You'd be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn't enjoy a good story.
That's because the act of telling stories is primal, rooted in tradition, and often reminds us what it is to be human.
And people love sharing stories, particularly on social media. So it's no surprise that storytelling is a trend that's cropping up in marketing, too.
But these days we are bombarded with endless content, receiving five times more information per day than we did in 1986. So how can marketers encourage us to tune in and engage?
Hint: the answer lies in telling compelling brand stories!
Read on to discover why brand storytelling is essential in marketing today. And then we'll show you how you can learn to utilise it on social media for you or your clients.
What is brand storytelling?
Brand storytelling involves using a narrative to connect your or your client's brand to prospective customers.
Great brand storytelling fosters a connection between a brand and its audience, communicating the truth, purpose, vision and values of the brand through content.
Doing this helps your audience relate to your brand and build up a clear picture of who your brand is and what you're all about.
The aim of brand storytelling should be to capture your prospective customers' attention. It should spark their curiosity and elicit an emotional response that will encourage them to take action and engage with your product.
Here's how soft drinks giant Coca-Cola navigate the world of storytelling in marketing:
So, brand storytelling is communicating the authentic and original story of your brand effectively. Simple, right?
Why is brand storytelling an important aspect of content marketing?
Telling stories within your marketing content helps to make your brand more human and relatable - that's why the two mesh together so well!
Still not convinced?
Here are some more great reasons why storytelling is the perfect addition to your marketing strategy, that'll have you jumping on the bandwagon:
Great storytelling has the power to touch people on an emotional level
We are 22 times more likely to remember a fact if it has been embellished with a story. Why? Because stories can elicit an emotional response - they're designed to make us think and feel.
We use emotion rather than reason to guide our purchasing decisions and brand loyalties, which is why storytelling is such a useful content marketing technique.
Often, the decision to choose a luxury or premium brand over a more affordable, generic one comes down to how successfully a brand can communicate an aspirational narrative that its customers can desire.
...As any marketer knows, you're never just selling a mattress; you're selling a good night's sleep!
Telling a unique story helps your brand to stand out
It's important to remember that every brand begins with an original idea.
The conception of this idea is individual to each business and should explain why you do what you do. It's your unique selling point and your story to tell.
Take TOMS Shoes for example. On the surface, they might seem like an unremarkable shoe brand. But dig a little deeper, and you'll discover that the company began because Founder Blake Mycoskie witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes in Argentina.
Blake came up with an incredible ethos for the company. He vowed to match every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need. He called the programme One for One®.
This unique brand story works because it appeals to our conscience as consumers. It gives TOMS a soul.
By adding a touch of storytelling, TOMS transforms from a run-of-the-mill shoe brand into a cause for social justice:
Unsurprisingly, studies show that 92% of consumers hold a positive image of a company when it supports a social or environmental issue.
The lesson here is never to underestimate the unique perspective that your or your clients brand brings to the market - it's bound to be what makes them interesting!
If you're still not sure that your brand story is worth telling, remember that we are all curious by nature. When attracting potential leads and customers, it matters less about what you're doing, and more about why you're doing it!
Digital storytelling can give brands higher engagement rates
For social media marketers, engagement rates are a crucial metric to show ROI. So if increasing engagement is your goal, you'll be pleased to hear that storytelling can have a positive impact.
As we know, different types of stories can elicit different emotional responses from consumers, as well as affect our purchasing decisions. And this doesn't just apply to traditional advertising mediums.
Studies have shown that social media posts which encourage positive emotional responses are more likely to be shared or retweeted on social media. Equally, posts that contain negative language are much more likely to make us click to find out more.
Why? Because we are all inherently nosey!
5 brand storytelling ideas for creating compelling content
Now that you know what brand storytelling is, and why you should be using it in your content marketing strategy, it's time to find out how to put it into practice.
If you're a social media marketer, the success of your or your client's brand comes down to the way you convey that all-important brand story on social media.
So here are the best ways that you can use content to create a narrative for any brand on social...
1. Show the real people behind the brand
As consumers on the hunt for our next purchase, it's easy to forget the real people behind the brands that we know and love. But those who are creating and contributing value to the product every day could become your secret weapon.
To increase trust and visibility, it's a great idea to create stories which showcase the individual people behind your or your client's brand.
To do this, you could take pictures of staff around the office, or conduct interviews with team members and share them on social media.
These types of posts are engaging because they help your prospective clients to better understand who you are and how your team can solve their problems day-to-day.
Here's a great example from Sendible:
This type of content works well for B2B companies or brands whose products aren't particularly visual or exciting. This is because ultimately, people want to see stories about real people.
