Starting with Generation Y, more and more visual mediums have become available to us. The Visual Generation -- the group of visual natives comprising Generations Y and Z -- not only expect our stories to be visual, but to build our own visual narratives through photo sharing, online video,  emojis, and -- yes -- our aptly named Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat Stories.

We've also come to expect a certain level of quality, even from our friends. Everyone's eager -- if not competing -- to share the best photos and videos, and we reward high quality with likes, follows, and shares. So if you hold your friends to this standard, you almost certainly hold brands to it.

Visual storytelling has become the fundamental mode in which many brands talk about themselves. But telling a visual story well isn't easy. We all know how to take a photo on our phones, but producing a compelling, shareable brand video or motion graphic requires a professional eye and skillset. That's why many organizations opt to work with a visual communication agency to produce this kind of content. 

If you're looking to tell your company's story, or highlight some aspect of your brand with the power of visual storytelling, follow these best practices to achieve maximum impact. 

1. Ensure that the medium fits the message.

Visual storytelling can take place within any piece of visual content that incorporates a narrative thread. In the case of branded content, that thread often guides audiences to reach particular conclusions. 

The particular story you want to tell will ultimately dictate the type of visual content that will best fit your message. For instance, if you're sharing a narrative around specific, real people and you've got great live footage to support it, a live-action video (perhaps with some animation overlay) will be the perfect fit. But if you want to tell the story of how your company developed a particular technology or software, the abstract, metaphorical representations and transitions that a motion graphic or infographic have to offer may be right for you. 

Video is particularly engaging for today's viewers, but you may find that static content is more easily shareable on certain channels. And if your story works well broken up into smaller, bite-sized pieces, consider making a series of these that you share over time -- a medium referred to as a "social-media micronarrative." 

The sky is truly the limit when it comes to finding the right medium, and I've just mentioned a few here. One other factor that will help you make this decision -- and many others -- is up next. 

2. Identify your audience and define your goals. 

You can't really know where you want to post your content until you know where your audience is. That means that you can't ultimately decide what the best medium for your project is without knowing whether you're sharing the piece via Twitter, YouTube, direct mail, or another marketing channel. What you design for YouTube will, of course, be dramatically different from what you would be sending to potential customers through the mail. 

Likewise, you need clearly defined goals before you can know whether you're setting yourself up for success. So what do you want to achieve by telling your story? If you want more social media followers across multiple channels, you'll certainly need to create an asset or group of assets that are all optimized for each channel. Video or static options might work in this case, depending on the specifics of your story. If your goal is increasing the time on page for your home page, that's a very different story, and a motion graphic or video might be the best fit there. 

3. Build an emotional connection. 

Why do we love stories? Take a look at your favorite TV shows or movies and it should be easy to see why. We build an emotional connection with the characters. We relate to them, and we want to see them succeed. 

Visual storytelling for brands should build the same kind of connection with your audience. If it doesn't, it's not harnessing the true, fundamental power of storytelling -- and isn't that the whole reason you're opting to do this in the first place?

Incorporate these three considerations into your visual storytelling to see the returns you're hoping for. 

Published on: Sep 3, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.