As the old marketing adage goes, “Facts tell, stories sell.” While that advice is sound, today’s marketing leaders can take storytelling a step further by using social media insights to stay up to date on customers’ needs and expectations. Skillful brand storytelling is an essential piece of reputation management, but social media is more than just an avenue to tell your brand’s narrative. It’s a crucial source of information.
Skillful brand storytelling requires using insights about your audience so you can connect with them, iterate your storytelling and, ultimately, impact your marketing strategy and brand reputation.
You can use feedback from your audience on social media to build brand loyalty and make your brand’s story unforgettable. In this article we’ll cover why a brand story is so important and show you how to create a strong narrative that resonates. And we’ll share four brand storytelling examples to inspire you.
What is brand storytelling?
Have you ever felt so connected to a brand that using their product or service made you feel like the person you aspire to be? That’s successful brand storytelling.
At its core, brand storytelling establishes emotional connections with people based on the values you share with them and their needs, desires and aspirations. Innovative brand stories convey empathy, create experiences and demand urgency.
“Telling a brand’s story begins with finding its truth. Whether in social or broadcast or any medium in between, consumers will seek out brands that feel authentic to both their values and what they want from a product or company. Once we’ve mined that truth we then convert it into an outward-facing message that can be disseminated and interpreted in every channel to every audience.”
— Peter Levin, Creative Director at Finn Partners
Your brand’s story impacts your entire public relations strategy—from the way your executives should sound or respond to a crisis to how you build your social media presence. Your story should be a throughline across channels.
Why do you need a brand story?
There are several benefits of having a brand story. An effective brand story will connect you to your target consumers, support your social media marketing efforts and inspire your customers to take action.
A brand story connects you to your customers
Customer care goes beyond fulfilling support inquiries and answering questions before people make a purchase—it’s about nurturing an emotional connection with customers and fostering loyalty. A brand story enables you to shed light on these empathetic customer touch points and merchandizes your brand’s values.
Storytelling is a core element of social media marketing
Brand storytelling is a cornerstone of social media marketing strategy. Every post on Instagram or video on TikTok or YouTube Shorts ladder up to your brand narrative. For example, if you were to post a behind-the-scenes look at how your brand sources materials on social media, that’s a part of your brand story.
Brand stories inspire action
Effective brand storytelling not only evokes an emotional connection, but it ignites your target audience to interact with your brand. Whether it’s purchasing a new product or becoming an advocate, authentic brand storytelling can inspire you to take action.
How to create a strong brand story
Where should you start when creating your brand’s story? Here are six steps to follow to help your story make an impact.
Start with your customer
To craft a brand story that’s compelling, you’ll need to define and consider your target audience. Use buyer personas or archetypes that embody the traits of your target audience. Think of your customers as the protagonist of your story. What problems do they face? What are their wants and needs? What are their behaviors and interests?
Through user surveys and research like social listening, you can uncover more about your customer and shape a stronger brand story.
Use narrative techniques
People are drawn to stories. The foundation of good brand stories is the same as your favorite movies, shows and books. Characters. Settings. Conflict. Climax. Resolution. By incorporating these five essential elements into your brand’s story, you make it possible to build emotional connections with your audience. And when you emotionally connect with them, you increase brand recall and transform your audience into brand evangelists.
Have a clear purpose
Your brand’s story needs to have a defined purpose so you can guide the narrative in the right direction. Try to narrow down the purpose of your story into one or two sentences. What is your brand trying to accomplish? For example, an organic personal care brand may want to help people embrace self-care through eco-friendly products.
Lean into authenticity
The most compelling stories glow with authenticity. Avoid creating stories for the sake of jumping on a trend. Instead, stay true to your brand’s identity when telling your story. Lean into refining your brand voice and stay true to it. Don’t feel pressured to use colloquial language or internet slang, unless it makes sense for your brand. Use your brand’s legacy, aspirations and values as your north star.
Patagonia is a great example of a brand leaning into authenticity. Some of their values include quality, integrity, justice and environmentalism.
Collaborate with your audience
It’s not just your team that needs to align on your story. Today, brand identities aren’t created in an incubator. Instead, creators, loyal fans and marketers work together to co-create a brand’s essence. To tell brand stories that resonate with your audience, you need to get their perspective. Social media is where you can find it.
Keep brand storytelling consistent
Maintain consistent storytelling to stay connected with your audience. Your audience should feel like they know what to expect from your brand. If your messaging and brand voice isn’t cohesive or consistent, your brand story won’t be as strong.
Tell a brand story that resonates
On social media, people tell brands exactly what they want. They share their thoughts, feelings and opinions about brands, products, current events and more. Listen to them first, develop your story second.
Why? Because they want to know your brand empathizes with their needs and aligns with their values. According to The Sprout Social Index™, transparency about business practices and values is ranked as the second type of content consumers say they don’t see enough of on social media.
“If you can get a pulse from your audience in the comments section, DMs or via AMA, that qualitative data can help inform creative and content strategies, your editorial calendar and even your larger marketing strategy. It’s an awesome focus group at your disposal 24/7 that can help you refine your brand story on social and beyond.”
– Alex Suazo, VP Digital Marketing & Social at Finn Partners
Let’s dive into the specific aspects of social media that help brands interact with their audience and uncover voice of customer (VoC) data.
The easiest way to access your customers’ feedback is by monitoring your comments section and mentions. They’ll let you know what they love about their experience with you.
For example, Cava posted a response video on TikTok about one of their most commented menu items: roasted sweet potatoes. In the video, the restaurant chain shares that they brought back the highly requested menu item and showed how they’re prepared. Cava’s seasonally sourced ingredients and in-house preparations are a key part of their brand story and customer experience. Fans were quick to sound off in the comments to share their love for the brand’s sweet potatoes, among other favorites.
On the other hand, when customers experience a roadblock in their journey with you, they’ll let you know by mentioning you or commenting on your posts. Whether they have a customer care concern or disagree with your approach to social media activism, consider negative feedback a learning opportunity. Use it as data to help shape your future brand storytelling.
When you want to know your audience’s perspective, don’t be afraid to ask. Creating interactive polls on social platforms is a great way to get hot takes on industry-specific debates or product preferences. Polls are a low-lift way to build an engaged community that’s more likely to provide their opinions in the future.
It’s important to note your poll should be appropriate for your followers. Consider what’s in it for them and why they’d want to participate. For example, could they learn something about industry best practices? Do they feel like they have a voice in your company’s stance on an issue?
It’s easy to miss social media engagements, especially when your social team monitors multiple accounts and channels. It’s further complicated when posts only mention your brand by a variation of your name or shout out a product rather than reaching out to you directly. Social media monitoring tools make it easier to catch these instances.
Sprout’s Smart Inbox unifies all social channels into a single stream so your team can efficiently respond to untagged mentions of your brand keywords and hashtags from all channels in one place—even if your brand isn’t tagged. The Smart Inbox also allows you to see incoming messages, comments and mentions, so you never miss a detail that could shape your brand story.
How social listening can help boost brand storytelling
While monitoring tells you what people are saying, listening tells you why they’re saying it. With social listening, you can better understand your audience and improve your brand’s story by accessing the full spectrum of conversations around your industry, brand and competitors.
You get a window into the candid thoughts and feelings of an audience to illuminate trends, uncover patterns and gauge emotional response around any topic.
“Listening helps brands stay relevant. Without listening, you have to dig through a sea of social messages or conduct surveys and focus groups. Listening streamlines that process and ensures brands can keep up with the speed of the social trend cycle.”
— Kristin Johnson, former VP of Content and Communications at Sprout Social
Build stronger relationships
If you’re feeling out of touch with your audience, the first step is to discover opportunities to build stronger relationships with your community.
- How do our customers feel about us?
- What makes customers want to share about our brand?
- Is our campaign resonating? Why or why not?
In Sprout’s Listening tool, you can review sentiment trends related to your brand. For example, note how positive and negative feelings have evolved over time. Consider how sentiment aligns with your ongoing campaigns, PR efforts or other current events.
