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Cracking the art of storytelling on social media

Tamanna Mishra
19th Oct 2017
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Think about the most memorable advertising and marketing campaigns of all time, from Cadbury’s “Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye” to Apple’s 1984 TVC. What is common to all of these iconic campaigns is the art of good storytelling. The platforms, the style, and the content formats may have changed over the years. The style of storytelling too might be different depending on consumer segments and platforms. But great marketing has great storytelling at its heart.

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

But on social media, the stakes are higher. When done right, it could go viral and make your brand a household name. But if something goes wrong, the negative feedback is deafening. Clearly, storytelling in the age of social media is a whole different ballgame. But it is also something brands can no longer shy away from. Social media is where your consumers are at now. It presents an opportunity to tell your brand stories and make yourself more memorable, one “awesome share” at a time.

What is even more amazing is that social media has truly democratized marketing and advertising. Start-ups and small businesses can get in on it too because storytelling is no longer limited to exorbitant TV and print spaces.

Why start-ups and small businesses need to get on the storytelling bandwagon

Simply put, they need to do it to survive, to be remembered, to grow. Nothing works like storytelling to instantly connect with your audience. Sure, they can see your brochures and leaflets and buy you. But with no real connect, they will move on and forget about you as soon as your brand has served its purpose.

The cause-effect narrative of storytelling is similar to what our brain uses to configure thoughts, speech, and most decisions. The formula is relatable and memorable because of its regularity in life and pop culture. At the same time, storytelling engages your audience in an emotional process and strips away some of the adult cynicism and scepticism. Rational considerations can also be overcome. Think of social media storytelling as an Apple product launch. I don’t know about you, but I start every launch with a load of scepticism about how much I actually need their latest phone, facial recognition, and VR. I find myself in an Apple store just a few months later, because of the story the phone represents. I know the tactic like the back of my hands, and it still works, every single time!

We could get into the nuances of advertising or the manipulation of storytelling tactics. But marketers have a job at hand, as do businesses. I am not one to take them to task for doing their jobs well.

How to get your storytelling right on social media

To tell your brand stories well, it is important to get your point of view and positioning right. This is especially important for start-ups, who are just getting started on messaging and positioning.

Your stories need to consistently represent your personality and core values as a brand. Ask yourself – what do you want to say, and why.

The next step is to understand your audience deeply. You want to reach them on effective platforms with stories they can relate with. More importantly, you want to engage the social media groups and communities where your audience is most active. Your demographics must be crystal clear before you get started with your stories.

One of my initial struggles with social media marketing for start-ups has been the lack of focus on visual strategy. Words might work for your blog, even Medium and LinkedIn at times. But given the search algorithms of nearly all social media platforms today, videos, GIFs, and pictures form basic hygiene. Your social media content strategy needs to break down the content formats to granular levels and work from there. If you need a freelancer or paid software to get quick and easy access to visuals, you might want to consider investing in one before you kick off your social media campaign. Leaving things to the last minute will affect quality. When you are pining for attention on people’s cluttered social media feeds, the quality of your visuals will help you stand out.

Another thing you need to bear in mind as you engage in brand storytelling is to understand whether the stories you want to tell are worth listening to or sharing. As a founder, you could have a much more emotional connect with your stories, milestones, and wins. But the question you need to ask is whether your audience will care about it. Think from your customer’s perspective. Put yourself in their shoes and ask whether the story would resonate with you if you weren’t already this engaged with the brand. You want to form an emotional connect and want your audience to try and find more information about your products and services. If you are cluttering their newsfeeds with irrelevant – or worse, narcissistic – stories that don’t really affect them, your storytelling could actually have an adverse effect.

Finally, look beyond the closed walls of your marketing ‘war room’ to avoid insular perspectives and find stories that resonate with your audience. Your customers or related demographics, their experiences, and lifestyle needs can help you not only relate closely with them but also showcase how your brand, product, or service fills in the gap. One brand that has been doing a brilliant job of it lately is Bank Bazaar. Personal finance remains an incredibly boring space. Yet, the company has found a very interesting way to tell real people’s stories relating to savings, sabbaticals, life-changing decisions, and more. They have been able to engage the community-at-large in these stories. What’s more, they even get people to think about their own life aspirations and related personal finance needs. That is storytelling at its best.

If you look around, you have stories everywhere – in the history of your business, the life story of its founders, and the stories of the audience you are trying to reach. All you need is to have an eye for it and sound processes to quickly translate it into relatable, easily consumable content.

What stories are you telling on your social media platforms?

Read Also: How to use storytelling to market your brand

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