Two people converse about social media story on their smartphones

Your content can shape people.

And if it is your desire to shape them well, that is a noble goal. But what if we flip that around?

Instead of focusing on creating content that shapes people, what if we shape content around what people want to share?

Viral content can be unpredictable. Human behavior is complicated. But, there is something that can be done to create engaging shareable content. Content with something that all humans share- emotion.

Emotion, both positive and negative, can be a strong motivator for connecting with and sharing content online. But more positive. Steve Rayson from Buzzsumo analyzed their viral content looking for common characteristics in 100 million headlines. He identified seven emotions that played the strongest role in driving social shares:

  • Amusing
  • Surprising
  • Heartwarming
  • Beautiful
  • Inspiring
  • Warning
  • Shocking

All of these can trigger strong feelings with just the last two having a negative connotation.

So, how can you use emotion to your advantage in your branding, social media, and online content?

One of the best ways to evoke emotion with your content is through storytelling. Stories have power. Remember with power comes responsibility so keep your readers and followers in mind and tread carefully.

The way to capture your audience and build a loyal following is to bond with them. Using emotion effectively in your content creates a strong connection that makes your followers feel like they know and understand you.

There is a reason people love and remember stories. And it comes down to some chemicals in our brains. Think endorphins. Dopamine and Oxytocin.

They make us focus, bond, and remember.

The days of interruptive advertising have ended, opening the way to the storytelling era. The media ecosystem has changed. Advertisers used to just have to disrupt patterns and grab attention. Think a catchy song lyric during a commercial interruption of your favorite tv show. But, thanks to our content overload, people have gotten smarter. They expect even advertising to tell a story and have meaning besides just “buy.”

In the Docu-Series Brand Storytelling, the host says,
“If the consumers don’t want their entertainment interrupted with advertising, the advertising must become the entertainment.”

Entertainment with a greater purpose than to sell. A message. A story.

In their course Branding You™, Jonathan Levi and Anthony Metivier say,
“A good story is a strategically crafted narrative about transformation. The transformation your customer wants to experience.”

The top headline phrases in Steve Rayson’s research used “will make you.” I have used a form of that headline for this post. It promises some kind of transformation. The transformation I hope you get from this post is to think about your brand through a storytelling lens.

How do you use stories to your advantage online?

1. Decide what is most compelling in your story and what your audience wants to hear. Then use that to hook em’. You have to hook your audience fast online.

Amy Ladino does a great job of this with her YouTube video intros. Check out this one:

Don’t you just want to watch more and see what she is talking about!

2. Decide which of the seven emotions is most relevant to your story and figure out a way to evoke that throughout.

Airbnb is great at capturing the heartwarming emotion.

3. Create conflict. Just like the classic story arc, a flat story is no story at all. There needs to be some kind of struggle.

Metlife demonstrates this in their “My Dad’s Story” video. Ahh so sweet and then… conflict, plot twist. Grab the tissues.

In all these examples you do not see companies screaming for you to buy their stuff or use their services. Your awareness of the company is a natural side effect. What you are really drawn into is the content, the story. And this makes you remember and become engaged.

Clarify your message, evoke emotion, insert conflict, resolve the problem.

It is storytelling, yes, but what you really want to do is show not tell. What was life like before, what happened (explosion), what is life like now. Make your company the backdrop and the story the star.

JW Marriott® created a whole series of short films and YouTube channel called Two Bellmen.

Where are you likely to find bellmen? A hotel.

What business is Marriott® in? The hotel business.

“Two Bellmen is an action-comedy from Marriott Content Studios about, well, two bellmen who prove their company loyalty when the JW Marriott LA LIVE comes under siege by “The Purple Panthers,” the most notorious smash and grab art thieves of our time.”

The hotels are the backdrop to the story, yet when you finish watching you want to stay in one of Marriott®’s hotels. You see what they are like and the city surrounding them. You see the bellmen helping out customers and it oozes cool.

Now you may not have Marriott®’s budget for a production like this, but use it to fuel your inspiration and begin to think about your brand in a different way. From the story angle. Marriott® is seeking to reach out to Millennials so they gave this series a cheeky fun feel. Make your story fit your audience. The psychology behind great social media content requires creators to cut through the noise.

Make a heart impact. Make a visual impact. And build a community.