media has given not only reporters and news organizations a platform for journalism, but the public as well. These online spaces have quickly become hubs of immediate, real-time interactions, collaborations, and in the most simplest of terms, conversations. Users are able to respond or comment to certain posts or can even be bystanders to a news event, tweeting the action as it’s happening. According to the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, it has become increasingly probable that “the first available description will be produced by a connected citizen than by a professional journalist.” These platforms have given the average citizen the opportunity to take part in journalistic endeavors, sometimes offering key insights into an event or occurrence that otherwise would’ve been left unknown.

Be ready and be engaged and you just might be an essential source in one of the biggest news stories of the year. Tweet at protests, live stream suspicious activity, Instagram a photo of the aftermath of a natural disaster.

PS: Be careful. Don’t be stupid. Use your best judgment. Tweet away!

‘Social media strategy’ is a Thing

When the first social media apps and platforms were being developed and shared with the public, being a news source probably wasn’t the main goal. Think back to when you got your first Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. Why did you get one? Probably to interact with friends, family, and other online users. I used Facebook to chat with friends, share photos, and talk about my day. I used Twitter to ramble about celebrities, that guy that almost rear-ended me, why I think dogs are too good for this cruel world. I used Instagram as a way to take creative, fun pictures and share them with friends. Now, I continue to use these platforms in these ways, but in addition, I use them as some of my main sources of news consumption.


Today, there are articles, blogs, books, and essays on social media strategy, teaching you how to build your brand, interact with other users, and effectively and efficiently consume content. According to a blog post made by Matthew Barby, differentiating your content, checking out your competitors, utilizing post scheduling, and getting on board with social advertising are all ways you can improve your online presence. The Guardian, a prominent British news source, explained how they reached 1 million Twitter followers by being social, planning, and investing time into their online brand. Type in ‘social media strategy’ to Google and you’ll be welcomed by hundreds of articles ready to tell you how to amp up your social media and gain followers. Yes, this is the world we live in.

The New Normal

Social media is always changing and so is, well, the news. Now that these two go hand-in-hand, it’s best to go along for the ride and adapt with the times. The way we consume news is always shifting but the fact is, journalism isn’t dead. It’s evolving, not dying. It’s just taking different paths, exploring new horizons. And as of right now, social media seems to be the road of choice.

Opinion: Bring Back Our Girls

Last year, the world united after 276 girls were abducted from their school in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria by Boko Haram, the Islamist Jihadist and terrorist organization. The hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls, swept through Twitter after the kidnapping, evoking an online conversation and movement.

Many prominent individuals shared their concern and support for Nigeria and the missing girls by posing with the twitter hashtag and posting their responses all over social media. Some of those that joined in include: Emma Watson, Michelle Obama, Cara Delevingne and Blake Lively.

Michelle Obama, promoting the campaign “#BringBackOurGirls”


Quite naturally, this attempt to promote awareness caused controversy over media ethics. American conservatives dismissed this attempt as “simply an exercise in self esteem,” that would in no way affect the Islamic terrorist group.

Some have criticized this as a form of “click-tivism” or “slack-tivism,” two words that basically mean, as stated in the article “Did the “bringbackourgirls campaign make a difference in Nigeria?,” “the lure of supporting a campaign perceived to be in vogue – before swiftly moving on to the next.”

I disagree. Not only did people all around the world come together to recognize this atrocity and unite as one to hope for the girl’s safety, but this massive social media movement promoted awareness. If not for this hashtag, (which by the way, brings about attention to all other media outlets such as: print media, broadcast media, online media, etc.) many would be in the dark about this massive social injustice.

Social media has become a new, efficient and effective form of discussion in contemporary society. It has allowed us all to communicate openly and quickly with one another to spread messages that would otherwise be left unheard.

Social media has played an incredibly important role in bringing this issue to the forefront of the agenda involving world leaders. Though this online movement cannot make change on its own – it has the power to attract the attention of those that can implement change and make an impactful difference.

Twitter is full of engaged citizens ranging from politicians, journalists, celebrities, social organizations, as well as the interested public, all together having a conversation that in reality, affects the world. Social injustices are relevant to us all, no matter where or to whom.

With the help of the millions who tweeted the hashtag and spread the word of the missing Nigerian girls, millions more became aware. Did the message reach the kidnappers, Boko Haram? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. Did this campaign reach the heart of humanity? Yes, I think it did.


A Mother and a Murderer: The Unlikely Duo

Mary Johnson outlived her son, something no parent wants to see happen. Mary’s son, Laramiun Byrd, was taken from her in 1993 after an altercation outside of a party ended in a fatal shooting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Oshea Israel was responsible.

Is it possible to forgive the man who murdered your child? Apparently, yes.


In a StoryCorps audio special, Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel speak to one another about forgiveness. Now 34, Oshea has finished his twelve-year prison sentence for second-degree murder… And is now living next-door to his victim’s mother.

Click here to listen to the full audio story.

The two first met when Mary visited Stillwater Prison, where Oshea was serving time. She was curious as to whether or not her son’s murderer was still the same boy she despised in court the day he was convicted. This meeting changed the way Oshea looked at his actions, after seeing the mother of the man whose life he took.

“He became human to me.”

