In the grand scheme of things, social media hasn’t been around for very long. But, there’s no denying that it has evolved leaps and bounds in that relatively short amount of time.
When social media first hit the scene, many brands viewed it as just another advertising outlet. As a result, their posts were almost always blatantly promotional.
Here’s a blurry photo of my product and all of the reasons that you should buy it right now.
You definitely don’t see as much of that anymore, do you? That’s because as the social media landscape has shifted, brands have had to elevate their strategies.
Now, it’s less about obvious promotions and pushy sales messages, and more about telling a story, establishing a relationship, and eliciting an emotional response from your followers. How do the best brands do that? Through social media storytelling.
What You’ll Find in This Article:
- What is social media storytelling?
- 10 brands who leverage emotional social media storytelling:
What is Social Media Storytelling?
Social media storytelling is exactly what it sounds like—using text, photos, videos, and other elements to craft a narrative, rather than simply presenting facts or a product.
Why is this so effective? As humans, we connect with stories. They resonate with us emotionally. And, as it turns out, emotions are a big influencer in terms of what we purchase. Studies show that the emotional response to an ad influences a person’s intention to buy way more than the ad itself.
Dawn dish soap provides a perfect example of the power of storytelling. At first glance, it’s just dish soap, right? It cleans your dishes—simple as that.
However, Dawn went beyond that in their marketing efforts by frequently showcasing how their product is used to clean up wildlife that’s impacted by oil spills.
Those adorable animals and that undeniable good deed tug at our heartstrings, and that emotional response subconsciously increases our fondness for and loyalty to that product.
Just how effective is this sort of emotion-centered approach? Well, according to an analysis conducted by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), it’s very effective. In looking at over 1,400 case studies, the analysis found that advertising campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well as those with only rational content.
Needless to say, while social media isn’t used strictly for advertising, brands are increasingly recognizing the importance of injecting emotion into their content in order to engage with their followers and boost sales.
Leveraging Emotional Social Media Storytelling: 10 Brands That Do it Right
Finding the right balance with social media storytelling can be challenging. You want your posts to strike a chord and resonate, but you also don’t want to seem slimy or like you’re using a cheap tactic.
Here’s the good news: You can learn a lot about this strategy from some of the best brands out there. Let’s dig into 10 examples from different brands who have mastered the art of social media storytelling.
1. Dove DermaSeries
Dove’s DermaSeries line is made specifically for people who struggle with skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and excessively dry skin.
For anyone who’s coped with those problems, you could assume that these products that belong to a reputable line and offer a lofty promise will essentially sell themselves.
But, Dove doesn’t rest on its laurels. And, considering that these medical conditions can be somewhat sensitive topics for some, they also don’t take an overly-aggressive approach with their marketing.
Instead, they dedicate their social media accounts to sharing snapshots and real stories of their customers. It’s an equally moving and relatable tactic that speaks directly to their target market in a way that’s highly encouraging and empathetic—and never overly salesy.
2. Google’s #YearInSearch
You could argue that Google doesn’t really require much marketing at this point. But, that doesn’t stop the search engine from consistently finding new ways to engage its followers.
One great example? The #YearInSearch campaign, which highlights many of the things that users were frequently searching for throughout the previous year.
Google took that data and spun it into social media posts that were positively heartwarming, such as this post that emphasized that users were searching for “good” more than ever before:
They were able to create a short clip that quickly reminds you of all of the positivity that’s still out there in the world. And, in scrolling through the comments on the post, it was exactly what their followers were hoping to see.
There’s no shortage of brands who work with celebrities for endorsements. But, attaching a famous face to your product usually isn’t enough to send your sales skyrocketing. The endorsement strategy is most effective when you can also tell an emotional story.
That’s exactly what Gillette did when working with Shaquem Griffin, a linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks who is missing his left hand as a result of amniotic band syndrome.
Gillette didn’t use Griffin to pedal razors or talk about getting a nice clean shave. Instead, they leveraged his story to send a message about overcoming obstacles and becoming the very best version of yourself.
The result is an entire campaign that’s far more hard-hitting and inspirational than if they had just chosen to have Griffin promote their razors.
4. Apple’s #ShotoniPhone
Apple is no stranger to effective marketing strategies. But, while you might think a peek at their social media accounts would lead you to a bunch of sleek and heavily-styled photos of their products, the opposite is actually true.
Particularly on Instagram, Apple takes a far more down-to-earth approach by sourcing user-generated content through the #ShotoniPhone hashtag. Whether it’s a gorgeous wildlife shot or a quirky selfie, they dedicate their account to showcasing and sharing stories about what their followers are seeing and experiencing.
