One of the biggest mistakes people make with social media is forgetting that you can’t make your posts compelling unless you tell a story that will capture people’s attention. Using a well-structured and clear narrative in social media posts increases the chances of people engaging with and sharing it–two things that help you score well with social media algorithms, which in turn means that your posts have a bigger chance of being seen by more people.
Why is narrative so important for marketing?
One thing that people need to remember is that marketing isn’t the same as selling. Good marketing doesn’t prescribe or push, it simply creates a connection between you and your customer, whether that’s based on a love for horror fiction, cat memes, or fancy cocktails. And telling stories is one of the best ways to create a connection, especially online.
Think about how popular beauty influencers create a narrative in social media posts centered on their lives. Their ability to put on makeup well or teach people to get good skin is only part of the draw. It’s the narrative of their lives that actually keeps people hooked: whether they’ve just broken up with someone or had a fight with another influencer, and so on. These are ongoing stories that keep fans engaged and coming back–and buying products because they identify with the influencer’s narrative.
How can a business use narrative in social media marketing?
That sounds great for influencers, but what if you’re not one? Not a problem! You can (and should) still harness the power of narrative in social media. First thing to remember is that “narrative” doesn’t mean “fiction”–you’re not telling fairy tales to people (unless that’s your brand and/or product, of course!). But remember: the story you tell about your brand shouldn’t just be a constant repetition of what your history is, what your products are, and so on. Your stories–especially your narrative in social media–should be centered on the customer or audience.
How do I build audience-centered narratives?
An audience-centered narrative means that your narratives–whether they are informative, humorous, or anecdotes–provide value to your audience. That’s all it is. To determine what’s valuable, you first have to be aware of who your audience is.
Then, ask yourself: what do they hope for? What are they afraid of? What do they aspire to become? These are the foundations of your narrative.
A good example of this is one of my previous clients, who is a divorce mediator. Her job is basically to keep divorcing couples from having to go through an acrimonious and costly court battle. She used Facebook for marketing, and her posts used to be focused on nitty-gritty details that were presented in a dry and sometimes intimidating way. Her posts had a lot of useful information, but without a narrative to put them into context, it was very difficult for her potential customers to apply it to their own situation.
She switched her approach to presenting tips in the form of informal case studies that focused heavily on how people could make small, doable changes to lessen their stress and the conflicts they were facing during their divorce. The case studies encouraged people to start discussions in the comments, which then drew more people who hadn’t heard of her business to her page.
What are different ways of presenting narrative in social media?
We’ve looked at how you can write posts that present a narrative, but really, images and videos can often have even more impact. Video narratives make sense for a lot of people, but creating narrative with images is something that seems to puzzle a lot of people whenever I’ve brought it up in workshops or client meetings. It’s really simple: imagine that you’re creating a comic strip.
Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook allow you to create carousels, which is a really great tool for creating a narrative. People are naturally curious, and your carousels should encourage this curiosity and make them keep going to see what happens in the end.
I found a charming example on the Chinese social media platform Weibo which I’ve pasted below. I consider this one of the best examples of narrative in social media: it doesn’t need any explanations and it has enough mystery to keep you clicking to the next image.
Here’s a quick breakdown of why it’s so effective:
1) Start with a dynamic image that piques curiosity.
2) Let the story develop in the next few images. Make sure you make the emotions of the narrative clear.
3) Add a twist or inevitable outcome.
4) A great final image that pays off and makes your audience want to engage with the narrative through comments or sharing.
Using narrative in social media doesn’t have to be difficult. We listen to and tell stories every day, which means narratives are second nature to us. All you need to do is find the right story to tell!