Social media has increasingly become a key part of our storytelling strategy as brands and businesses, providing us with an opportunity to build a relationship with our customers and audiences, tapping into their emotions so that when we ask them to do something (ie. visit our site to make a purchase, sign up for our newsletter, or book a service), we will be top of mind, and we’ve already build a relationship with them. They trust us, because they’ve become part of our story.
Visual storytelling makes something real, exciting, compelling and inclusive. We have a tendency to want to be immersed and involved, seeing ourselves as part of the story and creating a role for ourselves within the narrative.
A story provides the “why” behind something, it offers the opportunity for someone to see how it could fit in with their life and allows them to form a personal connection with it. It sparks emotion and builds trust.
As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
So tell them a story and share your “why”. Think beyond the pretty images and take them on a journey.
Using Social Media to Tell Your Brand Story
Every individual post on social media is part of the bigger picture, of your overall brand story, and works together to take your audience on a journey. They increasingly start to feel like they know who you are, what you offer, and why you’re special.
There are different tools for storytelling, and as a brand, it’s part of our job to decide on what parts of our story we will share, where we share them, and how we choose to do so. Different platforms allow you to tell or highlight a different part of your brand story, but they’re all painting a cohesive picture of your brand.
Content shouldn’t be intrusive, and should bring value to a platform’s customers, so it’s important to pay attention to the nuances of each social media tool, who is hanging out there and what kind of content they’re looking for.
How Storytelling Fits into Your Social Media Strategy
As a whole, effective social media marketing is achieved by managing your community and sharing strategic micro-content that is optimized to the nuances of each platform. It’s not about repeating the same story again and again on every platform, but about painting a bigger picture that is woven across every platform, through every post. They build upon each other, complement each other and create context for the brand story using your distinct voice and driving your business goals.
It’s about creating a shared moment together, about inspiring that “me too” mentality or a reaction as simple as a smile. Building a relationship while gaining trust.
So what does storytelling on each social media platform actually look like?
- Tell stories, prove to your customers that you’re “one of them”, and aim for engagement.
- Because of the algorithm, the more engagement your content receives, the higher the likelihood that your page fans will see more of your content. This means including them in your story, finding out what they’re interested in by paying attention to how they engage and asking questions, and giving them the opportunity to react and offer their point-of-view. Make it clear that you get them and you care what they have to say.
- Entice readers to click through, use photos that will stand out and capture attention, make it easy for them to link to where you want them to go or to engage with your content.
- Entertain, entice and offer an escape.
- Listen well, initiative conversations and build a community.
- I've heard Twitter described as “The cocktail party of the internet”, and I think that’s the perfect way to describe it. It’s quick and fun, and you only have a limited opportunity to dazzle with your conversation. Use it wisely.
- Curate relative content from others. Keep in mind the 80/20 rule, with 20% percent of content being your own (promoting a new blog post, highlighting a product you’re selling, etc.) and 80% being content you’re sharing from other sources that your community will find valuable.
- Provide information and offer an opinion.
- Consider your voice and style and stay true to who you are and what your brand is all about.
- Don’t forget about visuals! Tweets that include visuals have a higher engagement rate and are less likely to get lost in the quick-moving feed.
- The perfect place to showcase the lifestyle component of your brand, merging the visual storytelling capacity of an image with your brand personality and voice through the caption.
- Think of it more as an artistic tool, not commercial. Beautiful, curated and high quality photos are important, and this is the ideal place to pay attention to how your brand looks and feels, and what kind of story that’s telling.
- Offer behind-the-scenes shots and sneak peeks, giving followers VIP access.
- Think of it as a mini-portfolio, showcasing your work, your style, your process, your inspirations, etc.
- Use hashtags strategically, as they can be a good way to tap into a community, add more context to a caption, and enable more people to discover your brand.
- With the just-launched Instagram stories feature (basically their very similar version of Snapchat), Instagram is offering users a way to share less curated, imperfect, unedited and more video-focused content, which presents a whole new opportunity for storytelling. I’ll save this for a future post!
- Satisfies two of the most powerful human drivers: aspiration and acquisition. Use it to inspire and feed those dreams, allowing people to fulfill their material and emotional wishlists. Encourage them to dream big, encourage the mentality of “you deserve this…”
- Take a lifestyle approach to content to tell the story of your customers “dream life”, incorporating product or promotional material into that but not having it be the sole focus.
- Offer value by becoming someone they trust and building a relationship.
- Since the visuals are really the most important part here, focus on creating eye candy that will catch your audience’s attention, and then use captions to tie it into your story and personalize the content while creating context.
- Get a little creative with the range of content you share, creating boards that are tangentially related to your brand and that play into the bigger picture of what you offer and who your target audience is.
- A mix of storytelling boards with boards that are more sales-focused or product-oriented.
I'm all about working smarter these days, and to make life just a little more easier for you, I've created a little social media image size cheatsheet for you to download, so that when you're creating content for each platform, one quick glance at this and you'll know what your ideal sizes are. Optimized visual content for the win!
And you know what that means - instead you can focus on creating amazing content and practicing your storytelling on social media.
Profile images, headers, thumbnails... it's all in here. I have a printed copy that I keep on my office board, and a digital one on my desktop that I can open quickly when I need to reference it. And of course it doesn't hurt that it's pretty to look at too (you're welcome!).