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20 Creative Ways to Use Social Media for Storytelling…

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?

20 Ways to Use Social Media for Storytelling

Navigating this article

To make it easier to navigate this article, the 20 ideas are grouped according to the various social media platforms. If you prefer, feel free to jump to your favorite section by using the quick links below:

Let’s go!


Facebook

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.

Longer posts had significantly higher adjusted click-through rates.

(NPR calculates adjusted click-through rate by adding link clicks and other clicks together and dividing that sum by post impression.)

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.

An idea to try:

If you want your Facebook fans to read stories about your customers or your company (instead of driving them to another site), it might be better to write longer Facebook posts. Instead of summarizing the story or just having the title, tell the full story.

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.

Buffer Hawaii Retreat Facebook Photo Album

(If you are curious, here’re our Facebook photo albums.)

An idea to try:

Whenever you organize an event, invite your colleagues and the event attendees to snap as many photos as they like and send them to you. Create a Facebook photo album with the best 10, 20, or 30 photos.

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.

An idea to try:

Collect video testimonies from your company’s biggest fans or messages from your colleagues and compile them into a video montage to share on Facebook. For example, we did a Facebook video for Thanksgiving last year.

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

An idea to try:

It can be tough to go onto a Facebook live without preparation. Try creating a storyline using the three-act structure for the live video. This can be a live video where you share tips, a behind-the-scene video, or a question-and-answer session.

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.

Refinery29's Facebook ads — introduction to the brand, an article from the brand, a call-to-action for an email subscription

They found that the test group which was told a story through the ads converted at the highest rate.

Refinery29's Facebook ads study results

An idea to try:

If Facebook advertising is part of your social media marketing strategy, give this sequencing method a try. Introduce your brand with the first ad, share something about your brand with the second ad, and have a call-to-action on the third ad. Here’s how to sequence your Facebook ads.

Alternatively, you can use Facebook or Instagram carousel ads to create a similar effect. You can create carousel ads by selecting the “Multiple images in one ad” option when you are creating your ad.


Instagram

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.

With such an image and caption, I’m so intrigued to read the story! If you are, too, here’s the story.

An idea to try:

For your next Instagram post, share a short story about the photo with more than three sentences. It might be helpful to note that Instagram captions are limited to 2,200 characters, and after three lines of text the captions become truncated with an ellipsis.

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.

Herschel Instagram profile

An idea to try:

If it fits your Instagram style or if you want to experiment with new ideas on Instagram, create an image on your profile with three, six, or nine images. A tool to help you with that is Instagrids. If you prefer to use Photoshop or Sketch, the recommended dimensions for each square grid are 1080 pixels by 1080 pixels.

  • Three-grid image: 1080 pixels in height by 3,240 pixels in width.
  • Six-grid image: 2,160 pixels in height by 3,240 pixels in width.
  • Nine-grid image: 3,240 pixels in height by 3,240 pixels in width.

8. Curate user-generated content on Instagram

This strategy has helped us grow our Instagram account from 4,000 to 20,000 followers over the past year. (And it is a great way to get to know people from our community!)

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.

TOMS Instagram Hashtag Campaign

An idea to try:

Encourage your Instagram followers to post a photo on Instagram with your branded hashtag and promise to re-post a few of the best ones or send the person with the best photo a small gift.

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.

An idea to try:

Create a short 30-second or 60-second video, sharing the history of your company. The video doesn’t need to have stunning footage to work. Nike’s video told a powerful visual story purely with words.

Here are four actionable tips from NewsWhip after the team studied the most successful Instagram videos:

  • Stick to the point (This doesn’t mean your videos have to be short.)
  • Use on-screen captions to help storytelling
  • Use text captions to expand on the video story
  • Square videos are more popular than landscape ones but experiment with both

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: