| May 31, 2023 | | 13 min read

How to leverage social media storytelling for brand loyalty and engagement


More than half of consumers (55 percent) say they learn about brands via social media (Sprout Social). As a social media pro, you have unlimited opportunities to reach those consumers and tell them a story about your clients. Will you make them laugh? Cry? Feel inspired? A combination of all three?

Be successful with social media on behalf of your clients by downloading “The ultimate guide to effective social media for business” now.

Either way, you can use social media storytelling to make them remember, and that’s a major piece of the marketing puzzle we’ll uncover in this article.

What is social media storytelling?

Social media and storytelling go hand in hand. Every post the average person makes can be a standalone story or a small piece of a larger narrative. It’s the same for brands, but companies also use social media storytelling to weave a tale about the company itself.

A brand’s story could be about its inception, its mission, or its product and services. For social media agencies, understanding the power of an engaging brand story can help you build stronger, more appealing social media management packages for your clients and prospects. All you need to do is figure out how to bring your client’s story to life.

Importance of storytelling in social media marketing

Whether you’re exploring the possibilities inherent in white-label social media management or just want to expand your own in-house offerings, it’s crucial you know why social storytelling is so vital.

Creating a story around a brand can transform that entity from a nameless, faceless corporation or organization into something consumers can relate to. Facts and figures can make an impact, but stories resonate. You can leverage a story to:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Reach new demographics
  • Boost engagement
  • Drive conversations

It’s all about making emotional connections and building on those connections can help you meet strategic goals. There’s science to help back up that theory, too. Researchers have found that three chemicals released when we listen to a story (dopamine, cortisol, and oxytocin) can actually improve our ability to connect emotionally, experience empathy, and retain information (Harvard Business).

How to create a social media storytelling strategy

For brand stories to work as part of a larger marketing plan, you need to have a strategy that shapes how you create and share brand-related content.

1. Understand your client's brand story

Brand stories should be as authentic as possible. There’s some room for creative license, but stories should still be rooted in a genuine snapshot of real people and an actual timeline.

Tips for conducting research to uncover brand stories

Interviews seem like the easiest way to get to know a client’s brand story. But you’ll quickly discover that many business owners are too close to their concept to identify every detail worth sharing. A fresh perspective can be a valuable thing, which is why it’s so crucial to conduct lots of research.

  • Take an oral history — and then look deeper. Ask your clients why they started their business and what the launch process looked like, but don’t stop there. Interview employees, look over early press coverage, and ask lots of follow-up questions to see what else you can uncover.
  • Read through online reviews. Look at review sites to see what callouts consumers are making. What are the common threads woven through the majority of reviews? What values do customers associate with the brand at hand?
  • Figure out what shared challenge consumers are facing. Get to know the target audience and you’ll be better positioned to shape the brand story in a way that’s still authentic, yet caters directly to consumer pain points and desires.

How to Identify key brand elements and messaging

A brand’s name, logo, core graphics and images, color scheme, typography, and voice form the root of every aspect of marketing — online and off.

Taglines and slogans can also promote brand awareness by distilling core values into a short, easy-to-remember phrase that acts like a text-based earworm. Jingles, such as, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” include the brand name but also convey that State Farm is about so much more than insurance. They’re neighborly, supporting people like they’re more important than mere clients.

Other brands use name-free taglines. Disney’s “The happiest place on Earth” is both instantly recognizable and highly evocative, making consumers think about joy and how Walt’s parks are the perfect arena for unbridled happiness. These taglines aren’t just throwaway snippets, they’re a valuable part of a larger story.

Brand messaging should:

  • Reflect the client’s key differentiator. What makes the company different from competitors?
  • Evoke emotion. Experts believe that 95% of cognition isn’t conscious but rather tied to our subconscious, emotional brain (Harvard Business School). Playing up to that subconscious could help nudge the decision-making process in your favor.
  • Align with your brand voice. All messaging should tie back to the brand voice you identified and outline early on. A serious, scientifically minded brand shouldn’t suddenly have a playful tagline, and a lighthearted product line should share content that feels fun rather than stiff.
  • Still have substance. Emotion is essential, but don’t abandon features and benefits altogether. Messages rotted in substance will help you cover all your bases.

