No one has an eternal monopoly on attention.
The media landscape has changed with the mediums of communication to the point where grabbing the attention of a single user or the masses has become an art in itself. People today watch TV, listen to the radio and read newspapers because they want to, not because they’re the only available way to get information.
The social media is the new BBC, Capital FM, and The Guardian. In fact, social media has become the most used media of communication as well. We send more messages via Facebook and WhatsApp than standard SMS. Which is why everyone needs social media storytelling.
To tell a great story and to capture the users’ attention, you need to evoke emotion and reaction. Let’s elaborate.
The fundamentals of social media storytelling
Storytelling matters. Stories provide clarity and memorability, they help you bond with your readers and entertain them. You need to understand that people aren’t logical beings – we engage with emotions. When hearing a story that made us feel anything it’s almost 22 times more likely for us to memorize it compared to hearing someone mumble plain facts.
With an attention span comparable to a goldfish, it’s easy for us to get distracted. If you manage to tell a great story, you are creating a distraction-free zone that allows you to lure them in and pay attention to you.
Great stories inspire great actions. Just remember the last time you’ve heard/read a story, watched a movie or listened to someone speak and got inspired to take some action? “Just do it”, “Enjoy life”, “I had a dream”? These words, combined with the emotions behind them make your body react—shivers, goosebumps—the true power of storytelling.
But how do you make a great story in a digital world? Let’s map out the fundamentals:
The content of the story, from design to copy, has to be captivating for your visitors.
A story must be structured. The beginning, the middle and the end have to be clear to the reader. Any piece of content that tells a story which strives to drive action, has to have an introduction, a body and a CTA at the end.
Backed by purpose
A story with no purpose is just plain gibberish. It’s easy for it to get lost in the background noise and just as easy for you to lose track of why you’re telling it. What’s the reason you’re telling a story? What’s the key takeaway you aim for the user?
Less is more, keep it simple. Cut out all the unnecessary extras. It doesn’t matter how good you think a sentence, image or video is. If it doesn’t add value to the story, ditch it.
First, you need to evaluate if the story is true to you. Don’t try to embellish it or paint out a facade to hide the truth behind the story. Users will be able to tell if you are lying and it will backfire. Your story has to resonate with your brand.
Keep these in mind when crafting a story – great social media storytelling has to have all of these in check.
Context and intent
Visualize a scenario.
You wake up and go to work. You pass by the flower shop, buy a bouquet of beautiful red roses, and take them to work. As you’re walking in the office, you give each woman/girl a single rose with a smile.
Now let’s think about the context of the story with various scenarios:
- How would they react if it was Valentines Day?
- How would they react if it was any other day of the year?
- How would they react if not any of them saw you gave a rose to anyone else?
Do you get the idea now?
The context and intent are tightly bound.
Now, going back to social media. On social media, you have a small window to hook the user with your story. There’s a lot of content on social content and if you don’t catch your user and get a response, you are on the losing end of the game. Each action they take or emotion you provoke is a response to your story.
You don’t need a business objective for each piece of content you publish.
You have the creative freedom to be funny, engage and bring value. To make it as human as possible.
The environment for telling a story
If you are telling a story to a few of your friends during a lunch break, you’re most certainly going to be telling it differently than, let’s say, in front of a full auditorium at the Olympia London’s Conference Centre. The frame of a story depends on the environment you’re in.
When telling a story during a lunch break, the break room is your room for the context. When you’re storytelling on social media, the user’s screen is. So you need to make something that is good enough for them to stop scrolling and pay attention.
A steady mix of passion and practicality
Make, try, test, do.
You can always put up as much content as possible and see what sticks. It requires a lot of work and a burning passion. But it isn’t practical.
Passionate people are so focused on getting their message across that they burn out their resources, budget and eventually their passion. And with such a volume of content shared on social, it’s super easy to get lost in mixed signals and unstructured data.
You need to know your audience, measure their engagement and deep-dive in the data you’ve collected. Map out meaningful performance indicators to understand the success of the stories you’re telling. Telling a story on social media won’t get you immediate nor structured response. It’s not like sitting around a campfire telling a story and seeing people’s reactions. You’re constrained by simple indicators like numbers of likes, shares, comments with which you’re trying to “calculate” the user’s engagement rate, retention, and the possibility of conversion.
However, tracking and evaluating your efforts helps enormously. You can sync your tone and voice, visualize the gaps in your storytelling, adapt it and target the right people. It’s always advisable to seek out help from a digital marketing agency skilled in this type of social media analysis.
Working with a team will definitely help lighten the workload, however, the creation and approval processes can get super complicated. For example:
- You have a story outline prepared.
- You seek out a user group to target and test it.
- You gather feedback, mostly unstructured.
- You gather data into a structure and make appropriate adjustments (to the audience, story or both)
- You publish the story and measure results, performance and engagement.
- You analyze data, document the results and double down on what works and resonates best with your audience.
Although a simple framework, each step includes a lot of approvals, synchronization, resources, time and effort. With a well-trained team, you are lowering the logistic needs but it gets harder to onboard new members. This is where tools like Planable come to play as they help move your creative and creation process forward.
The society today is driven by social media – we all are in the “always on” state of mind. No matter how emancipated we are as people, we are social beings driven by emotions. Validation and self-actualization are our primary motivators for sharing a story.
Don’t mix social storytelling with content marketing. Even though it’s an essential part in most forms of marketing, it isn’t marketing itself. Each social network has its flow, community mindset and set of rules. So keep this as a mantra for your storytelling efforts on different social media:
“Context, Environment, Substance, Intent”