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How to Use Digital Storytelling as your Social Media "Secret Sauce"

Posted 19 September, 2013
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How_to_Use_Digital_Storytelling_as_your_Social_Media_Secret_Saucedigital-storytelling-social-mediaWe've all been there, right?

Around a campfire. Around the dinner table. Maybe just on the phone with a friend.

But we've been there -- held speechless & captivated while listening to a great story.

Why speechless? Why captivated?

Because we all LOVE stories!

People LOVE stories.

Even a kid knows this -- and maybe knows it better than adults!

So if you could use storytelling to your advantage on social media -- in digital form -- then why wouldn't you be doing so?

You could be leveraging one of the most basic facets of human nature!

With that in mind, let's look at some ways to use digital storytelling on sites like Facebook, Google+ & Twitter.

How to Use Digital Storytelling in Social Media

Below are 5 ways you can start using digital storytelling on your social media accounts today.

1. Show Your Brand’s Human Side

People connect with people, not brands.

So to connect with your customers, show your brand’s personal side.

The goal is to create a personal brand that resonates with your audience & to do that, it is important that your brand tells a story.

-Nick Nanton & JW Dicks at Fast Company


  • what you’re doing
  • what you’re learning
  • a look behind the scenes

The way Straight North does here on its Facebook page:


At the same time, don’t share too many personal details. Remember: social media isn't your diary.

Whatever you choose to share, make sure you’re comfortable with the whole world knowing. :)

2. Share Your Brand’s Story

People don’t buy into brands -- they buy into the story behind brands.

Just like you use your website & blog to tell your brand’s story, do the same thing with social media.

Reinforce your brand’s message & the things that you stand for.

For example, if you’re an organic grocery store like Whole Foods, known for a focus on natural products & overall health, then use social media to share information that suits that message.

Whole Foods actually does this on Twitter all the time, sharing healthy tips, links to whole foods recipes, etc.:

Digital storytelling on Twitter

Every piece of content you post, no matter how simple or small, is a way to reinforce the story you’re communicating.

Doing so builds credibility for your brand & makes your content relevant.

3. Work Narrative into Updates

One of the best ways to tell a story is to do exactly that -- tell a story.

You can do this on Facebook by turning your status updates into miniature blog posts.

Author Anne Lamott does this regularly on her Facebook page, drawing extensive comments & Likes.

Digital storytelling narrative

But it’s not just Facebook that's conducive to digital storytelling.

Even Twitter, with it's 140 character limit, can be an awesome tool for telling stories. In fact, working within a character limit just encourages creativity.

Think it’s not possible to tell a story in 140 characters? Consider the following examples, proving that intriguing stories can still be short:

Storytelling on Twitter

Telling stories digitally on Twitter

Even photo-centric Instagram can be used to tell a story.

As you post your image, write a caption that tells a simple narrative, the way award-winning blogger & author Molly Wizenberg does here:


4. Share Consecutive Posts to Tell a Broader Story

No Tweet is an island -- and another way to share a story on social media is to use consecutive updates to tell the story, from beginning to end.

The first Tweet could be:

Came home to a house so quiet I could hear a pin drop.

Followed by:

But then we walked into the bedroom, where a big surprise was waiting.

Followed by:

Both kids had constructed a giant fort & fallen asleep in the middle of furniture & blankets.

The play-by-play creates anticipation -- which is the best way to make a story captivating.

Here’s an example of how @danjenkinsgd live-Tweets events in a consecutive Tweet-after-Tweet fashion:


Here’s another example, from food blogger @HoneyandJam -- who turns her plans to write a post into a Twitter play-by-play, building anticipation for the posts to come:


5. Incorporate Elements of Story into Posts

The concept of "story" is so basic, it can feel hard to break down & understand.

So if creating stories feels complicated, focus in on the basic elements of stories & try to incorporate them in your content.

Here are a few to consider:

Relatable Characters:

Part of the reason you want to share a personal side of your business (see point #1 above) is that it makes you relatable.

Every good story has relatable characters with personalities & interests. Make your brand that sort of character by letting your audience in.

Likewise, creating regular personalities in your narratives—office personnel, company mascots, etc.—is a good way to build people your customers find engaging.

Stories with a Beginning, Middle & End:

One of the most basic building blocks of a good story is pacing -- first this happens, then this, then this.

Beginning, middle, end. Use this sort of narrative arc any way you can.


People like drama!

And stories are most compelling when they include conflict & resolution.

So whether you’re sharing about the flood damage affecting your facility or behind-the-scenes challenges in developing products, sharing details about the conflict associated with your work will draw readers in.

Your Thoughts

Does reading the above tips give you ideas for using digital storytelling in your social media updates?

My advice: Start using them today!

When you find a way to incorporate narrative into your content, you find a way to make yourself relatable, interesting, & worth following.

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