Apple tells stories of people challenging the norms Nike tells stories of people doing the impossible Airbnb tells stories of travelers living in homes around the world and belonging anywhere. Before – After – Bridge Before — Describe the world with Problem A. Set the stage of a problem that your target audience is likely to experience — ideally a problem that your company solves. In his TED talk, The power of storytelling to change the world, he shared the story formula he has been using for his stories. Once you introduce the character of the story, describe how things went awful for her, using emotions to draw your audience into your story. Example: 5 storytelling tips from amazing storytellers Armed with these 11 storytelling formulas, you are ready to tell your brand stories. (Visual Element) (Emphasis mine) // To be updated: In terms of storytelling format, here’re 20 creative ways to use social media for storytelling for your inspiration (link). Here’s my favorite advice from his article: Creating detailed imagery helps craft the setting YOU want Want to get people swept up in your stories? (Emphasis mine) The awesome thing about storytelling on social media is that you can use multimedia such as images and videos to complement your words. In his Harvard Business Review article, A Refresher on Storytelling 101, he shared seven advice on successful storytelling, and this is my favorite: Parachute in, don’t preamble.
Legendary marketer, Seth Godin, describes marketing as “the art of telling a story that resonates with your audience and then spreads.”
If you look at some of the biggest brands around, you might notice that they are often amazing storytellers.
- Apple tells stories of people challenging the norms
- Nike tells stories of people doing the impossible
- Airbnb tells stories of travelers living in homes around the world and belonging anywhere.
But how do you tell compelling stories? How do you tell stories that your audience wants to hear? And how do you tell your brand story?
While researching on the topic of storytelling, I discovered several tested-and-proven storytelling formulas — formulas used by companies like Pixar, Apple, and more.
These formulas can be applied to your company’s overall marketing, content you produce, social media updates, copy on your website, and more.
Ready to jump in?
11 storytelling formulas to supercharge your social media marketing
1. Three-Act Structure
Setup — Set the scene and introduce the character(s)
Confrontation or “Rising action” — Present a problem and build up the tension
Resolution — Resolve the problem
The three-act structure is one of the oldest and most straightforward storytelling formulas. You might recognize this structure in many of the stories you come across.
In the first act, set the stage and introduce the character(s) of the story. In the second act, present a problem faced by the character(s) and build up the tension. In the third act, deliver the climax of the story by resolving the problem (with your product or service).
2. Freytag’s Pyramid: Five-Act Structure
Exposition — Introduce important background information
Rising action — Tell a series of events to build up to the climax
Climax — Turn the story around (usually the most exciting part of the story)
Falling action — Continue the action from the climax
Dénouement — Ending the story with a resolution
The Freytag’s Pyramid is created by Gustav Freytag when he analyzed the stories by Shakespeare and ancient Greek storytellers.
It is a more elaborate form of the three-act structure, which puts emphasis on the climax and the falling action of the story as much as the other parts of the story.
3. Before – After – Bridge
Before — Describe the world with Problem A.
After — Imagine what it’d be like having Problem A solved.
Bridge — Here’s how to get there.
This is our favorite storytelling and copywriting formula. We have been using it for our blog post introductions but it can be applied to social media updates, email campaigns, and other marketing messages.
Set the stage of a problem that your target audience is likely to experience — ideally a problem that your company solves. Describe a world where that problem didn’t exist. Explain how to get there or present the solution (i.e. your product or service).
4. Problem – Agitate – Solve
Problem — Present a problem
Agitate — Agitate the problem
Solve — Solve the problem
This is one of the most popular copywriting formulas, which is great for storytelling, too.
The structure is quite similar to the Before-After-Bridge formula. First, you present a problem. Second, instead of presenting the “After”, you intensify the problem with emotional language. Finally, you solve the problem by offering your product or services.
5. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle
Why — Why the company exists
How — How the company fulfills its Why
What — What the company does to fulfill its Why
Simon Sinek’s TED talk, How great leaders inspire action, is one of the most viewed TED talks ever, with more than 30 million views so far. He explained that great companies like Apple inspire people and succeed because they use the Golden Circle formula.
Always start with your Why — Why are you in this business? What motivates you? Then, explain how your company will achieve your Why. Finally, describe in tangible terms what your company does to bring your Why to life (i.e. your products and services).
6. Dale Carnegie’s Magic Formula
Incident — Share a relevant, personal experience
Action — Describe the specific action taken to solve or prevent a problem
Benefit — State the benefits of the action
How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of our favorite books at Buffer. After studying many great leaders, the author, Dale Carnegie, developed this simple three-step storytelling formula that can help you persuade your audience.
Open your story with a personal experience relevant to your point to grab your audience’s attention. Describe the actions you took chronologically, showing that a change was needed. Wrap up the story by connecting the change to its benefits. (This could be a customer’s testimonial, too!)
7. Dave Lieber’s V Formula
Introduce the character
Bring the story to its lowest point
Turn it around and finish with a happy ending
Dave Lieber is a keynote speaker and the Dallas Morning News Watchdog columnist, who has been telling stories for almost 40 years. In his TED talk, The power of storytelling to change the world, he shared…