Storytelling has been an integral component of marketing – and copywriting – for years. Building campaigns around stories helps brands connect with audiences on a far deeper level than disconnected messaging, no matter how compelling it is.

If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.

Rudyard Kipling

A novelist he may have been, but Kipling’s observation holds true in the field of marketing too. Effective storytelling, then, doesn’t simply foster the all important connection, it makes what you have to say memorable. And that’s half the battle.

How to Become A Better Social Media Storyteller

1. Use Compelling, Personal Imagery

One of the fastest ways to kill a story on social media is to use standard stock imagery. No one has ever connected emotionally with the forced white-toothed smiles the big stock image sites put front and centre.

Social media is, fundamentally, a visual medium. Spend time researching and locating imagery that is guaranteed to resonate with your audiences. This can be done using stock image sites (Unsplash is particularly good), but original content is even better and is likely to be far more authentic. If you can afford to, there’s value in creating your own (or harvesting the content of your users).

Beyond the images themselves, it’s vital that the content you share is curated specifically for their destination channel. The images you post to Twitter should be different from those that appear on Instagram. It may take longer to create that content, but but it’s valuable to play to the strengths of the channels you use.

2. Structure Your Storytelling

Structure is a fundamental part of storytelling. And, as German novelist Gustav Freytag noticed, most follow the same five “act” structure; exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. This is better known as ‘Freytag’s Pyramid’, and can be used to structure your story more effectively, even on social media.

For instance, your campaign, organic content or advertising could begin by building suspense for an announcement or competition. Dropping hints and asking people to guess is an excellent way to drive engagement. Then, begin to lead your audience toward a resolution, before the big reveal itself.

You can even deploy this strategy within advertising campaigns on social media, by sequencing your advertising with a view to creating that all-important emotional connection with your audience. Specific advertising units also lend themselves well to this application. Facebook carousel ads, for instance, enable brands to string together a number of products, offers or messages in one area.

3. Tell the Right Story

There is no such thing as a truly original story. Instead, focus on telling the right story – original, or not – in a compelling way. The best way of doing this is to identify your core audience and align your story with their values. Focus your content, whatever it is, around those values, and encourage your audience to share their experiences.

Steer clear, however, of making your brand’s story too niche. You may have identified a niche audience, but you still want to focus on a story the entirety of that group will be able to relate to. Go too narrow and you risk, if not alienating your brand, then certainly closing yourself off to good engagement and the fostering of a widespread emotional connection.

The final piece of this puzzle is authenticity. It’s important that your story becomes bigger than your brand, and not the other way around. Focus on the authenticity of your story and your audience will start to personally relate to it. A pervasive example of this is Nike’s ‘Just Do It’, which is an incredibly well honed and implemented brand story. This simple message not only catches its audience’s attention, it permeates their personal narrative of achievement.

Conclusion

Effective social media storytelling isn’t an easy thing to achieve. It requires an innate understand of your audience and the identification of a story broad enough for them to relate to, yet narrow enough not to fade into the background. And that’s even before you’ve tried to communicate the story itself. However, if you manage to tell the right story, to the right audience, in the right way, the benefit to your brand’s image and commercial goals could be indispensable.