Boss Lady

Why visual storytelling always wins social media marketing


Savvy marketers know there’s a very big difference between social media marketing and selling. Marketing has the primary job of raising awareness of the brand, encouraging likeability with the right audience and earning trust through empathy, all before a purchase is ever made. Marketers build the relationship required to then be able ask for a sale. This is why storytelling works so well on social media – and why visual storytelling always wins. But let’s start with the foundation principles of social media marketing…

It’s all about connection

And this is where many small business marketers get it wrong, especially on social media.

There’s a huge temptation by companies to view social media as ‘free’ sales channel where they can continuously post sales messages and product offerings without striving to create a genuine relationship to their potential customers.

Social media is about connection, community and culture before commerce. It exists because we are interested in the lives of people we know (or would like to know), and it fulfills our biological need for human connection, a sense of belonging and sharing stories.


Marketing sage Seth Godin once said that great marketing can be distilled down to the idea of communicating: ‘People like us do stuff like this’.

When a brand becomes more like a person, with passions, wisdom, insights and emotional resonance that aligns with us, then we’re in their tribe.

To do this, businesses have to be really clear about why they do what they do, and then tell their story with authenticity, courage and conviction – which means going beyond just talking about ‘what’ want they sell, and deeper into ‘why’ they exist in the first place.

Meet them where they are 

It also means that businesses have to really understand the nuances of their desired customers, and tell stories that acknowledge that.

For example, a local stationery boutique knows that her customers are passionate about paper, writing cards and notes, making plans, styling beautiful workspaces, expressing gratitude and love, cultivating creativity, giving gorgeous gifts, sourcing bespoke and unique products and supporting independent, small businesses and makers. In fact, this was the very reason she got into business herself!

Telling stories

Storytelling then becomes essential for great marketing, great social media and great sales. With the rise of Instagram (500 million users worldwide) and Snapchat (100 million users worldwide), visual storytelling has become the golden ticket to social media marketing success.

Our stationery store owner then creates content that not only shows her products, but all the storylines in the business – how she’s styling her own workspace, what she’s grateful for, who she loves, plans she’s making, hard to find items she’s excited about, stories about the makers of the products she chooses to stock and importance of supporting independent businesses.

Emotionally hooked

Combining beautiful images and meaningful stories that show the retailer as a real person with beliefs and convictions, we identify with them personally, and become emotionally hooked. We align ourselves with the storyteller, because their stories matter to us.

And this is why story telling can convert into storyselling overtime. Once we know, like and trust the storyteller, we are much more likely to buy what they have to offer.

Vulnerability paradox

Many of the businesses I work with shudder at the idea of showing more of who they are on social media. They want to hide behind a crusty business exterior and be vanilla, rather than show their humanness.

So for our stationery retailer, who has just taken a photo of a new notepad on her desk, it safe to post ‘New pretty notepads now in stock’, but a story will connect with her tribe: ‘My to do list is out of control and just keeps getting bigger!

I’m going to pour myself a hot cup of peppermint tea, and sit down with our beautiful new floral notepad designed by local artist by Jane Doe, and calm my crazy monkey brain down! I always feel better when I’ve put pen to paper and got everything out of my head. That’s how I feel organised. What does your to-do list look like today?’

As social scientist Brené Brown says ‘vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you, and the last thing I want to show about myself.’ Yet we all know that it’s only when we’re vulnerable enough to show our feelings that we make friends, build trust and forge meaningful relationships.

Story is how we connect. And pictures make it easier, more memorable and more emotional. All the precursors to forming the kinds of social connections that build engaged followings that convert to loyal customers.

Kylie Lewis of Of Kin will be speaking at LifeInstyle on Saturday 10 August with Emma Kate Codrington of Emma Kate Co, and Jayde Leeder of Little Paper Lane, two small business owners who have mastered the art of storytelling on social media to grow their businesses, open the doors to new opportunities and collaborations and grow a tribe of loyal customers. For more information visit:

About Kylie Lewis

Kylie Lewis is a leadership coach and executive digital strategist with over 20 years experience across five startups. Kylie founded her own consultancy and educational organisation Of Kin, in 2013, after leaving her role as head of digital for one of Australia’s largest retail brands.  An intellectually hungry and pragmatic self-starter with a mission to humanise work and build courageous cultures. Life Instyle gives retailers the chance to meet and connect with a curated collection of hundreds of lifestyle and kids brands, providing an inspiration-filled sourcing experience all under one beautiful roof. The next Life Instyle will be taking place at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne from 1 - 4 August. Register here.

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