A great story always had the power to drive engagement, promote word of mouth, and help spread your message.

Remember the old commercials for Country Crock Margarine where you only saw the hands of the actors. Over a series of commercials we saw the couple move from dating to marriage to parenthood. We almost felt we were part of their lives.

What makes a good story

Well, for 1 thing, emotion. Take a look at this infographic and you’ll see how much emotion spreads your content across social networks.

How A Great Story Spreads Your Content?

In fact, a study shows a single emotions drives 2.9 more hours on your content than a similar post lacking such emotional charge.

But, why does emotionally charged content drive more sharing than other types of content?

The answer lies in understanding WHY users choose to share content. Users share content because it makes them look good in the eyes of their social network. So, content that is interesting, insightful, useful, informative, surprising, or unusual get shared more because it makes the sharer look good to their social graph.

Content also gets shared based on WHO posted the original content. Users use sharing as a way of building engagement with the original poster, to pay them back for help they received from the poster, or to show everyone that they are like the original poster as they believe sharing these posts repays to poster or makes them look like they’re as important as the poster.

How to create a great story

Create a killer headline

As reported on this infographic, most people read your headline, but only a few read the content. Having a killer headline attracts attention and gets spread more, which translates into more readers.

Create killer visuals

Visuals drive emotional engagement much more than words — remember a picture paints a thousand words. It’s especially important to use an intriguing visual as your feature image as this image gets shared with the headline on social networks, except Twitter. On Facebook, it makes sense to post manually by sharing the IMAGE with a link to the article rather than simply sharing the link. This ensures your image is prominent in your post.

For example, take a look at the feature image for this article. It’s a great example of a visual that begs folks to read and share. The pimpled out john is from a campaign by Roto Rooter to celebrate the birthday of John Crapper — inventor of the modern toilet. The image, which showed the fancy john being given away to those entering the contest. The image was SO intriguing, the company garnered tons of free publicity when they appeared on morning talk shows, in the Wall Street Journal and other places where folks couldn’t resist sharing the image.

Content length

Folks share longer articles more than short articles, according to the NY Times. Just make sure to chunk your posts to make it highly scannable so readers can skim through the post and only read what they find interesting.


Notice results from a Moz survey showing which emotions tend to generate the most sharing. I think it’s a little dangerous to generate negative emotions, since the halo effect might case the emotion to transfer to your brand, but positive emotion is good thing.

Other factors

The amount of engagement a post generates correlates with more sharing. Folks like to run with the herd plus a lot of sharing is social proof that the post is a good one.

Content also determines sharing. Folks share science articles the most, so taking a science slant on something is always a good strategy. Failing a science article, post things folks find surprising.

Keep storytelling in mind

People love stories. Especially when they can relate to the folks in the stories. So, use people to tell their stories. Make the people multidimensional, so they’re not just sharing stories related to the brand. Go back to what made the Country Crock stories so engaging — the people were real (even though we only saw their hands) and their story resonated with us.

This brings up an interesting question I raised on the Social Media Marketing Tribe Facebook group (BTW, this is an open group and I invite you to join) — should you share personal information or just brand information on your social networks. I didn’t get a lot of votes (please add your votes), but the majority said, “Yes, its ok to share some personal stuff”.

I think sharing personal stuff helps build engagement and create a good story about you and the brand. Now, that doesn’t mean I want to see what you had for lunch or your cute cat pics, but I’d like to learn about YOU, not just your brand. I encourage my community managers to be “real people” when managing social networks for my clients. They should share personal stuff, then try to relate it back to the brand. So, when one of my community managers got engaged, I suggested she share it on the pages she manages for our client — a meme t-shirt brand. We brought it back to the brand, but also sharing some memes related to marriage and relationships with the post. Keep the selling very soft and the storytelling very large!