Energy company British Gas have also used this angle for their latest social media campaign:
In this Facebook video post, British Gas highlights the work of their engineer Colin, who describes how he gave life saving medical assistance to someone, while at work.
The post is effective because it gives us the impression that employees of British Gas are everyday heroes, who go above and beyond to help those in need. The real face in the video feels authentic and encourages us to trust the brand.
Brand storytelling at its best shows how opening the doors to your business can give your prospective customers a more relatable insight into your values.
2. Curate content from your followers
What better way to tell the story of your brand on social media than by letting your loyal fans tell it for you?
Utilising the user-generated content which your followers produce is a fantastic way to save time when curating content for your clients.
UGC is the gold standard of content because it takes minimal time and effort on your part to create, and has a more genuine feel than paid or sponsored content.
This Instagram post from Dove includes a screenshot of a comment made by an excited customer who represents their target demographic perfectly. Her comment tells it's own story of how she'll be using Dove's product to kick-off her weekend:
You can't ask for better promotion than sharing positive feedback from a loyal customer - simple and effective!
3. Tell stories with your captions
Never underestimate the power of a strong post caption on social media.
The copy that accompanies your post presents a real opportunity to encourage your audience to engage and share their own stories in the comments section.
Want to know the golden rule of social media captions?
The more compelling your captions are, the more engagement your posts are likely to receive.
Including emojis in your post captions can add personality to your copy, as well as increase engagement on tweets by 25.4% and increase the number of likes on Facebook posts by 57%.
Adding relevant trending hashtags, or creating your own branded hashtags can also help your posts reach more potential customers and give your followers a clear idea of your brand values.
Here's a great example from the Polaroid Originals Instagram account:
Notice how they include an aspirational quote from photographer Ansel Adams, and then finish off the caption with the hashtag #WorldPhotoDay.
This caption praises viewers for being creative and sharing their work, which is perfectly on-brand for a company that produces materials for photographers.
Social media captions provide an excellent opportunity for marketers to establish the tone and voice of their brand. The trick is to approach each caption as an opportunity to offer unique insights and carve out the narrative of your brand.
4. Make use of the Stories feature
Social media stories are now an established feature on most platforms. The main channels each have their version of Stories, with some of the most popular being Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, Twitter Moments and Youtube Reels.
And according to official Instagram statistics, 500 million Instagram accounts use Stories every day:
Stories are a powerful feature for brand awareness and a fantastic vehicle for incorporating customer journeys into your social media strategy. They reinforce our love of social storytelling and can be used to demonstrate how your brand has impacted people's lives.
Last year, sportswear company Nike ran a social media campaign which used Instagram Stories to tell inspiring and unconventional fitness stories:
These Stories followed the progress of real people's fitness journeys in a time-lapse format, making them quick and easy to click through and share:
Seeing ordinary people achieve significant milestones is what storytelling is all about, and is precisely why these Stories worked. They played off the human desire to follow inspiring narratives with positive outcomes.
This campaign again demonstrates that putting your customers at the centre of your brand is an excellent idea if you want to tell authentic stories.
...So why not give it a go!
5. Employ storytelling frameworks to add structure to your posts
As far as traditional storytelling structure goes, we all know that there should be a beginning, a middle and an end to every story. But how does this translate into telling digital stories on social media?
...And how can storytelling help to create more engaging social media posts?
Park says that to create more personal, compelling brand stories, you have to connect with consumers on an emotional level. And to do this, you must design your posts in story structure:
"The And, But, Therefore technique is a simple narrative framework that uses a three-act structure. The premise is that you set up with the 'and', insert a problem or complication using a 'but' and then solve it using the 'therefore.' The beauty of this method is that you could easily apply it to a tweet."
Here's an example of this structure in action:
If you'd like to learn more about storytelling for business, listen to Park Howell's podcast:
Techniques like this help social media managers to improve the process of communicating brand stories by working them down to a simple formula.
Once you master the storytelling framework structure, you'll be ready to take on the world, and perhaps even clients of your own. If you're a busy social media manager whose been thinking about starting a social media marketing agency, check out our comprehensive guide.
Ultimately, the more quickly you can establish consistency in the tone of voice and style of your posts, the more reputable your or your client's brand will appear.
With storytelling gaining traction and becoming a key marketing trend, it's pretty clear that telling stories isn't just child's play anymore.
Storytelling is timeless, inspiring and can be used in content marketing to make your or your clients' brands stand out amongst the noise of the competition.
Put our tips into action today and start your journey towards storytelling success. We'd love to hear how you get on!