Laura Petrolino

4 Incredible Examples of Social Media Storytelling

By: Laura Petrolino | November 27, 2017 | 
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Four Examples of Social Media Storytelling to Inspire Your Next CampaignI planned on today’s post focusing on the legal and measurement components of UGC campaigns to finish up the three-part series.

See part one on how to set up a user-generated content campaign.

And part two focused on optimization of your user-generated content campaign through the PESO model.

But then I realized on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday approximately zero people would want to read about legal issues and crunch numbers.

So instead, I’m putting that final segment on hold and we are going to talk about social media storytelling. 

But not buzzword social media storytelling.

Really good stuff, you’ll actually want to read.

I’m going to share some fun examples of excellent social media storytelling, in hopes it will inspire you out of your turkey coma. 

When Social Media Storytelling isn’t a Buzzword

Social media storytelling is one of those really awesome sounding phrases communicators like to throw around.

Sadly, when pinned down on how they tell compelling stories through social media, the results are lacking.

That’s why, as with many things we do in communications, we often need to break out of our industry box and preconceived notions and look at how others successfully tell stories on social media.

These might be brands or they might just be creative individuals.

Either way, they are able to use the social channels to tell compelling stories people ACTUALLY care about.

Here are some of the favorites I’ve come across in the past year.

Dear David is a Twitter Spook-tacular

One day our crazy and ridiculously creative friend Whitney Danhauer emailed us and asked if we had seen the “Dear David” thread on Twitter.

I’m going to try to get through this quickly before I freak myself out.

OK, too late.

I’m already freaked out.

“Dear David” is an on-going ghost story about author Adam Ellis’ experiences in his apartment.

An apartment possibly haunted with an angry child ghost.

It’s been playing out over the last few months with as many twists, turns, and cliffhangers as a sweeps hungry soap opera.

If you Google “Dear David” you’ll come upon a plethora of news stories written about the feed and the author.

Stories that recount revelations, try to make predictions, and analyze events.

“Dear David” is getting more news coverage than most best sellers.

And it’s all made up of 140 count soundbites.

While I can’t read the entire thing, because I’ll never sleep again, the parts I’ve read are genius.

It makes me want to do something similar (but not about ghosts, definitely not about ghosts).

Foxes + Insomnia = Genius Storytelling

On November 12th, around 3 a.m., poor Colin Carlson suffered from a struggle many of us endure: insomnia.

Now while I normally either just lie there, angry at the world, or get up and work or clean, Colin used his time much, much more effectively.

He wrote an encyclopedia of foxes, through tweets.

Four Examples of Social Media Storytelling to Inspire Your Next Campaign

And it’s a thing of beauty.

Sometimes I read things and think, “man I’d like to be friends with that person.”

This is definitely in that camp.

It’s something that might go through my head in those wee hours, but I’m just not clever enough to put them down on paper.

You might not think foxes are very interesting.

You may have never ever wanted to know much about the different types of foxes.

But I guarantee you’ll read through this entire thing.

Take a lesson here if you have a “boring brand.” And learn about foxes in the process.

No One Shows Up to Class and a Story is Born

Back in January, I stumbled upon this amazing thread from a teacher, waiting patiently for his students to show up for class.

Four Examples of Social Media Storytelling to Inspire Your Next Campaign

You follow his saga from start to finish. An amazingly compelling, Seinfeld-esque overview of his student-less existence.

Four Examples of Social Media Storytelling to Inspire Your Next CampaignAnd it’s priceless.

The Humane Society Takes on Instagram Stories

I’ve seen a lot of influencers and brands use sponsored IG stories, or even simply the Instagram story link feature (only available if you have an account with 10,ooo or more followers).

Some do it OK.

Most do it really poorly. 

Overall, the majority forget the name of the platform they are using is “Instagram Stories.”

They lose the storytelling component altogether.

Last week, however, I was scrolling through my IG stories and up popped a sponsored story from the Humane Society.

The story feed post had an irresistible video of a dog wiggling her nose at the camera, with tender eyes staring straight at you.

Call-to-action: “See Her Happy Ending.”

Four Examples of Social Media Storytelling to Inspire Your Next Campaign

Note: neuromarketing research shows that people respond with action to positive.

While they respond by inaction to negative.

So positive calls to action are much more effective than scare tactics, or negative ones.

When I swipe up, I’m taken to a multimedia site which takes me through her story.

Four Examples of Social Media Storytelling to Inspire Your Next Campaign

It contains video and a progression slider, which takes you through her rescue and recovery.

Four Examples of Social Media Storytelling to Inspire Your Next Campaign

Then finally, shows me her happy ending prior to a donation request.

Four Examples of Social Media Storytelling to Inspire Your Next Campaign

And BOOM.

An amazing example of strategically using the features of a platform to tell your specific story in a meaningful and effective way.

Share Your Examples

There are so many great examples of social media storytelling out there, both from brand and individuals, that help launch ideas for ways to tweak and apply the strategy in a different way.

The more we can observe and analyze these things as communications professionals, the better we can tell our, or our client stories.

Each time you see something that resonates with you, step back and ask yourself:

  • Why is this effective?
  • What parts of this work best and why?
  • How does this make me feel?
  • Does it make me want to act? How?
  • How can I take this concept and apply it to something I’m working on?

Seen a great social media storytelling examples? Or one of your own? Share it in the comments below.

(To get you going, here are some hilarious ones, found by Whitney.)

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • Shannon Ullman

    I can’t think of an example at the moment. But, I just wanted to say that I like your point about IG stories.

    I never realized how often they lack actual story. I am a culprit of doing this as well. Now, I plan on completely re-working the way I do Instagram stories so thank you!

    -Shannon

    • You are very welcome! And I think we are all guilty of that with IG stories. I use mine to experiment with a lot of things, and across the board I find the best stats when I use several to tell an ongoing tale. I’ve even had people message me to find out the ending of cliff-hanger stories. That’s when you know it’s been a success! Look forward to hearing more about your experiments with them!

  • Dawn Buford

    Some people just excel at storytelling. These are all great examples of that. Maybe we should all practice using our imagination a bit more. I love IG stories, but you are right, I rarely use it to tell a story. I’m going to work on that.

    • We should all practice using our imaginations more. I think it’s something we drastically neglect in our modern world, and that’s sad for all of us.

      • I agree with you both. We should be using our imagination and creativity more. Be genuine rather than copy what others do. And most importantly think of the people you want to reach, how do you want them to react to your story?

        Great post, Laura!

  • This was so good… I admit it took me a while to get through because I got mired down in Dear David. I think everyone has a story to tell. Not every platform is designed to tell it/them in the most effective way, but these (Dear David, the teacher waiting for his class, the Humane society) are a combination of simple, yet very tactical storytelling strategies. I think we all (and brands too!) have a thread or two like this in us. We just have to think in terms of what will interest people? How can I make it relatable/easy to connect with and share? Most importantly, I love your point here: “How does this make me feel?” Not everyone will “feel” the same way, but I bet there are a lot of people out there who do.

    • Yes, totally agreed. And, to your point, often the stories people connect with the most are not the ones we think they will. You have to work within the context of how people connect with you best. What I’ve found is you can guide and mold that communication, but you can’t change that foundational connection. That foundational storyline.

  • Kacie Van Stiphout

    It’s almost as if we’re so wrapped in social media we as consumers now crave a story or two while we scroll through our feeds. I get that social media is super influencing, should we just keep it quick, short and snappy posts? Is there room to self indulge in story telling?

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