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Why Storytelling is Imperative, and Why Facebook is “All In”

In last week’s Insight, I discussed the value of storytelling and made connections between my personal storytelling experiences with my grandkids, and how we, as marketers, can use storytelling to help brands better connect with their audience. This week, I call your attention to the storytelling imperative so you can think about your own storytelling strategy.


If you think about it, storytelling is how our world authentically communicates. We humans have been telling stories from the beginning of time to make sense and imbue meaning into our lives. Stories are passed down from generation to generation, evoke emotions, and build connections. Storytelling opens up windows into different perspectives, and provides mirrors for the self. It is also easy to see that storytelling is so important to modern life when Netflix invests $3 billion a year in developing new stories through movies and documentaries.


Facebook, one of the world’s biggest companies, built its company, somewhat unknowingly, on the idea of storytelling when it launched Newsfeed and Timeline. Facebook has gone through several design iterations prior to these, evolving from a stagnant profile with personal details and a small section (or “Wall”) for comments from friends, to a format that allowed for photos, videos, “likes”, comments, replies, ongoing dialogue, and more. From a marketing perspective, Facebook’s Newsfeed feature created a successful advertising platform which allowed for brands and businesses to share interactive media content and engage more directly with their consumers. Timeline and other modifications and innovations like Memories, enable brands ad people to tell a fuller story and to recall those stories.  Now, Facebook is now mid-leap in their transition from a dependence on its Newsfeed advertising model to a new storytelling model through Facebook Stories. The reasoning behind this? “For one,” said Mark Zuckerberg in his Q318 earning call “we’re seeing the way people connect shifting to private messaging and stories…Messaging and stories make up the vast majority of growth in the sharing that we’re seeing.” Facebook is taking its cues from consumers, and consumers want better, more creative ways to share their stories.


Instagram, owned by Facebook, pre-dated Facebook’s storytelling with their launch of Instagram Stories in 2016. Instagram Stories allow users to post photos or short video clips, decorated with creative touches like text, filters, graphics, and more. The novelty of the Story is that it only appears for a period of 24 hours, during which other users can view, reply to, and even engage with the Story through newer features like polls and sliding emoji scales. Interestingly, Facebook launched their own Story feature about a year later, likely to try to appeal to the younger, Instagram-devoted audience –but it was not met with nearly as much popularity as the Insta feature.


Again, in his October 30th earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg also candidly shared that while Facebook’s effort to shift from “Newsfeed-first” to “Stories-first” hasn’t been as smooth as he initially hoped for, he feels that this initiative is important for the Facebook community long-term. Zuckerberg says that this will take some time and that revenue growth may be slower during the period of shifting ads from “Newsfeed” to “Newsfeed plus Stories” (like it was while transitioning to mobile), but that this transition will be well worth it. “People now share more than 1 billion stories every day…I just think that this is the future,” he said.


An interesting development in the world of Stories is Instagram’s addition of Story Highlights – a feature that allows the 24-hour lifespan of a Story to live on indefinitely in a user’s Instagram Profile, under a new, prominently displayed, Story Highlights section. For some brands and influencers, Story Highlights has emerged as a particularly useful tool to set these authentic stories apart from other content on their profile. Instagram allows for the creation of multiple separate Story Highlights to be listed under different categories that are user-created, which allows for creative organization. The content in Story Highlights range from success stories from consumers, to overviews of company events, to new product launches, and more. Because they have been created using the Story feature, these Highlights have a different, more personalized feel than regular content.


All brands should take note that the world’s leading social media company is “all in” on its storytelling strategy. It’s not enough to know the mechanics of how people and organizations create and deploy stories on social media. You should be developing your own storytelling strategy – one that syncs up your legacy and purpose with the experience and journey of the people you hope to engage. In next week’s Insight, we’ll give you a little inspiration by sharing a couple of examples of great storytelling by some leading brands.


Marketing Agency Blog Post Author of Why Storytelling is Imperative, and Why Facebook is “All In”

November 15, 2018
Written by Tom Sullivan

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