Storytelling has always played a part in successful marketing.
Stories enable us to build personality and create a connection with consumers. But can we actually tell a story on social media? Is it possible to narrate a story with social media posts that are supposed to be short and sweet?
It turns out there are many ways to use social media for storytelling!
In this post, I’d love to share 20 actionable ways to use social media for storytelling.
Ready to dive in?
1. Write your entire story in a Facebook post
National Public Radio (NPR) studied over 3,000 of their Facebook link posts and found that shorter posts (those under 120 characters) had higher click-through rates than longer posts (those above 280 characters). But, that’s not the full picture!
Longer posts had more “Other Clicks” such as clicks to “See More”, which appears on long Facebook posts. This could mean that people got everything they wanted from the post itself without having to click on the link. That’s great if you are telling a story rather than trying to drive traffic to another site.
The Humans of New York Facebook Page is a great case study for this. Most of the posts on the Facebook Page are long and require people to click on the “See More” button to read the full posts. While it feels like a hassle to read such Facebook posts, they actually receive incredibly engagement. I believe it is because they tell beautiful, captivating stories.
2. Create a Facebook photo album
A photo tells a thousand words; many photos tell many thousand words.
Creating a Facebook photo album is another great way to share a story with your followers. This tends to be perfect for events where you would have many photos taken to share.
Here’s a bonus: I believe Facebook re-shares the whole album on the News Feed whenever you add new photos to it (e.g. Buffer added 3 new photos to the album: Buffer Meetups.). This allows you to share the album with potentially more people.
During our Hawaii retreat last year, we decided to share photos from teammates and their partners and families through a Facebook album. This gave people who were interested a chance to follow our retreat experience.
3. Produce a long Facebook video
Sometimes, even a collection of photos might not be sufficient to tell the story you have in mind. Perhaps you can consider videos if you have the resources and time. As Facebook videos can be up to 120 minutes long, they are great for longer stories. Furthermore, Facebook is tweaking its News Feed algorithm to prioritize longer videos that engage viewers.
Tough Mudder told a great story — many stories, actually — with its new promotional video for Tough Mudder 2017. It’s a montage of interviews with people who have attempted Tough Mudder on how the race have changed them for the better.
4. Go live on Facebook
Being authentic is a key aspect of storytelling, and there’s no other way to be more “real” than going live to engage with your audience. It is also a great way to reach your Fans since Facebook ranks live videos higher in the News Feed when they are live than after they end.
Candace Payne’s (as known as Chewbacca Mom) Facebook Live video was the most watched Facebook Live in 2016 (or perhaps ever). While it isn’t a branded content, it has a nice three-act structure (a model often used in screenwriting) we can learn from:
- Setup — Introduction of the video where she describes her trip to Kohl’s
- Confrontation — Build-up as she unboxes the Chewbacca mask
- Resolution — Climax where she laughs uncontrollably
5. Sequence your Facebook ads
I learned about this amazing storytelling method on Social Media Examiner. It is such a clever way to tell a story and get results!
Refinery29, a fashion, style, and beauty website, partnered with Adaptly and Facebook to test the effectiveness of sequenced messaging of Facebook ads (or storytelling through Facebook ads).
One of the test groups was shown three Facebook ads in a narrative sequence — introduction to the brand, an article from the brand, a call-to-action for an email subscription) — while the other test group was shown three Facebook ads with different creatives but same email subscription call-to-action.
They found that the test group which was told a story through the ads converted at the highest rate.
6. Create a narrative with your Instagram caption
While a high-quality image is important for an Instagram post, a captivating caption can help to complete the story by sharing a narrative.
Airbnb is one of my favorite storytellers on Instagram. This is because they not only use beautiful photos but also tell a short story through the caption of each photo.
7. Tell a visual story with your Instagram profile
A creative way to share on Instagram is to use several posts to create a huge image on your Instagram profile. When done well, it can look very appealing.
Herschel Supply Co. has been recently using this method of visual storytelling on Instagram to promote their newest collection of bags.
8. Curate user-generated content on Instagram
We curate user-generated content by sharing short stories from our community through photos on our Instagram profile. Another way to curate user-generated content is to create a branded hashtag for a story that you want to tell. TOMS does this with its annual One Day #WithoutShoes campaign, and in 2016, this hashtag campaign generated 27,435 Instagram posts from its customers.
9. Create a short video or boomerang on Instagram
Many companies have been using Instagram videos to tell short stories. (Here are 17 inspiring examples from HubSpot.)
Unlike Facebook videos that can be 120 minutes long, Instagram videos can only be up to 60 seconds long. But constraints can help breed creativity. Great stories can be told in seconds. One of my recent favorite video stories is from Nike.
10. Use a series of Instagram stories
And, of course, you can tell Instagram Stories (or Snapchat Stories).