At the end of the visit, Mary broke down in tears and Oshea was there to offer support, in whatever way he could given their current relationship. In what seems to be impossible, they hugged.

“I just hugged the man who murdered my son.”

This moment in time was a revelation for Mary as she recalls, “I instantly knew that all that anger and animosity, all the stuff I had in my heart for 12 years for you… I knew it was over. That I had totally forgiven you.” Oshea responds to this with admiration, noting that he still has not completely forgiven himself. Mary is teaching Oshea how to forgive. 

Oshea goes on to express his gratitude for Mary, his utmost respect he has for her.

“You still believe in me. And the fact that you can do it despite how much pain I’ve caused you… It’s amazing.”

Mary Johnson holds a necklace featuring photos of her son, Laramiun Byrd, and his murderer, Oshea Israel.

The audio story is a beautifully crafted narrative that becomes even more powerful with the medium it’s presented through. The audio really allows the listener to feel the emotions in both Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel’s voices.

With a simple text story, the emotions would not be felt the way they are when heard. With a video, the raw feeling would be lost beneath the images. StoryCorps used audio to present the story in the only way that would allow it to could truly shine.

In a touching tribute to Laramiun Byrd, Mary and Oshea show the world that despite treacherous obstacles, forgiveness is possible. Their genuine relationship is a reminder that we all have the capacity to love with all of our heart, even if some of that love is directed towards someone who has caused you immeasurable pain and suffering. In simpler terms, love will light the way.

What I can take from this storytelling approach is a new, effective way to express emotions through a medium. It’s important to choose an approach that fits the criteria you’re working with. StoryCorps story offered a multitude of subjective quotes that were felt on an incredibly deep level just by listening to them being said by the person who truly felt the words. Just listening to Mary and Oshea’s dialogue was enough for me to understand their relationship, as complicated as it may seem to outsiders. I found this story to be incredibly inspiring, not just because of the content offered but because of the way it was ultimately crafted and presented.

What It Means To _________ #LikeAGirl

Just being born a girl comes as a disadvantage.

We can’t earn the same amount of compensation for the same amount of work a man does. We can’t be seen as successful unless we’ve been mentored/”helped out” by a male counterpart. We can’t feel safe walking down a street at night. We can’t own the rights to our own reproductive health and bodies. We can’t claim ourselves feminists without “cunt,” “bitch,” “whore,” or “man-hater” being thrown into our faces. We can’t be equal.

On top of the blatant inequalities women face on a day-to-day basis, our sex is now labeled as offensive. It is literally an insult to be called a “girl”.

“You run like a girl.”

“You throw like a girl.”

“You cry like a little girl.”

Always, a feminine-care brand, aired a 60-second commercial in June 2014, challenging the social stigma attached to the well-worn phrase “like a girl.” The video generated millions of views and had a tremendous online reaction, encouraging women to post tweets, statuses and blogs dedicated to their version of the trend.

In the video, girls were asked what it meant to “run like a girl,” “throw like a girl,” and “fight like a girl.” The participants used exaggerated motions to imitate the demeaning phrase, like running with their arms flailing, pathetically throwing a ball and “cat fighting.” The same exact exercise was then conducted on young girls and the response was incredibly eye-opening and quite honestly, refreshing. The girls ran their fastest, threw their hardest and fought with fervor.

The company has opened up a much needed discussion about gender equality and the way in which our society deems girls less than boys. Though this statement may not be spoken directly to girls, the repercussions are apparent in every facet of our lives. When boys are told “you ______ like a girl,” they are essentially being told they aren’t masculine enough, they’re inadequate, they’re not enough. What effect does this have on a boy’s mentality about girls? They’re taught at a very young age the power dynamic of genders deeply ingrained in contemporary society, man > woman.

The campaign brought awareness to the apparent shift in girl’s self-worth, stating “a girl’s confidence plummets during puberty.” According to the company website, 72% of girls feel society limits them especially during puberty, a pivotal moment in every women’s life. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this statistic doesn’t surprise me. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the number floated towards 90%. As we grow up, we’re taught that acting “like a girl” is frowned upon, is wrong in some way.

My absolute favorite part of the entire video, at 0:58 seconds, showcases a little girl’s response to the question “What does it mean to you when I say ‘run like a girl’?” Her response: “It means run fast as you can.” Her confident, quick answer gave me hope. For her, for our future, for the generation of girls who know their worth.

“It means run fast as you can.”

The campaign faced backlash from “meninists,” a word that is understandably underlined with a red, squiggly line right now as I write (deeming it misspelled), due to its’ lack of existence, merit and logic. Every “controversial” topic is going to receive critiques. (I use the term controversial lightly because this shouldn’t be controversial. It’s equality.) Others have criticized the ad as “deceptive,” using an overarching social theme to sell feminine products. But how can you disregard something that promotes female empowerment, a necessity due to the underrepresentation and oppression half the world’s population faces? I think it’s quite simple… You can’t.

Always is using their brand to make an effort in de-stigmatizing what it means to be a girl. I find nothing wrong with this promotional advertisement. Any company that uses its’ following to promote the importance of social issues gets an “A” in my book. If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

It’s time we break down the social stigma attached to being a girl.

It’s time we all consider ourselves feminists, the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.

We are lovers. We are fighters. We are worth it.