We all love stories. Many of us have grown up listening to stories or reading them at different stages of our lives. Stories build an incredible bond between the narrator and the listener.⠀
Even today, when I read a story in a non-fiction book, an anecdote of sorts, it brings me closer to the writer. I am happy to see the situation framed in a setting that I can identify with- a story.
How can storytelling be used in marketing?
Some of the best marketers are the best simply because they don’t sound like they are selling anything, other than a shared, lived experience.⠀
From Leo Babauta to James Clear to Courtney Carver , every person whose work I love and appreciate brings in the element of storytelling. That raw vulnerability is enough to build a deep connection.
In this article, I am going to share tips on how you can weave storytelling into your social media captions, your newsletter and your blog posts. This will apply to whether you are on a platform to talk about a service, a passion or a product.⠀
Tip 1: Share a personal anecdote ⠀
As a Service Provider: If you’re talking about a coaching service that you offer, build a story around why you got into coaching, what was the motivation and what personal experience propelled you to get into the field.
Perhaps you grew up with teachers as parents; maybe you did a seminar in college which gave you the confidence to get into coaching; or you could have taught somebody something in your field and noticed how people grasped the idea instantly.
*As you may have guessed, for me it’s all 3 – more on those stories another day😉⠀
As a product seller/maker: If you’re talking about a product, talk about your first experience with it. How it felt when you tried it on (an outfit/skin product); how you savoured the feeling.
How it felt when you saw your dreams materialize ( for an artistic product/ piece of jewelry). Bring up a memory that you cherish and hold dear and expand on it in relation to the topic.⠀
Talking about a passion: Maybe you have a passion for a particular field. Perhaps you are collaborating with a creator on social media and talking about their products. No problem!
Talk about the personal passion you have for such products and why you adore trying out these items. What was it, from your childhood/teenage/young adulthood that got you into this passion? How does it tie in with your identity?
Tip 2: Use Genuine Emotion in your Storytelling
Every story/post/newsletter/article/ caption that you write works when it evokes an emotion: Any emotion.
Emotions are a powerful way to connect with your ideal reader. The sense of resonance is extremely high.
For service providers: Recall that one emotional moment (or more than one) when your client shared a learning with you. Perhaps they were struggling with something and you helped them break free of that constraint.
For instance, a coach I know, Tara Whitney, is very good at what she does and that is talking to people about their bodies and the principles of intuitive eating.
When she talks to clients, she asks them to process the principles of ’emotional eating’ and examine them at a deeper level. How much of emotional eating is true and how much of it is conditioned by what society asks us to believe? When she shares an example of an emotional moment in her own life and how it changed her approach to her body, people listen and they relate.
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You should check out her book here.
For Product makers:
What is that emotion running through your veins when you create something? Is it anger, joy, sadness, discomfort? Do you work through the emotion or wait for it to subside so you can tap into the artistic expression?
How much of what you create is powered by emotion and how much is guided by the head?
Remember, storytelling is as much about finding connections as it is about creating them. Network from a space of genuine empathy. It works.
Tip 3: Talk about a Transformation Journey
I love transformation stories, don’t you? I think it’s kind of a human interest instinct. Most of us pause to read all those ‘before’ and ‘after’ stories when we see them on our timelines or when we scroll through the list of makeover shows on TV.
It’s one reason why those concepts have an audience. How can we use it as part of our ability to connect with our audience?
As Service Providers: Talk about a transformation in your approach to your current role. Was it spiritual? Was it guided by a coach or a book that you read?
For example, if you’re a digital marketer (like I am), you may be frustrated by the terms ‘Macho’/ ‘rebel’/ ‘crush’ and ‘hacks’ when it comes to talking about how to reach your audience. I’ve never felt comfortable around these words but I believed for a long time that I had to be this way to reach my true audience. Hey, if I wasn’t bold, how would people know about me?
Instead, when I switched tracks to becoming quieter (which is more in alignment with my nature) my audience found me. I didn’t have to be brash, aggressive or pushy in marketing. People who identified with my brand of creation naturally gravitated towards me.
Result? I am happier; my clients are happier. Win-win!
As a product designer, this is the easiest storytelling tip for you. Show them a behind-the-scenes look at your item.
What did it take for you to create that butterfly out of that tiny larvae? What gorgeous transformation are you showcasing for your audience?
How does it help them? Does it inspire them to sit up and notice the hard work you’ve put in? Does it mean that you’re reaching the people where it matters?
YES to all of the above questions.
