How to tell stories on social media

With the widespread use of smartphones, the major social media players have become household names: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and TikTok. For many, they are the windows to what’s happening beyond our family and work life, in areas such as our community and internationally.

For organisations, having a social presence is considered necessary today. But with so much noise on these platforms, how do organisations and content creators cut through the clutter  to grab the audiences’ attention?

Before I dive into the general tips for social media content, one thing to note is that each platform has its captive audience and strengths as a platform:

  • TikTok is a short-form video platform allowing for clips up to 60s, known for a large Gen Z usership. 
  • Facebook and Twitter started out as textual platforms, but they’ve grown to incorporate memes and videos. 
  • Facebook is sort of the ubiquitous platform with almost everyone on it these days, but active usership is largely among millennials
  • Twitter is popular for journalists and for developing news updates
  • Instagram is a photo-heavy platform and, with IGTV, it has incorporated longer form videos. 
  • Snapchat had pioneered ephemeral storytelling – posts that become accessible after a short period. Its popularity seems to have waned after Facebook and Instagram came up with the ‘stories’ function
  • YouTube is also quite ubiquitous and tends to work best for longer video viewing

Some guidelines for creating content on social

In the book “Navigating Disruption: Media Relations in the Digital Age”, I interviewed a social media expert on how to craft content on social. Some of the advice has been adapted below, along with my personal experience as well. Here goes:

  1. Telling stories on social media requires evoking an emotional reaction:
    1. Pique curiosity
    2. Inspire
    3. Tickle
    4. Shock and awe
    5. Horrific/ disgust
    6. Titillate
  1. Humanise. Share trivia about personal life stories – childhood, hobbies, aspirations or ‘how I achieve this’

People are generally interested in other people like themselves. They tend to look for similarities with other people. When storytellers cater to this intrinsic curiosity, it can work in getting organic engagement.

  1. Short and sharp, instead of a story arc

People scroll through their feeds casually and quickly. Hence, the key is to get to the punchline ASAP. If posts are too wordy and concise, it can easily be lost. 

  1. Think visual

Generally videos, memes, or comic-like content tends to get users to take a second look while scrolling through their feed. 

  1. Humour

Humour tends to rely heavily on authenticity, pop culture and current affairs references, as well as clever puns such as in the case of memes. For organisations, they need to understand whether such stories or tone of voice is suitable for the organisation. 

Check out the analysis of the Singapore government’s light-hearted response to the ‘Count on me, Singapore’ copyright tussle, to understand how humour can fall flat. 

Conclusion 

Social media is sort of a bulletin board of what is happening around us. For casual users, they are filtering content through very quickly just like a casual reader of the newspaper or someone sieving through content on Netflix. 

Thus, information on social needs to be written very succinctly. Accompanying visuals are absolutely essential to grab attention. The best measure for engaging content is posts and visuals that can emotionally connect with audiences. 

Find out more tips from a social media expert in ‘Navigating Disruption: Media Relations in the Digital Age’.