Why Episodic Storytelling? Social Media Advertising

January 18, 2016

Social media advertising is now, in many ways, the leading medium for storytelling, through targeted social media advertising and quality content. Yet, only a small portion of social users are capitalizing on what could be the best strategy to stand apart from the masses and help to better define your brand and amplify human experiences. The thing is, the tactic I’m about to talk about is anything but new. In fact, social’s newest trend is as old as they come, but it’s for that reason why episodic storytelling is where you should be placing the biggest chunk of your narrative focus. For every brand that is doing this, there are a thousand others who are just throwing content into the social void, hoping that it sticks. Simply put, most of us are overlooking the power of a formula that we’ve all known for years.

The concept of episodic storytelling is deeply rooted within all of us. Think about it. Think back to your childhood. I’m willing to bet you were being fed stories from faraway places or hearing tidbits of family history since before you could read or write yourself. For today’s millennials or Gen Xers, the stories likely started with picture books and fables, which then grew to those history books you either loved or hated in school. And don’t forget all of those Disney movies that have stuck with you all of these years. Now that you’re older, you probably get most of your stories from the news, a subpar sitcom or from the latest Netflix documentary, if that’s what you’re into. Choose any of those mediums and you’ll find that most shows or books, and almost all of the successful ones, leverage the power of episodic storytelling.

Why? I can think of two major reasons:

The anticipation. The latest episode of your favorite TV drama ended abruptly and now you’ve got a whole week to bear before you can find out who’s going to live, who’s getting written off the show or where’s our main character heading this week? You read that best-selling book too fast, and now there’s at least another year until the sequel comes out. Whatever the story, you love to look forward to the next thing. Many daily/weekly vloggers on YouTube are crushing major TV networks in terms of viewership because of this constant episodic flow of content that they’ve built a following off of. Better yet, they’re able to promote their narrative on a variety of other social platforms to add another element of engagement.

The human factor. What do I mean by this? Few things we do in life are one-off, “set it and forget it” actions. The things we do are part of a matrix that propels our lives—our stories—forward, on to the next set of experiences. Everything, organically, has an episodic element to it, which is why this style resonates so deeply with people.

How can you translate this to your own social media channels? Let’s look at a popular evergreen topic on social: food. People love posting about food. It doesn’t matter if it’s Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Beme, etc. #Food is always trending. The next time you want to post a photo of that dinner you ordered (or the one you’re serving if you work in the industry), think about how you could build up anticipation and create an experience that resonates with your audience. It might go something like this:

Start with a post about sourcing the best ingredients at your local farmers market.
Follow it up the next day with a look at the ingredients ready to be put together.
Of course, the final chapter of this episodic story is the photo and description of that delectable meal plated and ready to eat.

By using this storytelling approach, you’ve recreated the full experience for your followers. You likely taught them something, as well. And if you did a phenomenal job, you may have compelled them to cook the dish themselves or have them come out to your restaurant to savor the experience.

We’re all equipped with the tools to capture incredible moments and share them with a diverse audience through social media advertising and great content. That’s the beauty of social media. The next time you draft content, consider optimizing the experience—and your impressions—by telling the whole story with episodic content.