Even though there’s no limit to the number of Instagram stories you can post a day, we found that 10 stories a day are a good amount of us. With 10 stories, you can share quite a bit of content. Here’s a recent example from us:
11. Tweet a storm
Can’t fit your story into 140 characters or one tweet? Try using more tweets.
Tweetstorm is the practice of sharing a train of thought that is longer than 140 characters through a series of tweets. They are like mini-essays. Usually, the tweets will start or end with a number to indicate the sequence of the tweets.
Here’s an example from Ryan Hoover when he shared Product Hunt’s acquisition by AngelList:
12. Create a Twitter Moment
According to Twitter, Moments is a new and dynamic way for people to tell their stories. They’re like tweetstorms but more beautiful and interactive. This creative format of telling a story could be a way to drive clicks and engagement.
Here’s a Twitter Moment we created to share the history of Buffer:
13. Attach multiple photos to a tweet
Research by Twitter has shown that tweets with photos get 313% more engagement. While most tweets with images have only one image per tweet, attaching multiple images to a tweet is a great way to tell a story. It helps to give more details to your story or allows you to tell a longer story.
Here’s a tweet with multiple photos by The New York Times during the recent Super Bowl. Having more than one photo tells people who saw the tweet more about the game than just having one photo.
14. Create a GIF to share on Twitter
GIFs have become a popular form of content on Twitter. In 2015, more than 100 million GIFs were shared on Twitter. Apart from being popular, GIFs are entertaining and tend to perform well, too. CoSchedule found that their tweets with memes and GIFs receive far more likes and retweets than regular images.
Here’s a fun, short story told through a GIF:
Apart from telling a story through a GIF, another popular use of GIF is to spice up a tweet by adding an element of emotion or fun. Here’s an example.
15. Spread your own hashtag
But you don’t always have to make your branded hashtag go viral. It can be meaningful enough when your customers and community understand the purpose of your hashtag and use it in their tweets, too.
At Buffer, we started using #BufferLove in our tweets last year to show our appreciation to people who shared our tweets, mentioned us, or gave us a shoutout. Gradually, our community began using it, too!
16. Tap into a trending hashtag
Instead of using a hashtag to curate stories about your company or community, you can also tap into a trending hashtag to share your brand story. It doesn’t always have to be a viral hashtag (though, it might be great). Most importantly, the hashtag has to be relevant and appropriate for your brand.
Since it’s legendary Super Bowl tweet, Oreo has been participating in relevant hashtag conversations such as #MarsAnnouncement, #NationalCookieDay, and #FathersDay with timely and entertaining tweets.
17. Design a relevant Snapchat Geofilter
From our State of Social 2016 report, we found that only 5 percent of marketers and brands created on-demand geofilters in 2016.
If your audience is on Snapchat, Snapchat Geofilters could be one of the best ways to reach them. Entrepreneur Chris Hall was able to get $0.001 cost per thousand impressions (CPMs) for his Snapchat filter and generated over 10.5 million views of his filter in just seven hours.
In 2015, (RED) and Snapchat partnered for World AIDS Day to offer Snapchat filters in an attempt to raise funds for organizations fighting against AIDS.
18. Create a YouTube channel or playlist
Among all the different types of content (videos, social media posts, news articles, etc.), videos are the type of content that most people consume thoroughly, according to a research by HubSpot. Personally, I think it’s the best format for storytelling. Videos tend to capture my attention much more than articles.
Airbnb has a YouTube playlist, Airbnb Stories, which contains remarkable stories from the Airbnb community. In the playlist, there are videos created by both Airbnb and its community. Here’s a story of an Airbnb host, Michael:
19. Use an infographic
Infographic is a great format for visual storytelling. A study by Contently’s data scientists on 3,200 pieces of content created using the Contently platform found that infographics have a higher completion rate (73 percent) than blog posts (66 percent).
In the infographic below, Happify, a company that aims to help people lead happier and more meaningful lives, shares the importance of happiness and ways to make ourselves happier.
20. Create a SlideShare presentation
Over 70 million people visit SlideShare to learn new things, making it one of the top 100 most-visited websites in the world. SlideShare presentation decks make it easy for people to consume information as flipping through a deck and absorbing the information is faster than reading through pages of text.
We previously turned one of our blog posts, If Don Draper Tweeted: The 27 Copywriting Formulas That Will Drive Clicks and Engagement on Social Media, into a SlideShare deck. It has become one of our most-viewed SlideShare decks, with more than 600,000 views at the time this post was written.
Over to You
There are countless ways of telling stories on social media, and I hope these 20 ideas have inspired you to experiment with creative ways to tell your brand story.
As I’m sure you are much more creative than me, I’d love to hear how you have been telling your brand stories on social media. If you are up for it, feel free to respond and share the link to a social media post where you told a story. Thanks!