For a brand that often runs the risk of coming off as elitist or untouchable, this approach leads to a social media presence that strikes the balance of still being aesthetically pleasing, while also seeming interesting, connected, and highly relatable.
5. Tide Loads of Hope
Much like Dawn dish detergent, Tide could dedicate all of their marketing messages to how well they get the cleaning job done. But, the brand knows that an emotional appeal is far more effective.
Their Tide Loads of Hope campaign is a way for them to serve others, while simultaneously emotionally engaging with their audience. This community program involves what is essentially a mobile laundromat that travels to different areas in the midst of disaster and does free loads of laundry for people in need.
The brand frequently posts about where they’ll be heading to next on social media—both to inform people who are in need of the service, and to emotionally connect with people who applaud the good work they’re doing.
6. Always #LikeAGirl
Always took the promotion of feminine care products and transformed it into a message of total female empowerment through their #LikeAGirl campaign.
Determined to take the phrase “like a girl” and turn it into something positive, Always has crafted numerous social media posts that showcase girls and young women doing amazing things.
Let’s face it—few people are going to get excited about feminine products, and it’s likely that the only emotion they’ll inspire on their own is misery. So, Always’ strategy of associating themselves with a larger, far more positive cause is a great example of effective storytelling.
We all love our four-legged friends, and this is an emotion that BarkBox capitalizes on effortlessly. Most of their social media posts don’t even showcase their products. Instead, they post tons of photos and videos of various dogs doing adorable things.
Without a doubt, it works. Check the comments on their Instagram posts, and you’ll see users tagging other dog-lovers, reacting with emojis, and even chatting about their own beloved furry friends.
In short, BarkBox is able to immediately pull an emotion of total love and adoration out of their followers—which might lead to them wanting to reward their own precious pooches with something special from the brand.
Anybody with even a hint of wanderlust wants to follow Airbnb on social media, just to see all of the amazing properties that they showcase.
From a tiny cabin on a horse farm to a penthouse condo in Hawaii, their Instagram account is full of gorgeous snapshots that make followers wish they were there.
In some ways, you could say that this is still directly promoting their service—since all of the properties are actually available on Airbnb.
However, the brand isn’t overt and instead dedicates its captions to describe the unique features of the property and the experiences people will have if they choose to stay there. In doing so, followers picture themselves in that location and immediately have a desire to travel.
9. Under Armour
As a fitness apparel and gear company, you’d expect to see plenty of workout-related posts on their social media platforms.
But, what might be less expected is how the brand is able to inspire you and immediately kick up your level of motivation. Under Armour does this through a mix of different content, including daily workouts, tips, and fitness challenges.
Rather than simply promoting their products, they use their social media accounts to encourage their followers to get up, get moving, and improve themselves. The result is a highly energizing social presence that followers keep coming back to.
10. Warby Parker #WearingWarby
Warby Parker sells glasses. But, their social media accounts are about so much more than frames—they’re about the people who wear them.
One solid example is the brand’s #WearingWarby series, a collection of profiles and short videos highlighting some of Warby Parker’s amazing customers. From professional dancers to designers to activists, this campaign makes the brand far more approachable and relatable than if they had just showcased their frames being worn by paid models.
Through these posts and profiles of their customers, Warby Parker could connect with their audience while also showing that their products are truly made for everyone.
Emotional Storytelling: A Powerful Social Media Strategy
There’s no doubt that emotional storytelling is what will elevate a brand’s social media presence and enable them to better connect and engage with their followers.
But, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy. In order for this tactic to be effective, the narrative a brand weaves must:
- Be creative. Don’t hesitate to think outside of the box! As the above examples show, challenging yourself to think outside the typical constructs of your brand can result in a truly amazing marketing campaign.
- Be relevant to your product and messaging. While creativity is crucial, totally irrelevant storytelling will only be jarring to your followers.
- Be relatable. Emotional storytelling is a way to connect with your fans and followers, so find those stories that make them feel seen, understood, and supported.
- Be emotional—but that doesn’t necessarily mean tear-jerking. The emotions you weave into the story can run the gamut from fun and lighthearted to empowering and inspirational.
- Be authentic. For this strategy to truly resonate, it needs to be genuine. Followers can see through a cheap marketing ploy from a mile away.
In addition to implementing the above tips, when using this strategy for yourself, one of the best places to get started is by looking for inspiration that will get your own creative juices flowing. The brands we’ve pulled together here are a perfect source for helpful lessons and takeaways.