University Marketing & Communications

November 22, 2019

Telling compelling stories on social media

Jacob Kelly

More often than not, social media is seen by marketers as a promotional tool for their website, the “Starship Enterprise” of their business. But is that how audiences want to consume social media — not to mention how the social media companies want their platforms to be viewed?

Keeping your end user in mind is paramount to a strong digital engagement strategy. Consider this: When you visit Facebook or Instagram, are you looking to immediately leave either of those platforms by clicking a link or swiping up on a story? If the content is compelling enough, perhaps. But most of the time, you have an expectation of what your experience is going to be when you open each app based in part by the accounts you follow as well as the unique qualities of that social media platform.

If that’s not enough to compel you to tailor your storytelling so that it feels like a native experience on each platform, consider that Facebook’s algorithm in particular dings the reach of posts that aim to take users away from their platform. You should see an increase in organic reach and engagement by making the extra effort.

Instead of focusing on promoting your long form story, consider using your social media account(s) as another opportunity to tell one aspect of it to a new audience. Think of some of the most compelling elements from your story, and distill each element down to one social post. Depending on your original story, you may find yourself with quite a few interesting social posts that can stand on their own — a great tactic for when you’re strapped for resources and time, but still have social channels to feed!

Here are some helpful tips for popular platforms:

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Posted by University of Washington on Friday, January 24, 2020

Be meatier with your storytelling in the copy – use a pull quote, a key statistic or expand on the lede of the article. Naturally weave in your CTA to read the long form version of the story.

Use the headline and a thoughtfully crafted CTA for why it’s worth a user’s time to learn more. Additionally, the Tweet thread feature is a great way to expand on the article, especially ones that are listicles.

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Bangalore, India is running out of groundwater. As part of the UW’s Grand Challenges Impact Lab, UW students are working with the community to find solutions to the shrinking groundwater supply. Their solution involves collecting rainwater — currently only 3 percent is gathered and used — by diverting it from rooftops. Going door-to-door, students learned that many homeowners were interested in having wells installed. The team then traveled to the outskirts of the city to talk to well diggers. “We really had to get to know the local people so we could find solutions that would fit their needs,” said Cristina Lopez, BSENVE ’19. “This process forced us to empathize deeply.”

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If the story you’re promoting is rich in photos and has multiple parts to the story, telling it frame by frame via Instagram stories is a great method to expand on substantive content.