As the old marketing adage goes, “Facts tell, stories sell.” While that advice is sound, today’s corporate communications professionals need to take it a step further. Skillful brand storytelling requires using social media insights to stay up to date on customers’ needs and expectations.
Social media is more than just an avenue to tell your brand’s story. It’s a crucial source of information. Use it to gain insights about your audience so you can connect with them, refine your storytelling and, ultimately, impact your marketing strategy and business success.
You can use feedback from your audience on social media to build a loyal following and make your brand’s story unforgettable. Here’s what you need to know to get started and four brand storytelling examples to inspire you.
What is brand storytelling?
Have you ever felt so connected to a brand that using their product or service made you feel like the person you aspire to be? That’s successful brand storytelling.
At its core, brand storytelling establishes emotional connections with people based on the values you share with them and their needs, desires and aspirations. Innovative brand stories convey empathy, create experiences and demand urgency.
“Telling a brand’s story begins with finding its truth. Whether in social or broadcast or any medium in between, consumers will seek out brands that feel authentic to both their values and what they want from a product or company. Once we’ve mined that truth we then convert it into an outward-facing message that can be disseminated and interpreted in every channel to every audience.”
— Peter Levin, Creative Director at Finn Partners
Your brand’s story impacts your entire PR strategy—from the way your executives should sound or respond to a crisis to how you build your social media presence. Your story should be a throughline across channels.
The elements of a great brand story
Where should you start when creating your brand’s story? Here are three elements to include to help your story make an impact.
Use narrative techniques
People are drawn to stories. The foundation of good brand stories is the same as your favorite movies, shows and books. Characters. Settings. Conflict. Climax. Resolution. By incorporating these five essential elements into your brand’s story, you make it possible to build emotional connections with people. And when you emotionally connect with your audience, you increase brand recall and evangelism.
Lean into authenticity
The most compelling stories glow with authenticity. Avoid creating stories for the sake of jumping on a trend. Instead, stay true to your brand’s identity when telling your story. Use your brand’s legacy, aspirations and values as your north star.
The first 50 years were just the beginning.
See how every dunk, flex and DID YOU SEE THAT?! makes way for the next in our new film. Directed by @Spike_Lee_Joint. Starring Indigo Hubbard-Salk as Zimmie.
— Nike (@Nike) May 16, 2022
Collaborate with your audience
It’s not just your team that needs to align on your story. Today, brand identities aren’t created in an incubator. Instead, creators, loyal fans and marketers work together to co-create a brand’s essence. To tell brand stories that resonate with your audience, you need to get their perspective. Social media is where you can find it.
Tell a brand story that resonates
On social, people tell brands exactly what they want. They share their thoughts, feelings and opinions about brands, products, current events and more. Listen to them first, develop your story second.
Why? Because they want to know your brand empathizes with their needs and aligns with their values. According to the Sprout Social Index™, company alignment with personal values is 74% more important to consumers than it was in 2021.
“If you can get a pulse from your audience in the comments section, DMs or via AMA, that qualitative data can help inform creative and content strategies, your editorial calendar and even your larger marketing strategy. It’s an awesome focus group at your disposal 24/7 that can help you refine your brand story on social and beyond.”
– Alex Suazo, VP Digital Marketing & Social at Finn Partners
Let’s dive into the specific aspects of social media that help brands interact with their audience and uncover voice of customer data (VoC).
The easiest way to access your customers’ feedback is by monitoring your comments section and mentions. They’ll let you know what they love about their experience with you. For example, when Equinox posted a TikTok about the signature aroma of their luxury fitness clubs—a key part of their experience and brand story—loyal fans were quick to sound off in the comments to share their love for the brand’s scent.
On the other hand, when customers experience a roadblock in their journey with you, they’ll let you know by mentioning you or commenting on your posts. Whether they have a customer care concern or disagree with your approach to addressing a social movement, consider negative feedback a learning opportunity. Use it as data to help shape your future brand storytelling.
When you want to know your audience’s perspective, don’t be afraid to ask. Creating interactive polls is a great way to get hot takes on industry-specific debates or product preferences. Polls are a low-lift way to build an engaged community that’s more likely to provide their opinions in the future.
It’s important to note your poll should be appropriate for your followers. Consider what’s in it for them and why they’d want to participate. For example, could they learn something about industry best practices? Do they feel like they have a voice in your company’s stance on an issue?
It’s easy to miss social media engagements, especially when your social team monitors multiple accounts and channels. It’s further complicated when posts only mention your brand by a variation of your name or shout out a product rather than reaching out to you directly. Social monitoring tools make it easier to catch these instances.
Sprout’s Smart Inbox unifies all social channels into a single stream so your team can efficiently respond to untagged mentions of your brand keywords and hashtags from all channels in one place—even if your brand isn’t tagged. The Smart Inbox also allows you to see incoming messages, comments and mentions, so you never miss a detail that could shape your brand story.
How social listening can help boost brand storytelling
While monitoring tells you what people are saying, listening tells you why they’re saying it. With social listening, you can better understand your audience and improve your brand’s story by accessing the full spectrum of conversations around your industry, brand and competitors.
You get a window into the candid thoughts and feelings of an audience to illuminate trends, uncover patterns and gauge emotional response around any topic.
“Listening helps brands stay relevant. Without listening, you have to dig through a sea of social messages or conduct surveys and focus groups. Listening streamlines that process and ensures brands can keep up with the speed of the social trend cycle.”
— Kristin Johnson, VP of Content and Communications at Sprout Social
Here are some of the ways you can use social listening (and a tool like Sprout Social) to boost your brand reputation and create a new, unique brand story.
Build stronger relationships
If you’re feeling out of touch with your audience, the first step is to discover opportunities to build stronger relationships with your community.
- How do our customers feel about us?
- What makes customers want to share about our brand?
- Is our campaign resonating? Why or why not?
In Sprout’s listening tool, you can review sentiment trends related to your brand. For example, note how positive and negative feelings have evolved over time. Consider how sentiment aligns with your ongoing campaigns, PR efforts or other current events.
Improve your products
In many cases, creating a new brand story includes improving products. Use customer feedback on social to refine your product development.
- Why do people like or dislike our brand and products?
- How do our products align with our customers’ values?
- How do our customers respond to the stories around our products?
Sprout’s listening tool allows you to monitor keywords related to your products. This makes it possible to identify new trends that can help shape your product improvements and launches.
Join industry conversations
Innovative brands on social don’t miss a chance to join—and even start—conversations. To make sure you’re in the know, it’s important to be aware of where and why conversations are taking place.
- Why are certain hashtags and discussions trending in our industry?
- Why is our audience responding to an event or trend?
- What are people saying about our competitors (and their products or services)?
It’s natural to have a fear of missing out on trending conversations. In Sprout’s listening tool, you can add themes related to trends and events relevant to your brand’s story to determine how they resonate with your audience. You can also visualize how your brand stacks up against your competitors by comparing share of voice and volume.
Brand storytelling examples that connect with audiences
So, what does it look like to use social media data to tell compelling brand stories? Here are a few examples of brands leading the way.
The story: Health and happiness in our daily lives starts with mindfulness and meditation.
Headspace is an app created to help guide users through meditations and mindfulness exercises with ease. With Headspace, mental health and wellness feel less complicated. They reinforce why meditation is an important tool and how their app makes it easier.
Headspace not only relies on feedback from social to refine the user experience of their app, but also to keep a pulse on the direction of mental health and wellness trends.
The story: Rented and thrifted clothing make you seem eco-friendly and stylish—while saving you money.
Nuuly is a retail brand that offers a clothing rental program and thrifted merchandise. They make on-trend, high-quality styles available to everyone. Nuuly customers take pride in using the brand because it’s sustainable, financially sound and exceptional caliber.
My rule with clothing these days is I buy only things I expect to wear at least 60 times. That’s a high bar so I end up renting dresses and work wear for events. Lately I’ve been enjoying @shopnuuly to rent and creating a capsule of 5 pieces. my Spring / New Year / Winter picks pic.twitter.com/830USsovjZ
— Christine Corbett Moran (@corbett) March 3, 2022
Nuuly uses social insights to stay current on en vogue style, and make sure they’re in alignment with their customers’ values. They also use social monitoring to respond to and research their audience, as you can see from how they responded to this customer (who happened to be a NASA employee).
The story: We need to take immediate and radical action to fight climate change.
Greenpeace UK is a branch of Greenpeace, a global campaigning network dedicated to protecting the planet. On social media, Greenpeace UK uses visual imagery to convey the truth of the destruction to the planet, while also providing hope and inspiration.
♻️ 13% is recycled
🌍 18% is sent abroad
🔥 45% is burnt
⛰️ 24% is sent to landfill
Get in touch and tell me how you did! pic.twitter.com/fGDPmBuIPA
— Preet Kaur Gill MP (@PreetKGillMP) May 23, 2022
Greenpeace UK partners with local politicians to serve as ambassadors to help tell their story. Many created personalized infographics to accompany their posts with the #BigPlasticCount. This aligns with Greenpeace UK’s approach: every good story needs good visuals.
The story: America’s happy place.
Target is a store for everything. The Target brand has been around for over 100 years, but they constantly reinvent themselves to continue providing the best shopping experience for their customers.
Today, they partner with influencers like Tabitha Brown to offer trendy clothing, food, skincare products, electronics, toys and more. People choose Target when they want a bit of extra joy in their life—whether it’s from recreating online aesthetics at home or being delighted in store.
I have my very own collection @target 🙌🏾. Tabitha Brown x Target!!😭😭. I can’t wait for you all to experience these limited time pieces with me this summer!! Colorful, joyful, comfy and chic for everyone!!! Daddy, look, I did it!!!! June 11th Shop the Tabitha Brown for Target collection in select Target stores and online at Target.com. 🙌🏾 Click the link in my bio to see the full collection 😭❤️🙌🏾 #targetpartner #targettabcollab #joytobeseen
♬ original sound – Tabitha Brown
Target looks to social media to understand emerging trends, how they can infuse more joy into people’s experiences with their brand and what their next collaboration should look like.
Use social media to create an impactful brand story
Brand storytelling is an essential part of your overall marketing strategy. To tell better stories, you have to listen to what people are saying.
That starts with social monitoring, but can’t stop there. Social listening is critical to understanding people’s experiences with your brand—and beyond.
Because the best storytellers are actually engaged listeners.
Looking to learn more about how you can grow and protect your brand? Download this free corporate communication plan template.