Now more than ever, consumers’ buying decisions are based less on a company’s products and more on its story. That’s why it’s important for brands to have a story about what they’re doing, for whom, and why.
There are various benefits to using storytelling as a marketing tool. Some include:
- Simplifying complex organizational ideas
- Communicating company mission and values
- Creating an engaging community
That being said, most people find brands’ storytelling efforts on websites, mailers, and advertisements. However, a storytelling platform that often goes unnoticed is social media.
Adapt to Social Media’s Unique Storytelling Environment
Social media provides a unique environment that poses various benefits and challenges to storytelling.
One benefit of using social media to tell your brand’s story is that it’s interactive in nature. Users can comment, react, and engage with your posts. This can sometimes even lead them to helping create your brand story!
Another benefit is that social media provides easy access to any audience(s). You can use social media analytics to ensure you’re targeting the right groups and using the right messaging, so that you can communicate your story in the best way possible.
The biggest challenge of storytelling in the social media landscape is that your audiences are overloaded with updates from other people and organizations. Within seconds, their feeds could fill with several new posts.
On top of that, a recent Nielsen/Norman Group Social Media User Experience Report found that the main reason people join social networks is to connect with friends and family–not businesses. Interacting with businesses came more as an afterthought, which means that users are less likely to prioritize posts coming from them. Brands are competing for attention with real, living people.
With those two challenges in mind, it’s important that brands choose their storytelling strategies carefully and execute them properly.
Execute Your Social Storytelling
Digital marketing professionals have worked hard to develop a list of the three most important things to consider when creating a social storytelling strategy. Here’s what they came up with:
- Be human. The key to being human comes in the authenticity of your posts–specifically the messages within them. Share genuine thoughts, feelings, and questions a regular person would have, and respond like a regular person would respond. It adds the aspects of personability and relatability that humans desire.
- Create value. Your posts need to be useful for users, otherwise they will just find them annoying. Find creative ways to inform and entertain your audience so they continue to see value in following you. This could be via pictures, videos, contests, or informational resources. Keep it fresh!
- Show, don’t tell. Words are important, but they often aren’t enough when it comes to social media. The environment is fast-paced, so users are less likely to read a long post than they are to watch a ten second video. However, this also depends on the norms of the platform you’re posting on.
Diversify Your Storytelling for Different Platforms
Each social media platform has different goals, features, and audiences. Therefore, while it’s important to keep basic information (usernames, profile pictures, bios) similar across them all, you need to switch up your storytelling method to fit the environment. Read on to learn some tips for storytelling on four of today’s most popular platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.
Facebook is currently the most popular platform, with over 2.6 billion monthly active users. This means that it is a key platform to tell your brand story on. Here are a few key Facebook features you should utilize in the process:
- No character limits. Facebook sometimes has longer text posts due to its lack of a character limit. You could take advantage of this by keeping it “old school” and writing a long post about your company’s values or mission. However, this isn’t something you should do often, as users aren’t likely to take time to read them all.
- Pictures and videos. Facebook allows users to include multiple pictures and videos into one post. You could use this feature to tell your brand story by including multiple graphics or a series of informational videos about your company history.
- Ads. Facebook ads are social media’s most powerful targeted ads. The ads can be in different formats, such as text, photo, and even video. Video ads can be extremely beneficial in storytelling because of their cinematic nature.
- About section. On each Facebook Business page, there is an About section. You can fill out your company’s basic information (name, address, email), as well as write a short paragraph about its story, mission, and values.
Instagram is a fast-growing platform, with over 1 billion monthly active users. Instagram is unique in its emphasis on visuals–photos and videos of various formats and lengths. Here are a few key Instagram features you should use while storytelling:
- Pictures and videos. There’s no way to post on Instagram without a picture or video. Both are displayed in large formats that take up most of users’ screens. Therefore, high-quality visuals are important, and they should be able to tell a brand story almost entirely alone because Instagram captions are usually short. For example, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty cosmetics brand focuses on diversity and inclusion, so the visuals posted display that diversity.
- Filters. Aesthetics are also an important part of Instagram’s visual appeal. Therefore, all pictures and videos should fit brand guidelines, especially in terms of color scheme, so your profile looks cohesive and consistent. Instagram offers various filters and an editing app called Instasize for you to use.
- Stories. Instagram Stories posts that stay on your profile for 24 hours. Users can click through stories similar to how they would flip through pages in a book. Therefore, this is a great place for various graphics or a company representative to talk through your brand story.
- IGTV. Instagram TV gives you the ability to create mini-episodes about your brand or related topics. These mini-episodes can be up to ten minutes long and remain permanently on your profile, making IGTV a perfect visual-based equivalent for a typical “About page”.
Twitter is home to over 330 million monthly active users. It is largely text-based, but has a tweet character limit of 280 characters. Therefore, it’s largely used for momentary thoughts and reactions to everyday life. Here’s a few key Twitter features that will help you tell your brand story briefly:
- Threads. Twitter threads are chains of tweets. They’re a loophole to the small character limit that you can use to tell stories in a longer text format.
- Hashtags. Twitter is hashtag-heavy. If your organization has a branded hashtag, you should use it for storytelling because when users click on it, it shows them all the posts with that hashtag. Also, if your hashtag is descriptive and catchy enough, it could tell a brand story and values all in itself (think Coca Cola’s #ShareACoke or Charmin’s #TweetFromTheSeat).
- Memes. Twitter is popular for its memes, which is a comical way to share your brand story. If your brand identity includes fun or humor, this memes are definitely something you should utilize.
- Fleets. Twitter just released a new feature called “Fleets.” They are very similar to Instagram Stories, and you can use them similarly for storytelling purposes. However, Twitter’s currently receiving a lot of backlash because the feature is so similar to Instagram’s–so Fleets may not last long.
Snapchat has over 230 million monthly active users. Through this platform, users can send “snaps” (AKA photos) to each other and post 24-hour statuses in the form of Stories. Although the platform is a little less marketing-heavy, there are some brands who have successfully told stories on it. Here’s a few key Snapchat features they used to do it:
- Stories. Similar to Instagram (and Twitter, for now), Snapchat has a 24-hour story post feature. These stories could include just one visual, or multiple back-to-back visuals that tell a story. Because of Snapchat’s chat-like features, the visuals usually include people speaking.
- Discover. Snapchat Discover the page that brands post on. Each Discover “event” has multiple snaps that users can flip through like pages in a book. It’s very similar to stories, but is branded more like an ad.
- Filters. Snapchat is unique in regards to its location-based filters, that are available to users all over the world. You could use this to add extra detail to your story. Other filters include graphics, games, weather, and face-morphing that could add some entertainment to the mix. Brands can even make filters of their own for users to enjoy.
- Collaborations. On Snapchat, you have the ability to collaborate with other brands or influencers. You can create stories in which you respond to one another, or you can do a “Snapchat Takeover”, where a representative takes the Snapchat account for a day and posts on it. By collaborating, you can get more views and engagement on your posts.
Stay Consistent and Organized
Now you may be thinking that this all seems like a lot to keep track of–and it is! That’s why there are people whose entire careers are dedicated to social media management; and for large organizations, there is usually a whole team of people involved.
But have no fear–there is a way to stay on track and organized. Many brands create a social media style guide, similar to this social media style guide created for North Dakota’s state government. These social media guides are used to keep track of standards for visuals, tone, formatting, branded hashtags, etc. It’s best to start off with one of these before tackling each platform.
You now have all the tools you need to tell you brand’s story on various social media platforms. Get brainstorming, start engaging, and share your brand’s unique story so it can live on, happily ever after.