Brand Chorus' Tipping: Story arcs on social are more effective than cute kittens

Brand Chorus CEO Martyn Tipping believes strong story arcs on social media are more effective for building an audience than cute kittens and contests.

Martyn Tipping, Brand Chorus
Martyn Tipping, Brand Chorus

There is a lot we can learn about social media from zombies. Or to be more specific, from The Walking Dead and other TV shows with strong story arcs that keep us engaged over time. With so many brands talking about the importance of storytelling, why is it that so much brand-generated social media leaves us feeling brain-dead?

One of the biggest problems for brands is that they look at social media as a series of oneoff posts rather than an ongoing narrative. It’s easy to fill editorial calendars with a coupon or contest here, a Happy Hump Day, and a couple of questions such as "What’s your favorite winter pastime?" thrown in for good measure. Sadly, this still seems like the social media strategy for several brands out there.

Effective narratives
It is important for brands to not only plan their future content, but also to look at what they have posted in the last month. Looking at your social brand narrative – the aggregation of your most recent 30 days of posts – gives you a sense of the themes that are emerging from your storytelling.

For example, a recent month of social content from Chipotle included posts about its Cultivate music festival, a link to a PBS show about farming innovation, and a #Cultivating-Thought author profile. No daily specials, dancing babies, or contests – just strong content that reinforces its core theme of Food With Integrity.

Measuring success
Unfortunately, brand narrative is not something most marketers look at when they are measuring the effectiveness of their social content.

According to a recent study from the Association of National Advertisers, 80% of US marketers measure the effectiveness of social content with popularity-based measures, such as likes and retweets.

The problem with this is that popularity is not always an indicator of strategy or creativity. People love to see kittens and coupons on social media, so posts like these always score highly on any measure of engagement. But these posts typically do nothing to build a strong social brand narrative or reinforce a brand’s core themes.

In today’s data-driven world, what is more useful for brand building is a quantitative measure of storytelling that fits into a brand’s social management dashboard. Metrics that focus on creativity, strategy, and personality – key elements of storytelling – rather than popularity give brands a more meaningful understanding of how their social content is performing.

It allows them to create stronger story arcs that reinforce the themes and messages they are expressing on other channels. And that’s good news for zombies, but not for kittens.

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