Human beings love stories. We tell and listen to them every single day. Think about your conversations – on the phone, over a coffee, at the dinner table, in bed at night with your significant other. Think about your leisure: watching television or a movie, going to the theatre, listening to radio chat programs, watching the news and reading books. We are all held captive and entertained by stories of all kinds. They are the way in which we humans communicate and we connect with each other. Stories are an intrinsic part of culture and society. Through stories we define our values, dreams, opinions and desires.
Humans have been telling stories since antiquity. Oral stories have been passed down the generations and after the advent of writing, they were written down. Anthropologists believe that storytelling likely originated as a way to calm fears and to excuse failures, as well as sharing tales of heroic deeds and influencing others. The oldest known surviving tale from antiquity is the epic of Sumerian King Gilgamesh, and from there followed myths, legends, fairy tales and other stories that reflect the wisdom, experiences, knowledge and beliefs of those who originated them.
What is social storytelling?
From a marketing perspective, I will quote writer Josephina Casas: Storytelling is “the art of giving shape and meaning to a piece of information that is dull and boring”.
Storytelling humanises you and your brand; is allows you to be more interesting, more relatable, and to captivate your audience in a much more effective way. It is a powerful tool for both capturing attention and for persuasion. By delivering an idea in such a way that evokes an emotional response, brands and the products or services they deliver are transformed from being unknown entities into living, breathing, partners for the consumer.
Storytelling on social media is affected with words, images, characters, and events.
Why use storytelling in social media?
Storytelling can be used to your advantage as part of your social media marketing campaign. In fact, social media storytelling is an intrinsic part of your social media strategy.
According to market research, online storytelling via social media platforms can directly impact the purchasing behaviour of consumers. Refinery29, an online women’s lifestyle site, tested adverts on Facebook that followed a story sequence. Those following this model demonstrated a conversion lift of almost 60 per cent and an almost 90 per cent rise in click-throughs. In-store and online purchases both increased significantly.
It is a fact that people buy into the stories that products represent, rather than the products themselves, and they buy into the myths that brands symbolise. For example, two identical white T-shirts lie side by side. One is from a high-end designer brand, costing $100. The other is from K-Mart, costing a mere $20. Many shoppers will by choice pay more for the more expensive option simply because it’s branded a particular way (and not perceived as “cheap” or “mainstream”). This is the considerable power of branding and clever marketing.
The major ways in which social storytelling can be used to the advantage of you business include:
- Humanise your brand – including behind the scenes peeks, what you’re excited about.
- Convey your brand’s story – to reinforce your message and what you stand for.
- Compose future posts to broaden your story – to build suspense and retain attention.
- Create a narrative in your updates – for example; use a Facebook status as a mini blog post. Or share a photo or image with a simple narrative caption. Even Twitter’s 140-character limit is enough to capture attention and encourage click-throughs.
How to use storytelling in your social media marketing campaign
- Ask yourself the following:
- Who is my audience?
- How do they interact with my brand?
- How does my brand differ from my competitors’ brand?
- How do I want my brand to be perceived?
- What is my brand’s core story?
- Be relatable. By aligning the story you are telling with the values of your target audience, you achieve branding that is orientated to lifestyle and customer values. This is why it is so important for you as a business and brand owner to clearly identify your niche target audience and then develop a strategy for communicating your brand directly to them.
- Use a narrative arc – or, in other words, be mindful of your story’s structure. Every story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. This can be achieved at once or over a sequence of posts to build suspense. Well constructed stories with authentic characters will combine an idea with an emotion, and this is turn provokes the mind of the audience member to feel and cement the ideas and vibrancy of the story. This ensures the story is retained and valued.
- Be compelling. To create an emotional connection with your audience (which will make them remember you and your brand), you need to create some suspense. This means having your story follow the basic structure of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and, finally, resolution. A compelling story will not only garner positive attention, it will be more sharable.
When we emotionally react to any story, scepticism flies out the window. This is the power of marketing persuasion. Remember, people love drama and intrigue!
Examples of great social storytelling:
- American Express uses visual content on Facebook to represent their brand with strength. For example, with the recent snowstorms in the eastern US states, the brand shared a photo captioned “Snow day essentials” On a snowy background were depicted items needed to build a snowman plus an AMEX platinum card.
- Compare The Market continues to expand on their story of meerkats Aleksandr and Olav, which have collected an enormous audience following.
- Brands with a long history have a lot of success sharing images from their past, showing us (or reminding us) how things used to be. IBM is one company that has shared their back-story in this way on social media with much success. Spotify also has timeline post tracing music history back to 1000AD.
- Heinz in the UK developed a soup campaign on Facebook that encouraged fans of the brand to buy personalised packets of “Get Well Soon” soups. Soup is a go-to when we feel unwell and Heinz tapped into this emotional response, and then upped the ante by donating money from each sale to Starlight, a charity for terminally ill children.
Social media’s rise over the last decade has skyrocketed the rate at which we document and share our lives with an almost, for all intents and purposes, infinite audience, and we do this by creating stories. Traditional advertising practices no longer work as well in today’s media-saturated world and it is via compelling stories that the most effective marketing campaigns succeed.
Great social media storytelling will identify and sharpen your brand’s identity to delineate it from your competition and improve your bottom line. It builds a relationship with the consumer. So choose a relatable and coherent message to deliver to your target audience, be creative in how this message is conveyed and select the social media storytelling platform that works for your brand. Use words, images, sound bites and videos. Be authentic, universal, clear and enjoy telling your story!
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