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The Art of Storytelling on Social Media

It's not news that storytelling is the future of marketing - it's always been a key player, but social media is a game changer. Before the rise of social platforms, advertisers were effectively talking at their audiences rather than to them. Now, with how accessible brands are to us, the dynamic has shifted to being an ongoing conversation between brands and the public.

Social media users expect to have a relationship with the brands they're loyal to. They want to get to know them the same way they'd get to know a friend - which means sharing anecdotes, values, opinions, and beliefs. People will simply not patronize brands that don't share their values because where we put our money says something about who we are as people.

Decades of research and thousands of years of history back this up: humans are hardwired for stories. They help us to better understand the world and our place in it. We teach important concepts to kids using fables, fairy tales, and Disney movies. We share tales from the lives of important historical figures. We connect with one another and are moved - whether it's to tears, laughter, fury, empathy, or action depends on the story being told.

“A good story makes you feel something and is universal. They want to grasp your values and your commitment to excellence; be inspired and intrigued. Storytelling is the most powerful way to convey these ideas.”

- Mark Truby, VP of Communications at Ford

With the rise of social media, storytelling has become even more integral in content marketing. Social media is a crowded space, and it can be difficult to stand out. Storytelling allows businesses to differentiate themselves from their competitors and create a unique brand identity. This is increasingly important as social media users turn to content that feels less curated and more authentic, which, by the way, is the key.

Authenticity isn't something that can be taught; it just is. Brands that try to fake it get caught out in their half-truths and are thoroughly roasted for it by the internet. Just look at the car companies caught lying about emissions or Pepsi's disastrous commercial with Kendal Jenner. Big brands can ride out that kind of uproar until it fades from memory. Smaller brands and local businesses can't.

The takeaway here is to be honest and genuine 100% of the time. If it isn't true or doesn't represent your brand, don't post it.

So how do we go about turning this knowledge into action?

  1. Know your audience: To tell an effective story, you need to know your audience. What are their interests? What problems do they have? How can your brand help them?

  2. Keep it simple: The best stories are simple and easy to understand. Avoid using jargon or complex language that might confuse your audience. Worse yet, that language could come off as being inauthentic and alienating.

  3. Be authentic: Authenticity is key to effective storytelling. Don't try to be something you're not. Be true to your brand and your audience.

  4. Use visuals: Visuals are an important part of storytelling. Use images and videos to help bring your story to life. People are visual creatures to begin with, and the rise of video content has only emphasized this point.

  5. Be consistent: Develop a consistent brand voice and style that resonates with your audience. You want your audience to recognize your brand on sight, the same way they do big brands and their favourite online content creators.

We've all seen the articles praising Nike and Dove for their storytelling abilities, but take a little inspo from how these smaller brands use storytelling to connect with their audiences:

"Clothing made for the bold, the confident, and the beautifully complex. Reveal your layers in playful prints, styles, and comfort in sizes 3XS - 6X."

This brand's storytelling starts at their tagline, which paints a vivid image of someone who embraces life and is comfortable in their own skin, and a brand that embraces people of all shapes, sizes, and sexualities. Their storytelling is all about inclusivity, and it's backed up by their use of diverse models, sustainable practices, and a focus on accessibility. While other brands only celebrate Pride month in June, TomboyX is authentic in its queerness and celebration of all bodies, and it shows.

It's that authenticity that has their customer base coming back again and again.

Who knew changing the world could be as easy as changing your toilet paper? (Ok, we did.)

Charmin might be a more recognizable name, but Who Gives A Crap isn't taking any crap when it comes to its marketing! Fun and colourful, it's targeting the younger millennials and gen z who want playful packaging that comes with serious ethics. Not only are buyers getting TP that's way cuter than anything else, but they're getting the peace of mind that comes with knowing it's made of post-consumer recycled paper and that 50% of the company's profits go to building toilets in developing countries.

The storytelling here is that the brand is just like you: giving a shit about the world while shitposting about... well, you get the gist.

"Wear your identity.

Share your individuality.

Love your story."

This black-owned afro pick brand says that picks are more than just a tool to care for natural hair.

"They are also a symbol of unity, strength, and heritage. Through the marriage of art + culture, we're on a mission to bring afro textured hair back to the "norm."

This is storytelling at its finest. The honouring of history and the reclaiming of identity is undeniably powerful. This brand urges customers to take pride in their natural hair, challenging outdated eurocentric beauty standards and discriminatory stereotypes. Everything from the designs on the picks to the product names tells that story and reinforces that messaging.

To drive the point home one more time: storytelling on social media is a powerful tool for businesses looking to connect with their audience and make a genuine change in the world.

By sharing stories that resonate with people, you can build trust, increase engagement, and ultimately drive conversions. Be authentic. Find your brand voice. Go forth and tell your story.


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