How to Tell Engaging Stories on Social Media

Jan 2014
Photo: @bondaeroblonde
Photo: @bondaeroblonde

For most people, the hardest part of running social media for their business is coming up with something to post day after day.

Will people find my posts interesting?

Is it too promotional to talk about my business?

Why would anyone care what my company has to say?

We sabotage ourselves by underestimating the desire of our customers and potential customers to connect with our businesses online.

When a customer links with your business on social media, they are opting in to hear from you. They’re giving you a coveted spot in their newsfeed, along with their friends’ vacation photos or pictures of the newest grandchild.

Your business is allowed to talk to them in the very intimate space of social media (often used during leisure time). You can waste that chance, or you can jump on it by creating engaging content that draws them deeper into an emotional connection with your company.

I was a journalist for 15 years, and after telling thousands of stories on TV and radio, I can tell you that there are some common denominators when it comes to what people find engaging. You have to learn how to tell your story in a way that connects with your audience. And since emotional connections can very often lead to sales, there’s no time to waste.

Here are 5 Tips for telling engaging stories on your social media sites:

Good Stories Contain People.

People don’t make emotional connections with things. People connect with people. When scrolling through a newsfeed, we are more likely to pause at the pictures that have other humans in them, rather than at the pictures of objects. So, show us the people in your business! This could be you, your co-workers, your customers, or anyone else who plays a role in how (or where) you do what you do.

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This post is from a salon, and it tells a fabulous story – profiling a customer who donated her hair to Locks of Love (added bonus: it showcases the stylist’s work, and doesn’t the customer look pleased!)

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Yes, this photo had the potential to be a bit boring. Clean up day on the farm, and they’re hauling out old plants. But look what happens when we add a guy ‘surfing’ atop those plants – instant personality! (And instant connection.)

Good Stories Educate. (Not Sell)

We’ve all seen those business owners who think it’s OK to post a hard sell for their products and services on social media. Every post is promotional (and annoying). And I’m always confused by people who will post things on Facebook that they would never say to someone at a networking event or cocktail party. There’s a reason they call it social networking. Any behavior that is obnoxious in real life, is probably going to be obnoxious on social media as well.

So, forget about marketing your business for a moment. Instead, focus on educating potential customers. Talk about your industry, your company, even your products or services in an informative interesting way, like you’re trying to help – not sell.

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This post is from a personal injury law firm. They handle cases for people who have been involved in car accidents. But, instead of simply talking about how they can represent you, they choose to educate their fans about driving and provide safety tips. As a result, the content is much more engaging than simply a pitch to be your lawyer. And – the graphic is a great way to make stats visual!

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Imagine how many fans, after reading this post from an esthetician, will be running around sticking tape on their foreheads! Where did you learn that, people will ask. The reply? ‘From Skin Care By Devyn’s Facebook page!’ Good advertising? You bet. And way more fun (and effective) than simply posting: Need to exfoliate? Come see me for a facial. 

Good Stories Create Buzz.

Sometimes, things happen in the world that everyone is talking about. Even if you don’t care, you can’t escape news about this item… the Olympics, the election, the Superbowl, the Holidays… these are things that create buzz. So, if you can’t beat ‘em – join ‘em! If you can tie your social media content into these things, people will be more likely to take notice. During the Olympics, we all have radar that picks up on the word ‘Olympics.’ So try to find a way to tie the Olympics in with your profession. (Yes, you CAN write a blog post called 3 ways choosing a health insurance plan is like training for the Olympics!)

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This company makes Koozies (you know, the cupholder things that keep your beer cold). During the election, they printed some with Democratic donkeys, and some with Republican elephants, then simply tallied which sold more. Brilliant! And my favorite part? Nowhere in this post does it mention how you actually buy a Koozie. If you want one, you’ll figure it out. (And if you’re a Democrat, chances are this post would spur you to do so!)

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The day the clocks change for daylight savings time, everyone is talking about it. This law firm does a good job of taking that buzz-worthy topic, and tying it in to what they do. Now, fans have an interesting fact about daylight savings time to throw out at the water cooler the next time someone is talking about it. 

Good Stories Go Behind-the-Scenes.

All it takes is a quick browse through the cable channels on your TV to confirm that we love to go behind-the-scenes. How many shows promise to give you glimpse of things you wouldn’t normally see? We love to think we’re getting special access. So, show your fans you care by letting them peek behind the curtain. Not only will a behind-the-scenes post trigger excitement, but your fans will probably learn something valuable about you or your business. It’s like ‘take your customers to work day’!

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This post is from a makeup distributor, and I love how perfectly it reflects their brand. It’s pretty, and intimate, and a little bit cute/silly. And that’s exactly the voice they have cultivated on their page. It shows their products (makeup) but also gives fans a look into the real life of the company’s leader. Maybe you’ve been there – or plan to be one day – and can feel the balance she’s trying to achieve between her personal and professional life. This post helps fans connect with the company on a deeper level than promotional pictures of cosmetics would.

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This is a shot of both attorneys in a law firm being interviewed for the evening news. It will probably have fans tuning in to see the interview later on. But it also does a couple of other things. First, it paints these attorneys as experts. After all, not just anybody shows up on the news. And second, it makes fans aware that they wear jeans to work. It may seem insignificant – but most other attorneys are in suits. This picture says something about who they are, and if you can identify with it, you are probably their ideal client.

Good Stories Show and Tell.

Do most of your customers know how to do what you do for a living? Probably not. That’s why they hire you, right? But how many of your customers would be better consumers of your services if they knew a little bit more about your industry? Most of them. So, help them understand what you do. Show them a step in one of your duties, or explain the thought process behind something you do every day. Explain something to them that you take for granted. Teach them how you do what you do.

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At the salon, stylists are well-versed in creating the latest hairstyles for their clients. But what if fans wanted to create the same style at home? Here, they’ve created a great video to show you every step of the process. Fans will appreciate that they’ve shared their best tips and techniques. That helps create a subtle bond with the salon – the next time a fan needs hairstyling tips, they might just look there first.

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This post illustrates the process of cleaning garlic. (And shows what garlic really looks like, before it hits the supermarket.) An interesting peek at farm operations. But it goes one step further – showing fans that all the farm workers genuinely get along and like to hang out. And they seem content. That makes us feel good about this particular farm, it must be nice place. (Can you feel the bond forming between you and the brand?)

There are many ways to create good social media content. These are just a few of the techniques that will help you tell engaging stories for your fans. Whenever you sit down to type on your social media channels, just remember to be authentic and try to let down your guard and give people a glimpse into your company. That’s how emotional connections are made. And emotional connections to your brand are good for business.


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