By Mark Sherbin published December 7, 2012

5 Brand Storytelling Lessons We Can Learn from Facebook Stories

brand storytelling_facebook stories-coverJust four months ago, Facebook launched headfirst into the world of active content marketing with Facebook Stories, a website that showcases unique ways people across the globe use the social networking site. The engaging new channel also offers a rich source of data, featuring infographics and interactive data visualizations.

Facebook, one of the web’s most recognized brands, already has the attention of a billion people. But a little extra branding can go a long way.

Unfair, isn’t it? While the rest of us struggle to dig up new topics and build editorial teams, Facebook’s marketing team has an army of users-at-arms, and the resources to build just about anything.

While you might not be able to do everything that Facebook does, there are lessons we can all learn from the mega-brand: Facebook Stories is a rich experiment in showcasing a story-driven content marketing strategy. What the site does well, it does very well. So, what exactly can content marketers learn?

The most powerful stories are human

From the start, Facebook Stories grips you and doesn’t let go, evidenced by the story of Mayank Sharma.

Mayank is a man who suffered through meningitis, a terrible disease that ravaged his memory. Disoriented and desperate, he turns to Facebook to piece his social network back together using the “People you may know” feature.

At its core, the story is about its protagonist Mayank. We’re compelled by his difficult situation and the resolve with which he meets his challenge. Facebook is simply a supporting character — a tool reminding him that the strength to move on was inside him all along.

Lesson: Your product should never be the main character of your story.
Mayank’s story is compelling because it’s human. Your most powerful stories are human, too. They illustrate how a person or team responds in the face of an obstacle. Your product is simply the tool they use to overcome it.

Each vignette is a piece of your brand story

Every piece of content you create plays into your brand’s overall message. Understanding that pattern is crucial to planning your content marketing.

Through Stories, each vignette contributes to the narrative of the Facebook brand. In essence, Mayank’s tale is a story within a story.

Yeah, we just got meta.

Facebook illustrates its message — “connecting people” — from both high-level and granular perspectives. From a high level, we get pieces of content focused on demographics (such as the Election Day and World’s Friendship maps). On the granular level, we see individual stories like Mayank’s. Each of these elements plays into the greater story of how Facebook connects people — a rich tale that visitors can’t necessarily digest in one sitting. After all, you only have a few minutes per piece of content to keep your visitor’s attention.

Lesson: Tell your brand’s story in digestible chunks.
Your brand’s story is the sum of its parts. As you craft individual pieces of content, always keep the larger message and mission at heart.

Use every medium at your disposal

It’s easy to get stuck focusing all of your resources on whatever media performs best with your audience. But a balanced diet is important to the health of your content marketing. You’ll never know if your audience likes a specific content format until you try.

Stories uses interactive maps, videos, texts, infographics and pictures to construct a vivid, compelling story line. The site even includes podcasts (like The 4.74 Degrees of Kevin Bacon).

Lesson: Bring your brand’s story to life through varied media.
Don’t get stuck on a single media type. Different audience members consume media in different ways.

Themes are crucial to storytelling

Categorical elements play into the overall message of your content marketing. If your brand’s core message is “environmental friendliness,” for instance, you may build content around themes like sustainability, recycling, alternative energy, and more.

Facebook Stories puts themes into play as “Issues,” the page’s main navigation and organization vehicle. “Issues” are core to the organizational and thematic presentation of Stories. Each month, the site explores a different issue — each one a more focused facet of Facebook’s overall message.

Virality, October 2012′s theme, explores viral content from a variety of angles, sticking with a core idea that runs throughout Facebook’s story.

Lesson: Keep a list of themes that run throughout your brand’s story line.
These themes usually gel with your overall message. If your story themes don’t match those of your message, you may be confusing your audience.

Let your customers tell your story

It’s hard to talk about yourself without sounding vain or cocky. Communications professionals struggle with this on a regular basis. That’s why we use testimonials and case studies — so our customers can tell our story for us.

Facebook contains a mind-boggling amount of user-generated content. For Stories, the company asks users to share very specific content. As a result, actual users tell the Facebook story.

Users who participate gain a sense of ownership over the Facebook brand. That ownership may be felt by other users, who recognize that everyday people are a part of what makes Facebook special.

Lesson: Your customers are your richest source of content.
When it comes to content marketing, it’s all about the needs of your audience. Listen to them to gather content. Record their stories and remove your brand’s ego from the equation.

What brand examples do you look to for storytelling inspiration? Share them with us in the replies.

Want to see more inspirational content marketing moves from the big industry players? Read CMI’s Ultimate eBook: 100 Content Marketing Examples.

Author: Mark Sherbin

Mark Sherbin is a freelance writer specializing in technology and content marketing. He shares occasionally insightful information at Copywriting Is Dead, where he promotes authentic communication between organizations and their audiences. Contact him at msherbin@gmail.com.

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  • Jason Tromblay

    Mark,

    This is a wonderful article on brand storytelling! Clear, concise, easy to read and the main points are summarized and highlighted. Funny enough, I am currently taking a brand storytelling class in a Master’s degree program and this article compliments what I’ve learned so far by connecting the power of social media with brand storytelling. Great job and I was happy to share with everyone.

    • http://twitter.com/MarkSherbin Mark Sherbin

      Thanks a ton for sharing, Jason! If you have any other tips to share, please share them here. That sounds like an extremely valuable class.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Jason….curious…where are you taking the class on brand storytelling?

      • http://twitter.com/ArnieK Arnie Kuenn

        Yes please share!

        • Jason Tromblay

          Hi Arnie,

          The brand storytelling course was part of my master’s program in internet marketing through Full Sail University. Sorry for the late reply! See my reply to Joe for an explanation.

          Thank you,

          Jason

      • Jason Tromblay

        Hi Joe,

        Wow, I apologize for such a late reply. I was just conducting a personal audit of my name in Google search results and found this comment from 10 months ago!

        The brand storytelling class was part of my Master’s program in Internet Marketing through Full Sail University. My instructor this month (and a previous course) is Kerry Gorgone and you may know her as she attended Content Marketing World recently. The brand storytelling course was with Diane Diaz, also with Full Sail.

        This is my last week of the program and I’ll be graduating next Friday. I look forward to attending CMW next year and becoming more involved with CMI now that I have some free time!

        Thank you for responding,

        Jason

  • http://twitter.com/ljsundquist Laura Sundquist

    This article drives home what I have intuitively been feeling about getting our message out through customer’s stories. Heard about FB stories but didn’t check it out til your article. Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/MarkSherbin Mark Sherbin

      Sure thing, Laura. Thanks for reading!