2. Putting your client's brand story into action

Brand stories can only be heard and embraced if you get them in front of the right audience. That requires a well-thought-out strategy that includes distributing content through the social channels most likely used by your target demographic.

Establish the goal of the storytelling campaign

Every campaign blueprint should be created in reverse. You identify your goal first, then you plot out how to get from start to finish.

  • Storytelling campaigns on social media can have a number of different goals, including:
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Improving community engagement
  • Finesse brand reputation (either establishing a good rep or repairing a poor one)
  • Driving traffic to an off-platform destination, such as a product landing page
  • Generating leads, such as service inquiries or estimates
  • Boosting sales

Choose the right social media platforms for the campaign

Social media and storytelling are just two important elements of a social marketing campaign. The third and possibly most crucial is choosing the right channels to carry your message.

Most brands will utilize more than one platform, and for good reason. Internet users spend an average of 2 hours and 26 minutes on social media each day (Global Web Index), and that time may be split between an average of 7 unique accounts (Data Reportal). You want to have a brand presence on multiple platforms to cover all your bases, but there’s no need to spread yourself thin by trying to use platforms where you’re unlikely to find your core demographic.

Here’s some food for thought:

  • Over 80% of adults in the United States have a Facebook account (Social Pilot)
  • 24% of businesses say Facebook Live videos are highly effective (EnterpriseAppsToday)
  • Twitter is popular with 54% of B2B marketers (Statista)
  • Gen Z presence on Twitter is increasing 30% faster than on Instagram (Edison Research)
  • 60% of LinkedIn’s user base can be attributed to users between the ages of 25 and 34 (Data Reportal)
  • TikTok’s audience skews young (aged 18 to 24) and female (approximately 54%) (Data Reportal)

This list is far from comprehensive, but it should demonstrate that there is value in researching which platforms are best suited to your content ideas and ideal audience. If you’re concentrating on video marketing solutions to promote a highly visual brand, Twitter probably won’t be first on your list, but TikTok or YouTube might.

Create a content calendar to guide the campaign

Content calendars should include not only the dates and times you’ll be publishing content, but also what content you’ll be publishing and how those assets fit into your overall strategy.

Is it a simple in-feed, text-based post or is a brand rep going live? Are you paying to boost gated content, like a downloadable eBook, or sharing a tongue-in-cheek meme?

Calendars should include a combination of unique, branded content as well as curated content, user-generated content, and “special event” content, such as seasonal or holiday posts. Leave room for spontaneous posts, such as reactions to newsworthy events, and look at the big picture often to make sure you’re being consistent in what you’re offering from platform to platform without being boring and repetitive.

Tips for creating engaging social media content

Storytelling for social media is an art form, but it’s also based on science. You don’t guess whether consumers like your content, you know for sure based on analytics measuring things like click-through rates, retweets and shares, follows, and comments. Here are a few ways to increase engagement through storytelling.

1. Use visual storytelling to convey their brand

More than half (54 percent) of consumers say they want to see more video content from the brands they support (HubSpot). Studies show that visual content is easier to pay attention to and easier to remember. It also may be more emotionally stirring — the combination of moving graphics and a charged soundtrack can easily beat out pure text when there’s a time limit and multimedia tools involved.

Leverage the visual media trend by incorporating video-based storytelling. Film how-tos, behind-the-scenes look at company operations, or interviews with team members.

2. Incorporate user-generated content to build a community

User-generated content (UGC) is popular because of its incredibly low cost to produce (consumers do the heavy work — you’re just repackaging their content and sharing it). But it’s also incredibly authentic, giving your brand more social cache. Consumers believe that if people like them are investing in the brand, there must be a good reason for it.

Use UGC as a launching pad for questions and requests for additional content. “Lauren mixes her ACME Protein Powder with oat milk and strawberries for a fruity morning treat. How do you enjoy your ACME?”

3. Create interactive content to increase engagement

User-generated content can be interactive, but there are other ways digital storytelling on social media can get your audience to sit up, take notice, and ultimately participate. Quizzes, pools, games, webinars, Q&A/AMA sessions, and image slides built on the foundations of your brand story are just a few examples of social media content that encourages followers to join the conversation.

