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How To Do Effective Storytelling In Your Social Media Marketing

Posted on the 04 February 2019 by Divine T. @backlinkfy

Do you remember the last time you were swayed to buy a product or avail of a service online purely because of that killer description and its many promises?

Me neither…

But I do recall an instance when I partook of a particular brand challenge because of the compelling story it fed me about self-empowerment. And there’s also this one toothpaste brand that has cemented itself in my memory because of a one-minute YouTube ad that told a story about an LGBT couple.

From what I said (or wrote) just now, it’s easy to see what swayed me to react or remember their brand…

It’s the story.

Shelve the thoughts brewing in your head for a bit as I deviate from storytelling and take a detour to tackle an issue that’s been bothering the marketing world just when 2018 was coming to a close.

We’ll get back to storytelling in social media in probably a minute…

The Issue with Social Media Lately

Social media platforms started off with only the best intentions in mind -- to connect the world and provide a different avenue for sharing stories and other things.

But these capabilities that social media provided became fair game for marketers who had honest purposes, and people who had darker ulterior motives. Reports from the Edelman Trust Barometer reported that in the United States alone, trust in social media has dropped 11 points. It's at 30% now.

Because of the rise of fake news, and people falling victim to it, social media platforms have made changes...

Marketers are struggling to be seen again, as these changes happen. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 53% of social media users worry about their unconscious exposure to fake news. And 64% can't make a distinction between good journalism and falsehood.

So how does this issue tie in with storytelling in your social media marketing?

Storytelling’s Impact on the Human Psyche

It's not a secret ingredient any longer. Telling stories isn't news in the world of sales and marketing. For a long time, it's even the central point in conversations in the business world.

For evident reasons, a remarkable story has an impact. It catches the readers' or viewers' attention, keeps them riveted, and oftentimes, stories leave lasting impressions. (Like that one YouTube ad from a Toothpaste brand I saw the other day).

The art of telling stories, and the simple act of sitting down and paying attention to one is ingrained in us human beings since the prehistoric ages. It doesn’t take a huge amount of knowledge about human history or archeology to answer this question: How did people entertain themselves back in the day?

There are many, but telling stories was definitely one of those…

As Pamela B. Rutledge Ph.D., M.B.A. from Psychology Today writes,

"Our brains still respond to content by looking for the story to make sense out of the experience... Stories are authentic human experiences. Stories leapfrog the technology and bring us to the core of experience, as any good storyteller (transmedia or otherwise) knows."

The psychological reasons why stories are so powerful, according to Pamela Rutledge, include:

  • Stories being a primal form of communication (think legends, myths, fables, symbols, traditions, etc).

  • Cultivating collaboration and connection (they surpass generations).

  • Stories are how we think; how we make sense of life.

  • Provide order.

  • Take place our imagination. It's how we are wired.

  • Stories engage the right brain and trigger our imagination.

Who started the “Story” and storytelling trend by extension?

Technically speaking, stories are rooted into the history of humanity. But the whole 'Story' trend on social media can be blamed on Snapchat -- back in 2013. The social network -- centered around an app -- debuted vertical, 24-hour long slideshows of its user's pictures and videos.

The younger generation embraced the app wholly. In 2018, Statista revealed that Snapchat had 186 million daily active users.

  • 78% of 18-24 year old Americans use the platform (Pew Research Center).

  • 47% of teens in the US think it's better than Facebook, and 24% think it's better than Instagram (Fool).

  • 64% of marketers saw the potential, and have Snapchat accounts (Ad Week).

  • 91% of Snapchat users view the whole story (Snaplytics).

The 'Stories' format was copied by Facebook (for Facebook Messenger), and later, it was introduced to Instagram in 2016 -- with its larger and wider audience.

And now, developments like these have one common denominator, and led to a surprising conclusion: Stories have fundamentally changed how people share and consume content on social media.


The answer goes back to human psychology and our preference for something authentic, real, and have elements of an actual narrative. May it be a compilation of pictures, interconnected videos, a vlog, etc.

Although it’s true that Stories have completely taken over news feeds -- according to the latest research, it doesn't decrease their relevance. You still need to incorporate storytelling in both types of sharing across social media.

How to Tell Your Brand Stories on Social Media

As we've already established, people love to hear a good story. And many brands, when they succeed at telling a good story often see desired traction in their respective digital area. Social media platforms are for telling stories, and there's no better way to market your ideas in the platform than through storytelling.

So how should you do your storytelling on social media in this day and age?


Videos are the obvious method. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that video formats have stolen and taken center stage. People nowadays are more likely to pay attention to visual content -- especially visual content that moves; ergo, videos.

  • Online videos will comprise more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020 (Cisco).

  • 59% of executives would rather watch videos than read texts (Wordstream).

  • 55% of people play closer attention to videos than any other type of content (HubSpot).

