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Social Media 101: How To Use Storytelling

Social Media 101: How To Use Storytelling

Ah, the art of storytelling. Luckily for marketers, this act can extend to advertising too. Great ads have the ability to convey the same message as a good story. You know... one that has a beginning, middle, and end. The most interesting part is that storytelling within ads will almost always consist of a different style when it comes to the delivery.

With advertising, the story doesn't have to be just about words either. The use of photos is just as effective. A great story can teach us something about both ourselves and the world - which is something today's customers want. You just have to make sure that the storytelling you do with ads tells a good story. And since there are a lot of innovative ways in which storytelling is incorporated into building a brand, it makes sense.

How To Use Storytelling On Social Media

People love getting behind a brand that has a meaningful mission. But one of the most common problems is that brands marketing strategy isn't rooted in product strength or quality/structure of marketing plans. And in order to efficiently tell a story on social media you need to answer the following questions:

  • Who is “built for you”? Who is my audience and what do they find relevant?
  • How do I get my idea into my audience’s head? Which tools do I need to understand them better?
  • How do I change the way my audience thinks? What the best way to prompt a pivot?
  • How do I change the way my audience behaves (ahem, buys)? Can we prompt the desired behavior after we’ve changed their minds?

When it comes down to it, you need to be able to change the way your audience behaves - no matter what your goal is. Once you change the way they feel and think, you're golden. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. The buying process is incredibly emotional for everyone. When a brand changes the way people think and feel it increases awareness and advocacy for that brand.

The Emotional Framework of Storytelling

This framework can help you tell better stories on social.

  • What change do you want to make?
  • What idea do you want to replace in your audience’s heads?
  • What’s the goal of your campaign and/or strategy?
  • What is the problem you solve? How can you tell that story?

Why Should You Use Storytelling?

Storytelling works well because...

  • The emotional process removes skepticism. Any ration considerations that we could have had are listed during the ad.
  • The old way of advertising doesn't work anymore. It's really difficult to get someone to pay attention to an ad.
  • People don't buy products, they buy the stories the products represent. The same thing goes for brands - it's more about what the brand symbolizes.
  • When stories are well-constructed and narrated, its characters are authentic. The experiences that are transmitted are both real and universal.

Using Storytelling As A Way To Stand Out In A Sea of Brands

Now that you understand the emotional aspect behind storytelling through ads, let's take a look at the best way to tell a story in today's ever-changing (and crowded) digital landscape.

1. Develop a Long Story Arc

With social media, you have a lot of options when it comes to telling stories in different, new ways. Especially in ways that transcend the boundaries of traditional storytelling and advertising. Sure you might be restricted in length, but you also have a variety of tools at your disposal.

So, before you start to develop your social content, it's important to consider your end goals and work backward from there...

  • What is growth plan demographically or globally?
  • Where would you like to be in terms of the target audience?
  • What does your business goal look like a year or five years from now?

Every single blog, post, video, or image needs to be a mini-story in itself.

But what if you want to take your audience and customers on a journey that lasts even longer than that? In this instance, you have to think about each piece of content and realize that each ad contributes to your brand's story. Once you have that in place, you can potentially hook people over the long run.

So yes, you need to think about your "story arc" (the beginning, middle, and end). Not only with regards to each piece but in connection with the longer-term goals and possibilities for your offerings.

2. Show Don't Tell

The concept of storytelling isn't relegated to just talking. When it comes to any kind of advertising, social media or otherwise, it's better if you SHOW a story as opposed to telling it. So what does this mean?

It means that in the realm of social media, you can create a compelling video, infographic, or a stunning photo with a caption that really gets your message across in a matter of seconds. Because when it comes to social media, you really only have a few seconds. Which is why you need to make it as clear and visually inviting as possible.

3. Make A Long Video On Facebook

Sometimes even a collection of photos don't tell the story the way you want it to. If that's the case you can always consider videos. Just make sure that you have the resources and the time. Facebook videos can be up to 120 minutes long. This makes them great for longer stories. Plus, Facebook is tweaking its News Feed algorithm to prioritize longer videos that engage viewers.

You can collect video testimonies from your company's biggest fans and compile them into a video montage to share.

4. Write Like A Writer

If you have experience writing copy you're ahead of the game. But honestly, you don't need to be a writer to create the perfect storyline on social media. However, what you do need is to create something that grabs their attention. Creativity works wonders.

Depending on your audience, this can include some typical narrative elements. The goal is to invite your audience using the same tools that writers do. If you do this correctly, you'll probably get them engaged from the very beginning.

5. Connect with Your Current Followers

Social media platforms give you a lot of options when it comes to built-in tools. These tools can help you better understand the types of posts that get the most engagement, the popularity of your brand story, as well as other information you share on your page.

All you need to do is to refer to your insights and try the same thing over and over again. Maybe you had a post that was longer or shorter than others. Or maybe you added in a bit of humor that resulted in a lot of shares. It's easy to go back into your insights to get a feel of what your audience likes. You can then construct a new story from there.

