Best Practices

How to Utilize Storytelling for Brand Growth on Social Media

15 March, 2017
6 min read
Matt Banner

7-minute read

Social media is an incredible place to develop and grow a brand. It gives you a direct line to your audience and allows you to engage with them in real-time. The only problem is that millions of people are using social media every day. Cutting through the noise requires more than a great concept or even a great social media manager.

To truly break the mold and succeed on social media, you need to embrace storytelling. Learn how storytelling and appealing to human emotions can help you and your clients win more customers.


7 Ways to implement storytelling into your social media marketing

Stories hold more power over us than we’d like to admit. Marketers can use data to create content quickly that will be found on search engines. But content that’s written like a story can persuade the reader and drive action. It’s time to bring stories to social media, where your voice will be heard better than if you’re only sharing boring data or promotions.

The psychology of storytelling tells us that stories have the ability to transport our minds to another place and capture our feelings in a way that nothing else can. As we‘re swept up in these stories, we’re far more susceptive to new ideas or beliefs that we wouldn’t otherwise be open to in the real world.

Think about it, if someone tells you to do something, you may resist the idea. However, if you read a story and this idea is embodied in the “moral” of the story, you may be open to the concept.

Let’s explore seven ways you can start implementing and improving your storytelling on social media.


1. Create a cohesive brand voice

Your brand’s voice refers to the tone, vocabulary, and approach you take when communicating on any of your channels, but especially on social media. If someone asks you a question about your company’s stance on a topic, your brand’s voice would hold the key to how you should answer.

Creating a cohesive brand voice allows you to tell stories that are consistent and relatable to your brand. The easiest way to ruin a good story, is to suddenly break the immersion by changing how it sounds or the way it’s told. Take a look at this post from Netflix on Facebook:

Here are some tips for developing your brand’s unique voice:

  • Take samples from all across your company and look at how they represent your brand
  • Define the voice you want by describing it in three words
  • Describe these three words in more detail, and create a chart for everyone on your team to reference
  • Have a meeting with your writers and make sure they understand how this should look and sound
  • Revisit your chart four times per year and make changes as needed

All of this is dependent on your brand’s goals and focus. For example, if you’re helping someone learn how to start their first blog, a casual and friendly tone that isn’t oversaturated in complicated jargon is probably the best approach.


2. Tell properly structured stories

Structure is incredibly important if you want your stories to have any impact. This is where a traditional model like Freytag’s pyramid comes in handy. We’ve all probably seen it before, where it shows the process a story should follow.

You start with exposition, move into rising action, peak at a climax, move to falling action, and finally provide an ending. This basic model for storytelling is an excellent way to put your content into a mold that you can work with.

Look at this post from Airbnb:

It has a clear structure, and it ultimately tells a cohesive story.

While the stories we tell on social media won’t be sweeping pieces of literature, it also helps to consider other traditional storytelling models. One such example is the Hero’s Journey. If you need assistance or inspiration on how to make the story flow, this classic structure will help you understand the path that all stories take.

Remember: You should tailor your voice for different social media networks, but the story will stay the same.

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3. Place your customers at the center

The entire purpose of building a brand is to connect with your customers. They are the reason for everything you do, and they decide if you’re successful, or if you drown in the noise of social media.

For this reason, it’s incredibly important that you make them a key part of every story you tell. If you’re trying to show them how your product enriches their lives in a specific way, tell a story with the customer as the main character. Let them experience empathy as they relate to the character and place themselves into his/her shoes.

Speaking of shoes, check out this adidas tweet:

Notice how they focus the story on the customer, placing them firmly at the center.

Take this one step further by inviting customers to tell their own stories. Looking at Airbnb again, we see that they have an entire page on their site dedicated to stories from the Airbnb community. These kinds of stories are ripe for social media and offer a great way to drive traffic back to the site by inviting people to come and read the full stories.


4. Tell stories in multiple formats

Stories don’t have to be written, thanks to the technology at our disposal today. We can tell stories through images, through video, and even through live streams on today’s major social media platforms. It’s important to diversify with how you tell your stories to get the best results.

For example, NASA posts incredible pictures and provides unique stories filled with facts to go with them:


[Artist Concept] Black Hole Meal Sets Record for Duration And Size: A giant black hole ripped apart a star and then gorged on its remains for about a decade, according to astronomers. This is more than ten times longer than any observed episode of a star's death by black hole. The trio of orbiting X-ray telescopes found evidence for a "tidal disruption event" (TDE), wherein the tidal forces due to the intense gravity from a black hole can destroy an object - such as a star - that wanders too close. During a TDE, some of the stellar debris is flung outward at high speeds, while the rest falls toward the black hole. As it travels inwards to be ingested by the black hole, the material heats up to millions of degrees and generates a distinct X-ray flare. Artist's illustration depicts what astronomers call a "tidal disruption event," or TDE. Credits: Illustration: CXC/M. Weiss #nasa #space #nasabeyond #astronomy #blackhole #science

A post shared by NASA (@nasa) on

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this statement has never been more true than in our modern world. Here are some examples of how brands are harnessing technology to tell different and, ultimately, more interesting stories:

  • On Pinterest, the Humane Society of New York posts pictures of individual animals up for adoption, along with their names
  • Habitat for Humanity posts pictures of their projects and volunteers on their Facebook page
  • Room to Read posts videos on YouTube that allow individuals to tell their stories in front of a camera

These are just a few examples, but they show how both images and video can be used to enhance the effects of an already powerful story.


5. Tell your brand’s story

Entire guides have been written on the concept of brand storytelling. What it truly comes down to, however, is being authentic and real with how you present your company and your brand online. There’s no need to fluff things up in an attempt to make yourself look bigger or better than you are.

Big brands like LEGO manage to continuously tell unique stories like this one:

People would rather you be honest with them than try to win them over with grandiose promises or embellished stories. So, don’t be afraid to tell your story. Consider these topics that resonate well with potential customers on social media:

  • How your company was conceived
  • What makes your culture so different and exciting than others in your industry
  • An explanation of your brand’s ethics and vision for the future
  • How you designed or created your first product prototype.

People want to know more about your brand, but more importantly, they want to know the story behind it all. This will help them more easily connect with you and your product.


6. Focus on the people

When I say “focus on the people” I’m going beyond the aforementioned point about putting your customers at the center of the story. That’s a great start, but it’s also important to remind customers that there are real, living people behind the logo.

To this end, you should consistently feature members of your team and your leadership. Have them tell their own story, or share a little about themselves and their role in the business. This will give your audience a chance to see the faces behind the names and therefore establish a stronger connection with your brand as a result.


7. Pull back the curtain

Our final strategy involves giving people a look behind the curtain of your brand. Behind the scenes videos, stories, or pictures all offer a great way to add depth to your brand and further connect it to average people who can relate and understand what you do.

So, why not try live streaming a company picnic one day? Or, just film yourself at the office and walk people through a typical day at your company. For customers, it makes you look more open and honest, and for potential employees, it shows them your brand’s culture.


Final Thoughts

Storytelling is the secret sauce that brands need to succeed on social media. It cuts through the noise and puts you front-and-center in front of the people you want to engage on today’s top platforms.

How do you implement storytelling into your brand’s growth? Let us know in the comments!