Even asking a simple question, like “Our ABC line was inspired by consumers who wanted an easier way to accomplish daily tasks. What product would you like to see from us next?” reminds readers why our brand exists and encourages them to join the story. And sharing stellar promotions can get people excited about passing on the good news, too. People love to help their friends and family, and sharing an offer from a free template or checklist could help boost engagement.

How to measure the success of the social media storytelling campaign

Metrics are an integral part of social marketing. Key performance indicators like reach, engagement, share of voice (SOV), and click-through rates tell you whether a campaign is successful or if your tactics need work. But the exact analytics you use depends on your campaign and its goals.

Identify key performance metrics

Key performance metrics, also known as key performance indicators (KPI), track and quantify campaign performance so you can make objective decisions about the campaign’s future. You’ll choose which metrics to follow based on a plethora of criteria:

  • The social media management tools you’re using
  • Which social channels you’re including
  • Your goals
  • The time frame laid out

Each KPI should have a specific purpose, meaning you know exactly why that data is important and how you’ll use it. Are you tracking followers because it’s neat to see that number rise or because increasing followers is one of your campaign goals?

Analyze social media metrics to gauge success

You can use social media management platforms to analyze metrics and create reports. Those reports can then be used when adjusting your social campaigns or even when creating and selling social media packages later on. With the right data, you can prove you create effective campaigns — it’s not you just making claims, it’s the numbers spelling out the truth in black and white.

Best practices for social media storytelling

As you dive into social media storytelling, ground your strategy in best practices used by experts industry-wide.

Keep the audience in mind

The story belongs to your brand, but it’s created for your audience. What do they want to see? Do they prefer text-based content, visual content, or a mix of both? Are they moved by funny messages or more susceptible to nostalgia?

The growing role of social media in reputation management underscores the link between stories and audience needs, too. You can change consumers’ minds about a brand — for better or for worse — by molding your narrative to assuage customer concerns and shift perspective.

Stay authentic to the brand story

Brand storytelling on social media shouldn’t be an exercise in crafting an actual fairy tale. This isn’t the time to get so creative you can no longer recognize your main characters. Aim for a fully factual account that’s wrapped in emotion, like a pretty package at Christmastime.

You can use language and visual assets to finesse your message and make even a simple story seem warmer and more attractive. But the truth is paramount to ensuring consumer trust. Your story should reflect the brand’s values, inspire action, and be brimming with personality, all while adhering to the real-life origin story.

Continuously test and optimize the social media campaign

Don’t wait until your campaign runs its course to see if you’re on the right track. Run reports on a regular basis to see if you’re trending in the right direction. If you’re not sure a certain ad or creative asset is right for your audience, try A/B testing to see which option gains the most traction.

In some cases, you’ll need to give your campaign time to work. But there will be times when you know in your gut you need to step in and make changes to nudge your metrics in a different direction. Agility and adaptability are great attributes for any social media agency.

Frequently asked questions

What are some examples of effective social media storytelling campaigns?

Dove mastered the art of brand storytelling on social media when they used the hashtag #ShowUS to support their campaign aimed at shattering beauty stereotypes. Diverse, inclusive content helped underscore the brand’s broad definition of beauty. Meanwhile, Heinz played up to its UK audience using a soup-focused campaign emphasizing the connection between family and healing — two things the brand wanted consumers to identify with Heinz. The company donated some campaign proceeds to a charity chosen by their Facebook followers.

How do I choose the right social media platforms for my storytelling campaign?

Customize your approach to digital storytelling on social media by choosing the platforms that match best with your target demographic and brand voice. For example, visual brands that skew toward a younger audience might fare better on TikTok, while brands more interested in text-based content might connect better on Twitter or LinkedIn.

About the Author

Lawrence Dy is the SEO Strategy Manager at Vendasta. His career spans from starting as a Jr. Copywriter in the automotive industry to becoming a Senior Editorial Content Manager in various digital marketing niches. Outside of work, Lawrence moonlights as a music producer/beatmaker and spends time with friends and family.

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