It's also a good idea to consider using dynamic interfaces like Facebook Live to get your message across. Even animated videos will help explain your mission. People will get bored if they see the same thing in their feeds. This is why it's so important to change things up every chance you get.

6. Create a Facebook Photo Album

Creating a photo album is a great way to share a story with your followers. This is perfect for events, which is when you'll typically have a lot of photos to share. As an added bonus, Facebook re-shares the whole album on the News Feed whenever you add a new photo to it! This gives you the opportunity to share the album with even more people!

Next time you organize an event, invite your colleagues and event attendees to take as many photos as they like and send them to you. You can then create a photo album with the best 10, 20, or 30 photos.

7. It Has To Have Meaning

Let's say you've done your audience research and you know exactly what they want. The best way to reach people is to find what your product means to them. This is something y0u should always consider when it comes to creating a branded story or campaign.

For example, if you offer discounts on baby toys of all ages you might not want to focus on how it's less expensive. And you should also tailor your ads towards parents-to-be. These are the people that will actually take advantage of it. Both short term and long term.

You can develop your brand's storyline once you determine what is deeply meaningful to your audience. It also doesn't hurt to construct a set of storyline snippets as a way to illustrate a need with an underlying emotional base.

8. Use Tools That Let You Get Upclose & Personal

There are a lot of social tools out there that can help you convey authenticity and emotion. Not to mention immediacy! It doesn't take long either. The two main social media tools that you should look into are Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories. Each of these lets you share real-time videos that are no longer available after a certain amount of time.

This type of ephemeral marketing is increasing in popularity. Especially with the millennial and younger demographic. This demographic enjoys seeing snippets of real life, so it works like a charm. In the digital world, people crave authenticity.

Another thing that these tools can do is evoke strong emotion in a short period of time. Plus, the best part is that you don't really need to create anything special. Or even use a lot of text! What you need to focus on is letting someone see a real person talking or doing something in real time. Besides, this is a perfect chance to showcase your product or service in a real-life context.

Creative Ways To Use Storytelling for Each Social Media Platform

9. Create A Narrative with Your Captions

Yes, high-quality images are important - especially when it comes to Instagram. But you should never overlook the chance to use a captivating caption. Using a narrative is one of the best ways to complete the story.

For example, for your next Instagram post, you can share a story about the photo with more than three sentences. Just keep in mind that Instagram captions are limited to 2,200 characters. And after three lines of text, the captions are truncated with an ellipsis.

Consumers have a lot more choices when it comes to purchasing power.

This is definitely a good thing for them, but sometimes it can be a bad thing for marketers. Simply because there's a lot of competition out there. But the good news is that there's still only a small number of companies that are able to properly use social media in a way that tells a story that truly connects. That's why you need to make sure that you try this approach and stand out amongst the others.

10. Write Your Entire Story In a Facebook Post

NPR studied over 3,000 of their Facebook link posts and found that shorter posts (ones under 120 characters) had higher click-through rates than longer posts (those above 280 characters). But you need to keep in mind that's not the whole picture.


NPR calculated by adding link clicks and other clicks together and dividing that sum by post impression.

As it turns out, longers posts have more "other clicks", such as "see more", which is shown on longer Facebook posts. This just might mean that people got everything they wanted from the post WITHOUT having to click on a link.

This is great because if you're telling a story instead of trying to drive traffic to another site, you're ahead of the game. If you want your Facebook fans to read stories about your customers or company, try writing a longer post. Don't send them to another site or summarize the story. Make sure you tell the whole story.

11. Attach Multiple Photos To A Tweet

Twitter's research shows that tweets with photos get 313% more engagement. Most tweets with images have only one image per tweet. Attaching multiple images to a tweet is a perfect way to tell a story on this specific platform. It helps to give more detail about your story. Plus it allows you to tell a longer story.

If you have hosted an event recently, try sharing up to four of the best photos from the event in a tweet to give your followers a better idea of how the event went.

12. Use Your Own Hashtag

Hashtags are a great way to curate stories from within your community. And if you use them correctly, you can create an amazing collection. But you don't always have to make your branded hashtag go viral. These types of hashtags can be meaningful enough when your customers and community understand the purpose behind your hashtag. That's when they'll start to use them with their own content.

You can try creating a hashtag for your community and use it often. You'll also want to encourage your community to use it whenever it's appropriate

13. Seek Out Trending Hashtags

It's also a good idea to search for trending hashtags within your niche. It doesn't always have to be an extremely popular hashtag either. The most important thing is to make sure that it's relevant and coincides with your brand.

14. Create A YouTube Channel or Playlist

Among all the different types of content out there, videos are the type that people consume thoroughly. And when you think about it, it really is one of the best formats for storytelling. Besides they have the ability to capture someone's attention a lot more than articles.

One idea is to interview some of your customers and share their stories and experiences with your company. It doesn't have to be a long vide0 - you can stick to around 2 minutes long.

There are countless ways to tell a story on social media.

We hope that these ideas will inspire you to experiment. Let us know of some ideas that you think you'll try yourself. Or let us know of any we might have missed. Comment below, so we can discuss!