One of the most powerful ways to connect is through storytelling. So while putting 6,000 hashtags on your brand’s latest Instagram post is one way of getting your social media noticed, it’s narrative that will help your business stand out from the rest and help you truly connect with potential clients and customers on platforms that are as personal as the people who use them. Here are six ways to use storytelling to build your social media following:
1. USE YOUR “WHY” TO DRIVE YOUR NARRATIVE
Every great story is driven by an overarching thematic question that the narrative serves to answer, or the “why” in “why am I telling this story?” Or, for our purposes: “why am I selling this product or service?”
When crafting your social media strategy, it’s essential to articulate your thematic question, or your “why” behind your business or service to your audience in an authentic way.
If your “why” is to enable others to have incredible outdoor adventures by selling them gear to do so, then that should come across in every part of your social media messaging. You should have photos of powdery ski slopes, deep blue waves, and the underlying message across every caption: “we’re here to get you out there, enjoying your next adventure.” Themes are universal — make sure yours is clear so that every Tweet and Instagram is tied together under this umbrella of purpose. Social media is intimate, and your messaging should be as well. Use your theme to connect on a personal level with your audience and their wants.
2. MAKE YOUR AUDIENCE THE HERO OF YOUR STORY
The best social media strategies make the audience the hero. It’s easier than you think: just look at the timelines of your followers. Get them engaged in your content, and celebrate them and their accomplishments by retweeting their successes, sharing their images (with permission), and maybe designating a spot on your website highlighting the achievements and aesthetically pleasing posts from your followers. Build your tribe and your community — and then celebrate them.
Show off your ideal customers. You can use contests and giveaways paired with a unique hashtag to gather your community together, and from there, promote and highlight them on your various channels. Everyone loves to emulate a hero, so by highlighting those in your brand’s community, you tap into a powerful form of mirroring that will help your customer base grow.
3. ALLOW YOUR AUDIENCE TO WRITE THEIR OWN ROLES
Allow your audience to imagine themselves in many different roles through aspirational and inspirational imaging.
If you’re selling a fitness tracker, show athletes, professionals, and other powerful people wearing the fitness tracker as they scale mountains, hop on private jets, and run on the beach. Give your audience juicy stories to imagine themselves in. “Aspirational” is code for tell them some cool stories about where they could be with your help.
This kind of storytelling works at every level. Selling books or coffee? Share images of cozy beds and hammocks stocked with beautiful hardcover books or steaming mugs of coffee. Selling your services as a business coach to help people work from anywhere in the world? Well, who wouldn’t want to work from the Bahamas with a daiquiri next to their laptop? Show people the images that tell them the story of the roles they could fill using your product or service.
4. START EVERY STORY WITH A PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED
Great stories all have a problem to be overcome. Your social media should show your heroes overcoming the conflicts and problems they face every day, conquering and coming out better than they were before. If you’re a private jet company competing with airlines, share pictures of your customers walking right up to the jet — no lines for this flight! Identify the problems your audience faces every day — and show them how you can help overcome these daily struggles.
5. NOBODY WANTS TO SUPPORT A VILLAIN
To keep the tides of social media from turning against your brand and your business, make sure to focus on keeping your social media positive and uplifting. Don’t get into arguments on Twitter, stay away from negative messaging, and avoid bashing the competition. Bad social media isn’t like bad press — none of it will help you. The last thing you want is an internet-led boycott of your services. Some of the more successful contests and campaigns on social media tap into the millennial generation’s socially-conscious leanings, so if you can support a nonprofit or find ways to give back, that’s a powerful way to show you’re a brand to root for.
6. EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO THEIR HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Use escapism and aspirational imaging on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to show your audience the future you want for them. If you’re a home organizer selling your services, show images of beautifully organized closets and homes and share tips with your followers. If you’re a health blog, share ways for them to sleep better, feel more energized, and eat healthier so they can live longer.
What other ways can your products and services improve the lives of your customers? Get specific. Focus your strategy around those moments. Give back to the community when you can. Social media is a platform that’s centered around selling the best version of tomorrow. Always focus on the happily ever after: that’s what we’re all here for.
This article originally appeared in Upwork.