TIP 4: Share an A-HA Moment
If transformations work in engaging your target reader, a-ha moments go one step further.
What is an A-Ha Moment? This breakthrough moment in your life or business is what helps you shift your perspective from what you believed was working to what you KNOW is working.
For example, until early November of 2020, I was struggling to fill my client calendar every month. People knew about my coaching and they had a general idea about what I did but there were only a few loyal takers for my one on one sessions.
In December, I decided to change things and focus exclusively on creating just high-quality content across all platforms where I was active- Medium/ My Blog/ Instagram/ LinkedIn and Facebook (to some extent Twitter as well).
I created (and still create) content on a steady rhythm and in a way that would connect with my ideal reader. By mid-January, enquiries and bookings went up. By early February of 2021,, I was booked solid for the whole month and I have a few slots filled up for March too!
In other words I didn’t advertise about my calls as much as I used to; people found out and reached out because they were seeing me show up, create and connect. That’s it!
Transformation stories usually work with a warm audience. A-Ha moments work with both warm and cool/ cold audiences.
That last distinction is important when/if you decide to run ads for your content.
What A-Ha moment have you had in the recent past?
How has it helped you and your business?
The answer to those questions is how you can incorporate storytelling into your content.
TIP 5: Share a Solution to a Problem
One thing I’ve always tried to do when I do tutorial-style posts is to put myself in the shoes of an absolute beginner. For most of us this can be challenging, because we tend to do a lot of things on auto-pilot or on instinct.
Next time, try this:
1. Break it up into steps and number them in a draft
2. Show them how they can overcome a hurdle and walk them through the steps, as you would a new student.
3. Where relevant, use examples, screenshots or short videos to elucidate a complex concept.
4. Wrap it up in a neat bow with a conclusion or a verdict. Invite them to ask you questions about the process.
As a Service provider, you can take a specific subject in your niche and walk them through the process.
For example, I did that with this post: How to get the most engaged readers, followers and subscribers for your work
As a product seller, you can help them look at what goes into bringing that product from inception to completion. Not only are you reaching your buyer base, but you’re also tapping into another audience- people who’d like to try this out for themselves.
How to use different storytelling formats
Text- based content works incredibly well for stories. We don’t really need fancy images (yes, Instagram, I still love you) or elaborate photo shoots on a tropical island to tell our stories.
Leo Babauta is a classic example of this. If you’ve seen his website, you’d observe how he has no images and no sidebar on his blog.
In other words, the focus is his writing. The core of his work is in his storytelling and the way he builds an audience using just his words.
When he talks about facing fear from cold swimming, we’re invited into his world to see how he learnt something about the process after doing it for 40 days.
A picture is worth a thousand words. But images in storytelling can also convey more than just what you see. For example, when you put up a photo on Instagram, go deeper into what the image speaks of. Even better? Build a carousel post on Instagram and allow people to read the story, like they are flipping through the pages of a book.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
Videos are a fabulous storytelling tool. There’s a reason that YouTube videos as well as videos on TikTok/Instagram are so popular. In fact, the more raw and unedited your videos are, the better they tend to perform in terms of engagement.
Once again, when you post a video, give the reader something to think about, beyond the obvious. Go into detail which you may take longer to cover in a text-only post.
Podcasts are the fun cousin to videos. Fun, because they require lesser bandwidth from the consumer. You don’t have to be sitting in one place and watching a podcast. You can go for a walk, do the dishes or the laundry and even cook while you listen to podcasts.
Some of my favourite podcasts are the ones where stories become a natural part of the episode. It’s one reason I love it when podcast hosts interview guests in their field, since it allows me to listen to the experts speak, when I am on my evening stroll.
The truth is you can experiment with all of these formats, using the same piece of content. I explain how you can repurpose content in 8 different ways in this post, to reach a wider audience.
Here are a few tips to remember on storytelling:
❤️Be vulnerable. Share your fears, your challenges, your hurdles and your obstacles.
❤️Be genuine. We love it when people are kind and compassionate. Let that show in your content.
❤️Be abundant. Don’t hold back and don’t feel tempted to hide anything. People identify with authenticity.
❤️Let go of perfection. I guarantee you’d find a deeper connection with your people.
The more you adopt storytelling in the process of marketing, the easier it becomes. And the more often you do it, the better you’re able to connect with your readers and your target audience.
Embrace stories. They will always be the secret sauce to bringing writers closer to their kind of people.
I’m a blog, social media and content coach with over 13 years of writing, blogging and social media experience.
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