You’ve probably heard before that storytelling is essential to building a brand that connects and is true to you. But when you think about it, the question that comes to mind for most of us is, “What does telling brand stories actually look like?”
If you’re like many small business owners, chances are social media, particularly Instagram, has its place within your brand and no matter what your relationship is with this platform, most of us can agree that it can be a powerful tool to build a community, attract your ideal clients, and connect. Because the truth is, whether it’s through an intentional strategy or an unconscious effort, when you show up in this space— through written captions, images, videos, or all of the above—you’re telling a story.
Now, before we get into my breakdown of the levels of brand storytelling you can see and use on social media, we need to talk about something important:
How and when you chose to share your story is your choice and your choice alone. No matter what kind of brand you’re building, blogs you read, advice you get, or guides you complete, the choice to share or not share any story of any kind belongs to you. Because the thing is, YOU are the expert of your story and you know your heart better than any person on the internet ever could. So, as with any educational post, my hope is that you take what you read here with a grain of salt and tell stories in any way that helps you feel strong, seen, and known from the inside out. With that, let’s dive into the five levels of brand storytelling we can see and use on Instagram.
The problem: Solely visual storytelling often falls under the mindset belief of “my work speaks for itself”. But here’s the thing: while the work may be beautifully “speaking” visually, without a dialogue, we miss the opportunity to genuinely connect. With this kind of storytelling, confusion often follows and leads your community to wonder— “What are they saying?” “Why should I care?” “What do they want me to do?” or “Why is this relevant to me?”
When you might be tempted to use this kind of storytelling:
The problem: While storytelling with images along with a few vague words or favorite quote is a quick and easy way for your community to peek inside your world, without context, what it fails to do (much like Visuals Only Storytelling) is give your community a chance to connect with YOU, the person telling the story and can often feel empty.
When you might be tempted to use this kind of storytelling:
Quick Tip: Vibes, Views, and Quotesare AWESOME on Instagram stories. They’re quick, to-the-point, candid, and easy to engage with when used with Instagram story tools like polls or question stickers. Example: Add a poll sticker on your story with the image and your quote— “How do you get your morning going? Coffee or Tea?” “Who’s your favorite Gilmore guy? Luke or Logan? etc. The options are literally endless and these kinds of lighthearted questions are FUN to engage with!
(True story: the most engaged with poll ever in my Instagram stories was about favorite brands of jelly beans. I can’t make this shit up.)
The problem: To start, I’ll preface by saying I believe direct description storytelling absolutely has its place and shouldn’t be completely written off. After all, statistics show we have eight seconds or less to catch or lose attention and post after post of long, deep, storytelling can overwhelm your community and end up having the reverse effect of the genuine connection we’re seeking to make. And here’s the truth: I get it. Sometimes the reality is within the everyday ins and outs of your business, there comes a time when you need to keep it short and light. However, when this is the ONLY kind of brand storytelling we engage in, we can very quickly get stuck in limiting belief mindset blocks and overly comfortable staying surface level with a community that craves to know and see us for who we are beyond what we do or what we’re doing in the moment.
When you might be tempted to over-use this kind of storytelling:
Could include (but aren’t limited to):
Stories that paint a picture of your personal history: tells your community about childhood memories, travel experiences, significant experiences/moments that are meaningful to you, etc.
Stories about your beliefs and values:not only tells your community what you believe and value, but centers around why and how those beliefs and values came to be. (Discusses the actual lived experiences that shaped your values and how they look within your brand— in other words, how it will impact their experience with your brand.)
Stories about the unique traits, quirks, and experiences that make you, YOU:narratives that often look and feel like rapid fire random facts. However, don’t be fooled by the lighthearted nature of these stories; what might look from the outside like such a small, fun way to connect with your community is actually the building blocks for establishing yourself as a guide within your brand your community knows, likes, and trusts.
Stories of transformation: often span the course of time and focuses on a transformation (could be physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.) you walked through to get to where you are today. Many of these stories focus on career changes, major mindset shifts, or big life decisions.
Stories of overcoming adversity that offer support and encouragement:tells about your lived experiences working through hardship or struggles, what you learned through the process, and offers support, encouragement, and empathy for anyone going through similar situations.
Why personal narratives make great brand stories:
Things to Remember When Using Personal Narratives:
Try not to over-use. Remember, while it’s extremely important to connect with your community through these kinds of stories, remember you’re brand isn’t FOR you, it’s FROM you. To be clear, that doesn’t mean sharing personal narratives for the sake of allowing yourself to be seen and known isn’t valuable on its own. It is immensely valuable and POWERFUL! Rather, it means that more often than not, remember to tie your personal narratives back to what your ideal client is experiencing in their lives and how your brand can help.
Why including big picture stories is important:
Things to Remember About Big Picture Stories:
So friends, now that we’ve covered the five levels of brand storytelling you can see and use on Instagram, my hope is that you walk away knowing that your story matters. Your story is powerful. Your story is worth telling, no matter what that looks like for you. If you’re ready to dive in, comment below and tell me how you plan to share your brand stories on social media. I’ll see you there!