To read this content please select one of the options below:

Visual storytelling and vulnerable health care consumers: normalising practices and social support through Instagram

Lauren Gurrieri (School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Jenna Drenten (Quinlan School of Business, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 22 November 2019

Issue publication date: 22 November 2019




The purpose of this study is to explore how vulnerable healthcare consumers foster social support through visual storytelling in social media in navigating healthcare consumption experiences.


This study employs a dual qualitative approach of visual and textual analysis of 180 Instagram posts from female breast cancer patients and survivors who use the platform to narrate their healthcare consumption experiences.


This study demonstrates how visual storytelling on social media normalises hidden aspects of healthcare consumption experiences through healthcare disclosures (procedural, corporeal, recovery), normalising practices (providing learning resources, cohering the illness experience, problematising mainstream recovery narratives) and enabling digital affordances, which in turn facilitates social support among vulnerable healthcare consumers.

Practical implications

This study highlights the potential for visual storytelling on social media to address shortcomings in the healthcare service system and contribute to societal well-being through co-creative efforts that offer real-time and customised support for vulnerable healthcare consumers.

Social implications

This research highlights that visual storytelling on image-based social media offers transformative possibilities for vulnerable healthcare consumers seeking social support in negotiating the challenges of their healthcare consumption experiences.


This study presents a framework of visual storytelling for vulnerable healthcare consumers on image-based social media. Our paper offers three key contributions: that visual storytelling fosters informational and companionship social support for vulnerable healthcare consumers; recognising this occurs through normalising hidden healthcare consumption experiences; and identifying healthcare disclosures, normalising practices and enabling digital affordances as fundamental to this process.



Gurrieri, L. and Drenten, J. (2019), "Visual storytelling and vulnerable health care consumers: normalising practices and social support through Instagram", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 702-720.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles