Humans are hardwired to enjoy stories.
We’re as enthralled by them today as we have been for thousands of years. There’s no better way to capture attention and lead your potential customers along the journey from complete stranger to interested prospect.
Savvy marketers can use stories to connect with their audiences, engage them with the brand, and build trust.
It’s a key skill of any great marketer.
If you run an ecommerce store, storytelling elements elevate your marketing campaigns from every channel to the next level.
If you’re not using storytelling in your campaigns, you’re missing out on an incredibly powerful asset.
But it’s never too late to start.
Here’s what the best social sellers are doing right now to engage using stories.
Why Storytelling is So Successful in Increasing Sales
Every successful marketing campaign shares one key component.
They all create an experience for an audience.
Take this indirect marketing from Budweiser as an example.
They’re taking a shot at the craft beer producers of the world by reminding their key audience what it is they like so much about Bud.
They’ve created a story of what Bud is all about. A story that speaks to their key demographics beliefs. And it’s very well done.
It’s a concept as old as advertising itself. Take the below ad from legendary ad man David Ogilvy for example.
The opening line gives you an image of sitting in the car at 60mph in absolute comfort.
It creates that image in your mind of what the product is about and leads you to create your own story about what you could do with a Rolls of your own.
Getting the user to picture themselves with your product is key to selling more.
After asking users what a good story does to their purchasing behavior, StateofDigital discovered 55% of users would consider buying from a brand if they loved the story.
And an effective story is one of the easiest ways to achieve exactly that. But things have changed since the days of Ogilvy.
The Rise of Visual Storytelling
Everyone is walking around with a phone in their pocket.
And they’re all using them to find, research, and interact with brands like yours.
It’s become incredibly hard to stand out from the crowd.
But one of the best methods is to leverage highly visual marketing.
Why focus on the visual element when a story is more easily expressed in words?
You shouldn’t ignore the words of your story, but you should leverage images that hel reinforce its main point.
Doing so ensures the message is retained.
And this is great news for social media marketers.
Social; networks are naturally visual. You can easily supplement your copy with a highly engaging image to turn a cool story into an unforgettable experience.
And I’m going to run you through exactly how to do it.
Telling Stories with Social Ads
With 74% of consumers using social platforms as part of their purchase decision research, it pays to use paid social ads.
But it’s not enough to simply create an ad.
With so many paid ads on social appearing in your customers’ news feeds, it’s important that you create ads that stand out by telling a story.
The successful social seller has ads that make people stop scrolling and pay attention.
Facebook’s carousel ads are a great medium for storytelling online. Be creative and use your images to take the prospect on a journey from start to finish, rather than just using a selection of disparate images.
Here’s a great example of how to leverage engaging visuals with a story element from Kay Jewelers.
If you don’t have the ability to produce a video, fear not.
Paid social storytelling can still really pack a punch through sequential ads.
Instead of producing a video, you tell the same story through individual ads, but drip feed them to users through sequential targeting.
For example, the first sequential ad for a charity might begin with a message highlighting the plight of a real refugee.
The second ad introduces the charity into the story, showing how they helped the refugee.
The third and final ad ends with a direct appeal to the viewer, building on the emotions raised in the previous two.
Just make sure that if adopting this method, the design makes it clear that the ads are following on from one another.
Facebook (and other social platforms) offer a variety of different ad formats, from carousels and sequentials to canvases and dynamic ads.
Experiment with each to build on your customer’s interest at the different stages of the buyer’s journey. Incite interest with a captivating hook, and then draw them in further from there.
Taking It Live
Live video provides another format for telling a story, simply because it is authentic.
Authenticity is something that many businesses strive for in their marketing, and it’s what people want to see.
There is nothing more authentic than a live video.
No editing, no scripts, just live footage.
And it’s that authenticity people want to see.
There are lots of options for live formats: behind-the-scenes, conference or event coverage, a product development walkthrough.
You could try hosting an informal Q&A — create a hashtag and invite your social media followers to ask anything they want.Here’s a great example from the Sephora team. They answer questions from users and, of course, take the time to push their own products with each and every tip they give.
It’s a great way to gain engagement.
And if you coupled this with jumper’s checkout bot you could quickly turn the advice into actual sales throughout the live video.
Whether you’re leveraging social commerce to drive immediate sales or not, live video is a great way to engage your audience.
It’s cheap to produce and very well received.
Simply start recording from your phone and show your followers real events in real time.
Don’t go live without any planning.
Prepare something in advance and get a basic structure in place. Identify your goals beforehand and provide a rough path for your video.
And if you are using jumper to sell directly through the video, be sure to have your sales hashtags that kick off the checkout bot readily set up!
Of course, you can’t plan for everything, but having a general guide in place will help shape your end product.
Telling Stories Using Photos
Think of a story and you’ll likely think of the written word. But stories can be told in many ways.
As mentioned earlier, using images is a great way to punch up the impact of your stories.
Images are especially effective on social media, so use them to tell stories.
Photographs can provide your audience with a candid insight into the inner workings of your brand, speaking volumes with a single image.
A good example of this can be seen in luxury brand Hermès’ Instagram:
As well as shots of their products and models, Hermès also give their followers a behind-the-scenes look at their manufacturing process and offer some fun little illustrations.
Artfully-shot photos of men and women hard at work tells a story of the love, care, and attention that goes into Hermès’ products.
Hermés isn’t just showing you their product, they’re showing you the care that’s taken in making them.
They’re showing you a lighter side of the brand through illustration.
And they’re showing you the elegance of the product in visual form.;
Rather than simply taking photos of your products or service in use, take intimate shots that demonstrate your business’ human side as well.
In doing so, you can give your brand real depth and value in your customers’ eyes.
Struggling to find the time to take authentic snaps? Use a high-quality and unique stock photo to use as a visual hook, then tell a story based on it through the caption.
It’s important that you avoid using generic stock photos, instead using more niche sites that offer photos that stray from the beaten path.
Using the Power of User Generated Content (UGC)
User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful content format, especially on social media. On a platform on which so many of your customers are active, it’s ripe for both mining and sharing UGC.
By getting your customers to provide content for your brand, you can create a narrative that is rich with social proof.
Buffer is especially good at this, using their #BufferCommunity hashtag to source real photos from real customers showcasing their lives.
As well as providing Buffer with easy engagement and marketing, it also portrays the brand’s human side.
The added benefit here is that user-generated content is trusted far more than brand created promotions.
Again, it doesn’t have a specifically sales-led purpose — it simply tells the story of a brand that cares about its customers.
One of the easiest ways to tell a story around your products using UGC is to encourage your customers to send in videos about their experiences with your products.
For example, a customer could create a homemade video introducing the problem they were struggling with, how they discovered your product, and how it solved their problem.
That would give you an instant story, and ultimately prove even more powerful than any story you could tell by providing genuine social proof.
Of course, you’d have to incentivize this as few customers are willing to take so much time out of their day to help your brand.
Going In-Depth with Videos
Video is the perfect medium for telling stories, and it’s a format that is growing more popular by the day.
Both short and long-form content can be used on social, and Instagram’s recent rollout of IGTV makes it easier than ever before to do both.
Shorter videos are perfect for telling success stories, such as founder achievements or even customer stories. Airbnb do this beautifully, as evidenced in the clip below:
By exploring the life of one of its hosts, Airbnb weaves a narrative of sharing and community around its brand. It’s some excellent video content that keeps the viewer hooked until the very end.
Marvel took this one step further with their Infinity War campaign.
In addition to the usual actions of having behind the scenes footage, eye-catching trailers, and actor promotions on their social media, they used jumper to turn engagement into actual sales.
You can see an image from their Infinity War promotion below.
You can see that the copy asks people to drop the hashtag #AvengersSG in the comments.
This hashtag kicked off a checkout bot that sold them a ticket directly within the Instagram environment.
So not only does the user get a highly engaging ad that grabs attention, but they also are given the opportunity to buy a ticket right there in just a few clicks!
Don’t be afraid to deviate from the usual sales-driven videos for your brand. By telling stories around your brand and your customers creates a powerful bond.
This strengthens customer loyalty, the foundation for a high customer lifetime value.
For example, you could create a story about how your ecommerce store was founded, starting with the problem you discovered and taking the viewer through the challenges you faced in setting up your business.
This shows your customers the level of dedication and hard work that goes into creating the products or service that they love.
Storytelling is powerful, especially on social media, so make an effort to use it in your own social strategy.
Be creative with your marketing and don’t just post the same thing as everyone else to your social channels.
Then, ensure that your users have a way to interact with your story beyond the regular like and share.
If you add an automated checkout bot to your highest performing stories, you’ll see massive gains like Marvel’s 58% conversion rate from engagement to sales.
All you have to do is ensure there’s a streamlined checkout that leads on from the engagement (something you can achieve by signing up for a free jumper account right here).
Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who readily gets suckered in by a good social media narrative. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.