  • 95% of a message is retained by the viewer when they watch it on video; compared to 10% as they read text (Wirebuzz).

  • Videos on landing pages increase conversion rates by 80% (Unbounce).

  • Companies who do video marketing have 27% higher CTR and 34% higher conversion rate than those who don't (Buffer).

  • Video content yields the best ROI according 52% of marketers (HubSpot).

  • 43% of people want more video content from marketers (HubSpot).

So, yes, we get it. Video content is popular among the masses. It’s just up to you and your method on how to get your message across…

  • 'Stories' format: The ephemeral quality that the 'Stories' format harbors opens a door for your company to invest in FOMO marketing. This is the perfect video platform if you're looking to do day to day vlogs.

  • Behind-the-scenes: It's an age-old tactic, but it never gets old. Why? This is your opportunity to share your company's history. Telling stories about how your brand came to be, how your products are made, or how an event is organized foster transparency with your brand and your audience.

  • Live videos: A limited storytelling plan is needed for videos like this. Because the story is happening in real time, the only responsibility you have to shoulder is capturing the moment.

  • User-generated content: You can encourage your audience -- consumers and clients -- to share their stories. Aside from having them speak for you and your brand, you're opening another window for engagement and trust building.

Inspirational and motivational posts on the feed

We get that ephemeral content has overtaken people’s love of scrolling through their newsfeed. But it’s not dead. There are still those who take the time to check through their feed in a bid to find something interesting.

And regardless of what people to say, always and forever will mankind be moved by life’s most inspirational, motivational, and heartfelt stories…

Can you count the number of times a story goes viral because of the humanitarian lessons hidden within it?

Everybody wants to change for the better, and seeing or reading a story that tells us about people or events that impact the human race in a positive way, leave an impression on all of us. The fun part? These stories can either be fictional (but derived from actual social issues), or heartbreakingly real.

In the case of story marketing, you can share your brand’s corporate social responsibility stories, or scour the world wide web for positive and inspirational news stories that will uplift a bad mood on a bad day.

You don’t have to brag about a product. You don’t need to showcase a new asset that’s about to be revealed in three months’ time. Designate a time in your social media schedule to post about something pure and good with no marketing intentions.

You’d be surprised at how much your regular motivational posts would leave an impression on your target audience… You might even attract new ones in the process.

Nike and their Equality Campaign

A great example of inspirational storytelling among brands is Nike. They've been leveraging on the power of story marketing longer than most people. For instance, back in 1999, they released a one-minute "commercial" that memorialized Michael Jordan's career. But despite it being commissioned by Nike, there was no mention of the shoe brand until the very end.

And then, in 2017, Nike came out with their Equality. The goal? "Celebrating differences and inspiring change through the power of sport."

The shoe brand launched the campaign with a video that preached about fairness and respect that should be on the court, the rink, the field, and -- of course -- the real world.

Storytelling Pictures

Long before the advent of videos, pictures were the kings of the visual scene.

The timeless saying goes: "A picture is worth a thousand words – or so the saying goes."

Think about the fact that stories come in all lengths. They come in different shapes and sizes too. And when you think about things photographically, these stories are short and come into one, or maybe two images.

But in the course of two images, you can send a message so powerful, it's enough to compel people into action.

Starbucks is an excellent example of image content marketing, accompanied with a message...

match the magic.JPG

But when it comes to powerful illustrations, nothing can beat social issue picture PSAs. Digital Synopsis compiled a bunch of them, but here’s one:

stop the violence.JPG

Reasons to Use Stories on Social Media

At the beginning of this article, we’ve cemented the fact that storytelling is ingrained in the human psyche. It plays a huge part in our day-to-day interactions.

There are several other reasons why you should make use of storytelling in your social media marketing (if you haven’t already).

  • The narrative structure: It's basic 'cause and effect.' It's the same thought process our brains use to configure thoughts, speech, and decision-making.

  • Content is humanized: Well-constructed stories unite emotions and other concepts seamlessly. In turn, it drives people to engage, react, and respond in ways we can only conceive.

  • The emotional investment we subconsciously do after reading or seeing a story diminishes the skepticism we feel. (Not completely though, because cynical people will always exist).

  • You need it, because traditional marketing (especially sales pitches) are poorly received nowadays, and it hardly works anymore.

The Takeaway

This generation seeks transparency and authenticity. (Think about how successful influencers are, and how they reach celebrity stardom). Remember that people don’t purchase your products or avail of your services because of product descriptions, or the claims you make in your web pages.

Web copies will always play a part, yes. But keep in mind that people are after the story behind the product.

Stories are everywhere and in everything. It’s in an upturned rock. You can find it in a cat wandering the neighborhood. It’s in the eyes of the passersby on the train. To find one, you need only look.

It goes without saying that this thought applies to your social media marketing strategies as well…

You only have to look.

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