Social storytelling has become immensely important with the growing need to get more people actively engaged with social content. Brands and content marketers are competing fiercely to pull in willing, cooperative and action-ready audiences – and stop pushing out more and more of the “standard social updates” that are creating audience apathy. Brand owners are realizing fast that the social landscape is becoming too full of “sameness” and they have do more. One of the best ways could be social storytelling … if it can be used innovatively to warm up and magnetize inbound-audiences. Giving audiences a brand story makes the audiences feel like “insiders” and not “outsiders” to the brand.
While the intentions to tell stories are right, the ways some content marketers are trying to strategize with their stories is not really up to par. So many brands are doing their social storytelling rather badly – and not experiencing the results they want. They probably need to look for inspirations from other creative arts, instead of looking inwards at the social media all the time, and learning nothing new. Can the Content Storytelling Techniques for the social media, for instance, learn anything from the gripping comic books through the years … or from the mesmeric ancient storytelling traditions of old civilizations? Let’s look at some of the best storytelling examples we’ve seen in recent times on the social media, and see how they have gotten off the beaten track … how they’ve learnt to mesmerize and tantalize readers!
Content marketers must look at social storytelling as psychology and emotion – and not as a marketing tactic!
Emotionally speaking, who among us doesn’t like stories? It starts from childhood – this fascination for stories. Stories transport us into a different world of characters, some of whose lives we begin to vicariously live.
The bonds between the storyteller and the story-listener deepen without even trying. Every story weaves a bond, and with every telling, the bonds deepen. Look how we never tire of hearing the same stories over and over again. All this is something – a part of human psychology and emotion – that content marketers must delve deeply into.
Just using storytelling as a marketing tactic is not the way to make a deep and lasting impression on audiences. Stories beguile by mesmerism, and through the escape to unreality that they offer. If you learn what it takes to tell stories that can tug on heart strings, your social content would be vastly different … and a great deal more riveting.
Shanna Mallon writes about this exquisitely in her article “How to Use Digital Storytelling as your Social Media “Secret Sauce”:
Around a campfire. Around the dinner table. Maybe just on the phone with a friend. But we’ve been there – held speechless and captivated while listening to a great story. Why speechless? Why captivated? Because we all LOVE stories! People LOVE stories. Even a kid knows this – and maybe knows it better than adults! So if you could use storytelling to your advantage on social media – in digital form – then why wouldn’t you be doing so? You could be leveraging one of the most basic facets of human nature!”
Every brand has a story to tell. It could be anything – from brand history to internal innovation to fun customer feedback. Unfortunately, even though brands now realize that storytelling has become the desired mode of brand communication on the social media, few businesses share their stories effectively on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.
A lot of the time, brands fail in their social storytelling because they follow the whole idea as a fad, or worse, as a content marketing ploy. They don’t try to understand the “real advantages” of storytelling on the psychology of the social audience.
There are some very compelling reasons why brand storytelling works so well if done right …
- Storytelling has a “cause and effect” narrative structure – the same structure the brains of brand audiences use to configure thoughts, everyday speech, and some decisions.
- Uniting an idea with an emotion, and in turn allowing people to feel, allows the concepts, ideas, statistics, dates, colors, and all that comes with the story, to be stuck and retained in audiences’ minds.
- The emotional process that social audiences get involved in, through storytelling, gets rid of brand skepticism.
- It’s getting really difficult to get someone to stop on the street to look at a billboard, or to not skip a commercial on TV, or even to read more than 8 seconds of text on a blog post. Storytelling on the social media, on the other hand, has the ability to grip an audience and hold them steady for at least a while longer than traditional content or advertising.
- Increasingly people are not buying products, but rather they are buying the stories that these products represent. By buying stories, the brands they buy seem imbued with values beyond what their price-labels represent.
Okay, so you’re sold on social storytelling … but where do you look for inspirations that others have missed?
A lot of my own clients and my peers from the brand strategy world often ask me where I would look for totally refreshing and mesmeric brand storytelling and execution ideas. I have two sources that I’ve discovered that I’d like to share with you.
One area of endless inspiration is comic books of every genre – thrilling adventures, mythological comics, sci-fi ….
Telling stories in a sequence of pictures with textual callouts has been the staple fare of comics for decades, and I haven’t seen anyone tire of them even today (with all the sophistication of communication available). No matter what their age or intellectual maturity, there is something about comic strips that keeps readers’ attention glued. Cartoon films trew out of comics, although we always think of them as a different genre altogther.
Ken Buraker, who leads Ketchum’s Digital team, writes about comics:
“I work in the creative world thanks to Fantastic Four #203 and Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #248, which my parents bought for me in 1979. Mesmerized, the roller coaster of dynamic visuals and stories had me hooked. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I had just experienced my first brand engagement. The storytelling experiences were immersive, compact and portable. I wanted more. Now with more than 10,000 in my collection, comic books have served me as both escapist entertainment and inspirational studies in storytelling. Admittedly, they’ve rewired my brain on how stories should work through sequential art. Visuals have to communicate on their own while the transition and pacing between panels becomes equally important. The architecture of comic books translates extremely well to visual storytelling in the brand world.”
The other area of limitless inspiration for me is the ancient storytelling traditions from my own country, India.
I get tons of ideas from are the hoary traditions of storytelling that existed – and still do – in various interior parts of India as an art form. I am particularly fascinated by the storytelling techniques of the ancient Kaavad tradition from Rajasthan, India.
