Brand storytelling has always played a significant role in the success of marketing campaigns.
Done right, it has the power to bring a brand alive and evoke an emotional response from its audience. With the magic of storytelling, brands can build a personal connection with their customers and create a loyal following – one of the cornerstones of success in any industry.
Social media has provided a new platform for brand storytelling that today’s modern marketers must learn to navigate. But just how easy is it to tell a story through this ‘less is more’ medium? It turns out there any many ways to tell stories using social – all you need is a healthy dose of creativity, authenticity, and passion.
The first step to brand storytelling – listen and respond
Far too many brands treat social media as a platform to shout loudly about their products and services. The trouble is that everybody else is shouting too – so chances are you still won’t be heard. What users really want to hear is a story that will help them connect to what you’re offering in a more meaningful way.
The way we interact with brands online is changing; it’s less about the cold, hard sales pitch, and more about context. It’s important to remember that you’re not just selling a product. You’re selling a lifestyle. Ask yourself, what kind of experience do you want associated with your brand?
When we see products in use, we can more easily imagine ourselves in their shoes. Rather than shouting, what brands need to work on is listening. When you listen and understand the context of your customers’ lives, you can then use this to build a relatable platform for storytelling that will resonate with the right people.
In other words, get to know your audience so you can tell them the stories they want to hear.
Strong imagery is essential
As children, we love to hear stories alongside beautiful pictures. While most adult books contain no pictures whatsoever, this yearning for contextual imagery doesn’t simply disappear. Brands that use powerful imagery in their storytelling make themselves more memorable and personal. Compelling photography can be used to take your audience on a visual journey that will inspire and motivate, and what’s more, it can be utilized across all social platforms.
A note about imagery – it’s worth taking the time to produce original photographs and graphics, rather than relying solely on stock imagery. This helps to personalize the story and give it an authenticity that can be hard to achieve with stock photos.
Keep in mind that certain types of visual content work best on different social platforms, and be prepared to resize images rather than opting for a one-size-fits-all approach. Instagram, for example, favors square images – and its grid-like format means you can even create larger pictures made up of several smaller ones. Get to know the various image guidelines for each social media platform for maximum impact.
Where to start with brand storytelling
If you’re not sure where to start with brand storytelling on social media, here are just a few of the ways that you can begin working it into your next campaign:
- Write a long Facebook post – long Facebook posts get the most ‘other clicks’, such as ‘see more’. This works best alongside an interesting image that begs for further context. A great example of this technique in action is the Humans of New York Facebook page.
- Start a photo album – creating a Facebook photo album is an easy way to share a story with your followers, allowing them to follow the story from start to finish.
- Use sequential advertising – Facebook ads can be very effective, and those sequenced like stories even more so. The trick is to combine high quality, intriguing content with a strong call to action at the end.
- Produce a Facebook video – if you have the necessary time and resources, video is one of the best ways to tell stories and grow your following on social media. Tough Mudder’s promotional video, We Are Tough Mudder, is a good example of this.
- Go live – As we’ve said, authenticity is a key aspect of brand storytelling. Live video is one of the best ways to achieve this. What’s more, it’s also more likely to reach your fans, since Facebook ranks live videos highest in the news feed.
- Curate user-generated content – You can do this by sharing short stories and photos from your followers on Instagram. To make the curation process easier, you can even create a branded hashtag around the story you want to tell.
- Tell stories using captions – high-quality images are the lifeblood of Instagram, but using the caption strategically can help to transform a simple image into a story by adding to what’s there.
Convert local customers with local stories
Increasingly, our online activities are fueling our offline activities, and vice versa. Airbnb and Uber are two such examples of companies where the experience exists in both physical and digital realms. Brands can embrace this behavior to make their audience feel more connected.
If you work for a smaller brand or SME, the scale of your marketing campaigns may be somewhat limited by your budget, particularly compared to the likes of large multinational companies. But what you can do instead is give some love to your local area.
Most people take pride in where they’re from and are keen to support local businesses where possible, so if you operate within a certain geographic niche, be sure to express that on social media. Celebrate and create content around local events, share content from other local businesses, and tell local stories that will resonate with potential customers in your area.
The basics of brand storytelling
However you choose to tell your brand stories on social media, whether it’s an image, a video, a long-form post or an article, you should aim to achieve the following:
- Create an emotional response that will mobilize the viewer to take action, whether that’s happiness, sadness, laughter, inspiration, or even anger (if appropriate).
- Reveal new, intimate or interesting information – ensure the post will legitimately capture the viewers’ attention and arouse curiosity.
- Take your viewers on a narrative journey with a satisfying story arc and final outcome. Unless some sort of lesson or transformation takes place, it’s not a story.
Create your origin story around your brand that includes: how it all started, what happened next, when it all took off, what you learned along the way. These stories can be told both on your website and across your social media platforms – in fact, they tend to do very well. Why? Because people love rags to riches stories; we love to hear about people who have come from nothing, who have turned their goals into a reality, in the hope that one day we may do the same.
If you want to tell an effective brand story, you need to genuinely care about the message and the ethos behind your brand. A great story can help to plant a product in people’s minds without them even realizing – all you need to do is learn to listen, communicate, and connect.
How will you implement brand storytelling into your own social media strategy?
Victoria Greene: Brand Marketing Consultant & Freelance Writer.
Victoria works with online businesses and ecommerce merchants to create high-performing content and social marketing strategies.