Social media is the internet’s most powerful tool in connecting people with who and what they enjoy—and brands are no exception. This article will explain four ways in which brands can utilize social media storytelling to better establish a following of loyal audiences.
By Jason Beever
Thanks to social media, brands now have a tremendous opportunity to connect with their audiences on a deeper, more personal level. By utilizing creative approaches with the medium, some brands are proving that a social media profile can be much more than just additional real estate on the web to sell products or services; it can be an extraordinary outlet for storytelling.
Over a sustained and consistent long term strategy, using social media to tell your brand’s story can achieve greater brand loyalty than perhaps any other form of marketing. Let your ads tell us what you sell; your social media page should show us who you are.
Here are some ways to accomplish that:
The newer generations have spoken: a company can no longer get by on merely selling products; it must also be fueled by purpose. Where a brand stands on its values and mission—and its commitment to carrying them through with authenticity—is hugely important in establishing trust with consumers.
Social media serves as the perfect platform to give an authentic voice to these values and purpose. Today’s audiences are savvy enough to sniff out hollow promises and empty gestures; therefore, only post content that is in full alignment with your beliefs.
People desire and respect what’s real. Show us that you are driven by more than just your bottom line. Take a stance on important social issues. Let us know what you really think about topics that could be affecting your audience’s personal lives. Brands can no longer be passive about worldly concerns; there is an obligation now to actively participate in the society that we all share.
Be aware, though, that even if you seemingly take the righteous side on an issue, you can still face heavy backlash if your convictions do not come from an authentic place. (See Gillette.) Avoid sentimental, pandering statements. Always be true to your brand.
Tell People’s Stories
Brands are no longer just about logos and slogans; they are about the people behind them.
Social media allows for an unprecedented look behind the scenes of a company’s operations. Your followers value this material so highly because of its candid storytelling about real people, as told by real people.
The glimpse into a factory worker’s life at home; the fly-on-the-wall footage of your company’s lunch hour; the charity event held over the weekend. These stories share an honest look at the lives of your employees, each example revealing the humanity and relatability of your brand. A personal and emotional connection with a brand will create a diehard fan for life.
Crowdsource for Stories
Social media is a two-way conversation, after all. There are virtually limitless stories to be told once you open the door for your audience to share their stories as well.
When used effectively, a hashtag campaign can unite thousands under a banner that speaks to a relatable cause. These stories can inspire, enlighten, or even help create mass movements if they resonate strongly enough for audiences. One example is how Always launched the [#LikeAGirl](https://always.com/en-us/about-us/likeagirl-how-it-all-started) campaign to tell the stories of young women who defy society’s expectations, which has since garnered a following of millions.
Not every campaign must be serious, of course. Encouraging your followers to post a photo on Instagram of themselves with a juicy hamburger can elicit just as fervent a reaction. The important thing is to assess what type of content your particular audience best responds to, as well as what is most authentic to your brand’s tone.
It’s common knowledge by now at how much more effective visuals are than words in conveying information, particularly when it comes to telling stories. This is perhaps even truer when it comes to social media, a medium that is tailored for sharing and absorbing content told through images.
A photo album on Facebook, for example, can show otherwise unseen details of your company, which your followers will greatly appreciate the access to. Again, this is a chance to show who the people are behind the brand.
One of the undisputed kings in this arena is Airbnb and its dominance of Instagram marketing. By allowing users around the world to share photos of their homes, Airbnb effectively let its marketing campaign run itself. The enticing getaway spots and exotic hideaways don’t need to be professionally photographed to work; their dreamy promises of new adventures are enough to emotionally compel users to make travel plans ASAP.
Whether it’s a behind-the-scenes video or a timely hashtag campaign, social media is a platform ripe for sharing personal stories that resonate strongly with loyal followers. By playing to the medium’s strengths—allowing the communal, social aspect to take the forefront—your brand can tell stories that are authentic, relatable and compelling in virtually limitless ways.