Image courtesy: D’Source
Here travelling storytellers would carry their own portable stages, and with a series of pictures tell stories by themselves providing the audio accompaniment to the pictures, with background scores they hummed or whistled, or sound effects they made with their mouths and throats.
Now and then they would break into songs and ballads, and then resume the voiceovers, complete with voice modulation to suit the different characters in the stories. And the best part is that even if you thought you already knew the story from having heard it once before, the story’s audio effects would change slightly with every telling.
And one other unforgettable aspect of this tradition of storytelling is that the storyteller would often let the listener complete the story. What a way to engage the crowd of children and adults gathered around him!
The Kavvad storytelling tradition from India gives ideas for social media innovation. I have seen pictorial brand stories being told via a sequence of stills in Pinterest or Instagram, or as a micro-videos series on YouTube … but I haven’t yet ever seen a brand story told by showing a sequence of still pictures with an added audio narrative that can be different with every viewing of the picture-story.
Neither have I seen a brand story on the social media that lets me, the viewer, complete the story, thus interacting with my own creativity on top of the brand’s narrative. In fact, I haven’t seen much innovation at all with any audio content on the social media!
Before we look at social storytelling examples, let’s get tips some from those who have really researched the subject!
Josefina Casas writes in her article “Storytelling: What it is and why all social media managers must use it”:
Storytelling is not only achieved through a blockbuster film, but also through a speech or an image. What’s important is WHAT we transmit or say in a sentence with less than 140 characters, or through a photo album on Facebook, a blackboard well organized with beautiful objects on Pinterest, or a microvideo.
Here are some should-dos that Josefina recommends:
- Reveal something personal, intimate, or unknown about the person or brand, otherwise it’s boring.
- Connect us with a specific us on an imaginary narrative journey (if a photo) or actual (speech or video), where it allows us to experience a transformation from the beginning, the knot, and outcome. Without this trip, there’s no story.
- Tell us about you/the origins of the brand. Make a little history. Tell people how it all started in a small office, or how young and skinny you or your partner were in comparison to nowadays.
- how today’s stories, real people from your company, those who are in the first or last link in building the brand. Behind the scenes is transparency and conveys authenticity.
- Include values in your content: say whether you help care for the planet, water, animals, or the environment. Tell us if you include people with disabilities, if you hire people of all races, ages and genders.
- Integrate content generated by the audience, they can also tell their story, how they see, feel, or interpret the message of the company.
- Associate characters from cartoons and movies admired by people with employees of the company. Is the sales department as invincible as “The Avengers “? Is the development team like….?
Some of the examples I’ve seen of social storytelling that stirred me to keep going back!
Every social channel has its limitations – and now its opening opportunities as well. I was researching fort his article when I came across three sterling storytelling campaigns in some of the social channels. I’ve picked one great example from each social network just to show the variety. But I was looking not for one-off campiagns, I was looking for scalable ideas that could become a really endless series of stories. Some content-marekers seems to have produced great ideas from adapting older ideas while others have produced ideas from thin air.
Twitter allows up to four images to be serialized, so you can easily use that format to sequentialise the steps of a story like Shocktop beer did. Notice how the objective is to bring a bit of romance into the very art of poring out their beer. Clearly every precious drop counts! This four-image storytellig is a very scalable idea! It can be anything going forward, from four images of the beer production, to four images of a man enjoying sipping, to four images of four men at a baseball game.
From Facebook: The Humans Of New York
It started as a photography project from Brandon Stanton, to try and create a gallery of New Yorkers. But he got drawn by their stories ans we all thank him for letting us also hear them!
The Humans of New York Facebook Page is full of stories you’d pass by and never guess who they are and what their stories maybe. These stories are are long and you’ll need to click on the “See More” button to read the full posts. But you always do! This Facebook initiaive makes us all stop to stare and care! What a beautiful idea! And again, how endless!
Hershel is very cleverly using several pictures on Instagram, like tiles, to complete a larger image … here they’re advertising their bags. They could as well use the technique to form grids that fill up like jigsaw pieces that complete their stories!
You too can easily create an image on your profile with three, six, or nine images. There’s a tool to help you with that called Instagrids. Or, if you prefer to use Photoshop or Sketch, the recommended dimensions for each square grid are 1080 pixels by 1080 pixels. See if you can go a step further than Herschel did to make the stories on the grid squares add up to something more intriguing!
Kellogg’s has a board on Pinterest dedicated to its historic advertising over decades. It’s a picture-gallery of the earliest to the latest ads and tells a story in itself.
Some of the fineprint on those ads makes intriguing reading. We get to know what ticked with people then, and what ticks now! Splendid! Plus lookhow the gallery can keep growing as the years roll on!
Buffer used Don Draper as the hook to explain 27 best copywriting secrets on Slideshare. Donald Francis “Don” Draper is a fictional character and protagonist on the AMC television series Mad Men, portrayed by Jon Hamm. It’s fun when an imaginary character is pulled in to show how something would have been done by him if he were really there!
Did this idea work? You bet! 600,000 views and still counting at the time this post was written! Is this idea scalable. Sure, it is! What about using Perry Mason next time? Or James Bond? Or Harry Potter …?
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of aspiring digital solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Storytelling Techniques”:
- Brand Storytelling: Inspire Your Customer To Play A Stellar Role!
- 12 Snazzy Visual Storytelling Tools You Can’t Afford To Overlook!