Improve your products or services
In many cases, creating a new brand story includes improving products or services. Use customer feedback on social media to refine your product development or service experience.
- Why do people like or dislike our brand and products or services?
- How do our products or services align with our customers’ values?
- How do our customers respond to the stories around our products or services?
Sprout’s Listening tool allows you to monitor keywords related to your products. This makes it possible to identify new trends that can help shape your product and service improvements and launches.
Join industry conversations
Innovative brands on social don’t miss a chance to join—and even start—conversations. To make sure you’re in the know, it’s important to be aware of where and why conversations are taking place.
- Why are certain hashtags and discussions trending in our industry?
- Why is our audience responding to an event or trend?
- What are people saying about our competitors (and their products or services)?
It’s natural to have a fear of missing out on trending conversations. In Sprout’s Listening tool, you can add themes related to trends and events relevant to your brand’s story to determine how they resonate with your audience. You can also visualize how your brand stacks up against your competitors by comparing share of voice and volume.
Authentic brand storytelling examples that connect with audiences
So, what does it look like to use social media data to tell compelling brand stories? Here are a few examples of brands leading the way.
The story: Health and happiness in our daily lives starts with meditation, mindfulness and better sleep.
Calm is an app created to help guide users through meditations, soundscapes and mindfulness exercises. With Calm, mental health and wellness feel less complicated. They reinforce why meditation is an important tool and how their app makes it easier.
Calm not only relies on feedback from social media to refine the user experience of their app, but also to keep a pulse on the direction of mental health and wellness trends.
The story: Rented and thrifted clothing is eco-friendly and stylish—while also saving you money.
Nuuly is a retail brand that offers a clothing rental program and thrifted merchandise. They make on-trend, high-quality styles available to everyone. Nuuly customers take pride in using the brand because it’s sustainable, financially sound and exceptional caliber.
Nuuly uses social insights to stay current on en vogue style, and make sure they’re in alignment with their customers’ values and needs. They also use social monitoring to respond to and research their audience. For example, Nuuly linked to their formal dresses page after a customer recommended using their site to find an affordable black tie dress:
The story: We need to take immediate and radical action to fight climate change.
Greenpeace UK is a branch of Greenpeace, a global campaigning network dedicated to protecting the planet. On social media, Greenpeace UK uses visual imagery to convey the truth of the destruction to the planet, while also providing hope and inspiration.
For example, they shared a trailer for Forsaken, a film installation highlighting the life of Immortal Jellyfish and their mass extinction on Earth:
In the thread, Greenpeace UK explains they’re supporting the film because it’s as a reminder of how humans can negatively impact oceans, but note it’s not too late to protect them:
Greenpeace UK also partners with local politicians and environmental activists to serve as ambassadors to help tell their story. For instance a conservationist advocated for their #BigPlasticCount campaign:
This aligns with Greenpeace UK’s approach: every good story needs good visuals and strong brand advocates.
The story: America’s happy place.
Target is a store for everything. The Target brand has been around for over 100 years, but they constantly reinvent themselves to continue providing the best shopping experience for their customers.
Today, they partner with influencers like Tabitha Brown to offer trendy clothing, food, skincare and hair care products, electronics, toys and more. People choose Target when they want a bit of extra joy in their life—whether it’s from recreating online aesthetics at home or being delighted in store.
Target looks to social media to understand emerging trends, how they can infuse more joy into people’s experiences with their brand and what their next collaboration should look like.
Use social media to create an impactful brand story
Brand storytelling is an essential part of your overall marketing strategy. To tell better stories, you have to listen to what people are saying. That starts with social monitoring, but can’t stop there. Social listening is critical to understanding people’s experiences with your brand because the best storytellers are engaged listeners.
Looking to learn more about how you can grow and protect your brand? Download this corporate communication plan template—it guides you through creating a calendar roadmap with quarterly initiatives, crafting a distribution strategy and more.
How to conduct a competitive product analysis, and why you shouldPublished on December 21, 2023 Reading time 10 minutes
Data-driven marketing: What it is and strategies for using itPublished on December 21, 2023 Reading time 9 minutes