How to Use Storytelling on Your Social Media Campaigns to Increase Your Engagement

Every so often, I will feature guest posts from writers who actually have important and interesting things to say. Patrick Bailey is a professional freelance writer, working mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He wanted to write about storytelling and social media, so I let him take a crack at it. At 1500+ words, I think he knocked it out of the park.

Patrick Bailey, a writer who specializes in mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He wrote this piece on storytelling in social media.Even before civilization came to be and nothing was in print, humans were hard-wired to listen and tell stories. Stories became the backbone of many ancient cultures because they were passed on from generation to generation through verbal means. Traditions were built through sharing stories. Stories were written as books, and they became the time-enduring classics.

Now, we have the capacity to share and record stories in the digital world. With the use of the Internet, blogging became an avenue for ordinary people to share their stories whether it was something personal or related to their business. After blogging, social media became a tool for people to share the mini-stories of their lives.

That is just one side of the coin — in fact, there are many facets of storytelling that shows how much power it holds to influence others. In marketing, storytelling plays a big role in capturing the minds and hearts of readers and viewers.

What is storytelling in social media?

Storytelling in social media is quite different when it comes to those found in books, magazines, or even blogs. Since people have a shorter attention span when browsing through their social media feeds, it is important that our stories are concise yet captivating. Here are some of the characteristics of an engaging story in social media:

  • Stories should start with an attention-grabbing headline or first statement. The stories you post in social media should be interesting from the beginning. This is the hook that makes readers or viewers stay engaged.
  • Stories should be concise. Unlike blogs, people don’t have the patience to read page-long stories about you or your brand. It is important to be concise and only state important details in your story.
  • Stories should be accompanied with other multimedia forms. Although text can be engaging in itself, it is proven that multi-sensory experiences in the digital world can help users retain far more information: Include images or videos with your story.
  • Stories should have a strong call-to-action at the end. Before even creating a captivating story in social media, you need to think of your primary goal why you are setting up the campaign in the first place. Do you want people to visit your website? Do you want more email subscribers? Do you want them to purchase your product? Think about your goal and start making your story from there.

Now that we understand the characteristics of an engaging story in social media, how can we create one from start to finish? Here are some steps you can take.

Think about your audience persona.
Some stories may be interesting for a particular group, and yet some wouldn’t really bat an eye on the same topic. When formulating your story, think about the type of audience that your platform or business serves. This is called your audience persona, which means personifying the archetype of audience that you may have. Think of your audience persona based on the following characteristics:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Cultural background
  • Where they live
  • What they do
  • What their problems are
  • What they look like
  • What things do they need

These considerations can help you create a story that will be interesting to your target audience. Without building an audience persona, you may end up formulating a story with full effort and no engagement.

Remember the rules of capturing attention.
One of the most popular copywriting formulas called AIDA, which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. These four pillars of effective copy can also be incorporated into storytelling. Now that you have established your audience persona, it is important to place yourself in their shoes. What would be a story that can capture their attention?

Many marketers would go for the first-person story technique. They can talk about their personal struggles which make them relatable to their target audience. This is very effective because people want to know others’ story and how they have succeeded.

For example a company called Mountain Springs Recovery focuses on addiction rehabilitation. They use storytelling campaigns through testimonials of others’ struggles in rehabilitation and how they have succeeded through the help of the company. This is a great way to tug to your audience’s heartstrings and make them read the rest of your story. Other attention-grabbing techniques include:

  • Sharing a short case study of your previous client. Ask permission from a previous client to tell their background and how they have achieved success through your business.
  • A story about someone who benefited from your business’ advocacy. If your business supports an advocacy (e.g., helping cancer patients, providing scholarships, etc.), share a short story of how these people have benefited from your business, and how others can support them by supporting your business as well.
  • Your own before and after story. If you are a professional who has experienced the same problems as your target audience, you can use your own story as a marketing tool. For example, a fitness coach can post his or her before and after results while sharing a story of their struggles and triumphs in the weight loss journey.

Remember what your teacher taught you.
Do you remember in literature class when your teacher would remind you of the parts of the story? Mostly, an engaging story or a narrative would include the characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. You don’t have to elaborate too much when creating your social media posts. All you have to do is to keep them present when thinking about your story. Make it clear by introducing the main characters of your story (Is it you? Your client? A person you know?), where and when it happened, the premise, what the problem is and how the problem is solved.

Remembering these elements can help you create a formula that would always be engaging to your target audience in mind.

Experiment with multimedia.
Engagement is not just about using one form of media. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter have different tools to help create engaging stories.

This is where you can start experimenting. If you already have a small audience you can work on, try to create different types of content. Start by crafting your story accompanied by a photo, and in some instances you would want to shoot a video.

When you create social media accounts, engagement is counted as the amount of views, likes, shares, and comments in your content. If you notice that one form of media is more effective than the other, you already know what format of stories you would want to post in the future.

Essentially, focusing on the story format that your audience wants is the key to gaining engagement and social proof. As other people see that you have likes, shares, and comments in your stories, the more that they will be curious to see what your business is about.

Build trust — don’t rely on click bait.
Unless your ultimate goal is to get views for your business merely in your website or social media accounts, don’t exploit people’s attention through click bait. Clickbait is when writers over-sensationalize stories in order to get views.

It is best not to rely on this technique as it may cause people to lose trust in your business — resulting in bad comments, poor feedback, and eventually dwindling attention. Make sure your stories are genuine, and if you do promise something, be sure you can deliver. Do not simply make up stories in order to get future clients to sign up, then setting them for disappointment.

Utilize call-to-action buttons.
As mentioned earlier, an engaging story in social media must be built with a goal in mind. This goal is realized by creating a call-to-action. For blogs and websites, a call-to-action is usually done by posting a link or a sign-up form. However, social media is a little different because you can use buttons when you make sponsored posts for your stories.

A clear example would be Facebook sponsored posts. When you boost a Facebook post, you’ll notice that they will give you an option to place a button at the bottom of your sponsored post. Below your story, you can create a button that can make the users:

  • Message your Facebook page
  • Contact your business number
  • Visit your website
  • Shop in your built-in store

Whatever your call-to-action is, make sure that it is clear to your audience and they can easily access it through these buttons.

Create stories, engage your audience.
With so many businesses vying for people’s attention is social media, you can stand out by following these actionable tips in creating engaging stories.

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. Find him on Twitter at @Pat_Bailey80.

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.