Pictures With Words


When you write a best selling book on content, people tend to ask you for your thoughts on different tactics and strategies.

A few months ago all the talk was about Pinterest and before that people were getting excited about Google+. Now everyone seems to be fascinated with the knowledge that they can put words on top of their photos instead of making yet another brightly colored infographic.

I know. Photoshop has existed for years. We’ve all been looking at print ads, billboards and movie posters for as long as we can remember. But, still people are amazed that they can add words to their photos right from their phones. Oh, how far technology has come!

I giggled as I watched this trend begin and now I see people doing it all the time. My Instagram feed is full of them and my Facebook newsfeed is litered with more and more of them.

Guess what though?

If your brand is thinking about diving into this because everyone is doing it, remember that it is a tactic and not a strategy. Where does it fit into your other marketing programs and what can you do with this trend that is unique and relavent to your business? Always ask why before you do anything. Make sure it is a fit and that you are not doing it simply because everyone else is. Following the herd rarely gets you noticed.

We as a society love shiny new toys and are scared of doing the grunt work. We see other people doing things, so we have to do them. If there is a shortcut that looks like it’ll make things easier we take it.

Does anyone else find the humor in the classic saying that “a picture tells a thousand stories” and yet here we are with people feeling they need to add words to their images in order to tell a specific story?

I do.


Update: Shortly after hitting post on this, I saw that Chris Brogan was talking about this too. Great read from him.

  • P.W. Fenton

    Actually the classic saying is “One picture is worth a thousand words”. The word “story” ain’t in there at all.

    • Yes, I’ve heard it that way too, but a quick Google search ( will show that both ways are right and honestly the best part about old sayings is that everyone hears and shares them differently. Doesn’t make any of them wrong or in need of correction in my opinion.

      • I’ve got to jump in here and say that when I read your quote, โ€œa picture tells a thousand storiesโ€, I found it very interesting. You referred to it as a classic quote, but I had never heard it.

        That prompted me to do a Google search for the phrase I remember, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

        On Wikipedia that phrase is defined as an adage.

        Looking up adage, I learned that it “is a short but memorable saying which holds some important fact of experience that is considered true by many people, or that has gained some credibility through its long use.”
        On Wikipedia the page โ€œa picture tells a thousand storiesโ€ does not exist.

      • Leave it to you to do the research ๐Ÿ™‚

        Again, sayings evolve and are used differently by different people. I’ve always liked the stories over words angle, but both are awesome in my mind.

  • Great observations and advice. Thanks for the laugh this morning.

  • Hear, hear. The tools don’t make a strategy – but the right tools do make executing the strategy a hell of a lot easier.

    I get the sense that visual curation and storytelling tools like Instagram and Pinterest are taking off because we’re inherently visual creatures, and it’s far quicker to communicate an idea via imagery than to craft a well-worded and engaging blog post.
    This isn’t to say that blogging is on the way out – just that images as a medium are easier to take, edit and share, especially in the mobile context, which (given current trends) is only accelerating these tools’ adoption by the mainstream.

    • EXACTLY what I was trying to say.

      I love all these tools and you know I’m a visual guy.

      Just the latest example of people leading with the tactics without a solid strategy is all.

      • Totes! =) Now, take it one step further, and you’ve got the next wave of tools: Viddy, Directr, SocialCam – all vying to be the Instagram of video…

      • And yet none of them appeal to me.

        Something about micro format video has never attracted me to it, but I know they all have vibrant communities.

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  • Darren Barefoot

    Has anybody claimed that this approach is a strategy and not a tactic? Otherwise, I’m not sure why you’re making this assertion.

    It’s clearly a viable tactic, just like infographics and animated GIFs and all the visual memes that preceded them. This one seems no more or less egregious than any other.

    • It is a great tactic, but yes people need to be reminded of the difference.
      I’m asked all the time about different approaches like this and when I ask how it fits into their strategy I get blank stares.

      Brands and individuals need to be reminded that they can’t start with a tactic which is why I wrote this post.

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