Creative Content
June 1, 2020

The #1 Storytelling Theory That Can 10x Your Engagement on Paid Social

This is the formula we use to grow the tech brands we work with (i.e. we helped bring 350k new depositing customers over 2,5 years for a London-based tech startup). Want to discover what helped us get there? Keep reading.


Before we start, let me address the elephant in the room.

Yes, the term “storytelling” has become a bit of a buzzword. 

I know that a lot of content around it might be vague or seem not to have any connection with business. At the end of the day, storytelling can be anything. 

What I mean by storytelling in this article is building a narrative for your brand communications in the social media space. 

Storytelling is a building block of good marketing in the 2020s. No matter how performance and results-driven your business goals are, building stories that engage your audience will help you get there.

I don’t have to tell you that when you’re launching or growing your tech startup, digital space is where you need to be to build & grow your community. And that comes with a twist. 

Your brand needs to be heard. 

On social. 

Where the attention spans are shorter than a blink of the eye. 

And ... it really is noisy in that space. 

Getting noticed on social is a challenge every new brand will face. 

Big marketing budgets help but do not guarantee success. I’m sure you know by now how complex digital marketing is as a whole and that there are multiple moving parts to make it work. 

So whether you’re currently building up your marketing team to launch your product or want to bring more new customers to your brand, let’s start with the story about the Heider, F. & Simmel, M. study published by the Wired magazine [1]:

“Our impulse to detect story patterns is so strong that we see them even when they're not there.

“In a landmark 1944 study, 34 humans – Massachusetts college students actually, though subsequent research suggests they could have been just about anyone – were shown a short film and asked what was happening in it. The film showed two triangles and a circle moving across a two-dimensional surface. The only other object onscreen was a stationary rectangle, partially open on one side.

Only one of the test subjects saw this scene for what it was: geometric shapes moving across a plane. Everyone else came up with elaborate narratives to explain what the movements were about. Typically, the participants viewed the triangles as two men fighting and the circle as a woman trying to escape the bigger, bullying triangle. Instead of registering inanimate shapes, they imagined humans with vivid inner lives. The circle was "worried." The circle and the little triangle were "innocent young things." The big triangle was "blinded by rage and frustration." [1]

As humans, we’re wired for stories. 

Stories help us establish emotional connection and understand information.


Since caveman-days some 30,000 years ago our ancestors were practicing visual storytelling to depict their combat and survival. 

Cave Paintings "Dance Scene" - David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum [2]

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Ok, but how does it relate to social media you might ask? 

The secret I’ve learned is that no matter how short the attention span of the viewers or how noisy the social space is, the universal truth of human connection is more important than ever.

In the end of the day, social media is - social. It is built on engagement and interaction between people.  

And stories help us, humans, create and cultivate those connections.

Right, so here’s the curveball. We were all brought up on movies, TV shows and radio - where the narrative is built on the Traditional Story Arc (which, bt the way, can be dated back to the Aristotele [3]). But it’s the complete opposite to how stories are built in the social space. 

The narrative on social media is based on the Emerging Story Arc.

“The emerging story arc starts fast, keeps up the pace, and delivers messaging with unexpected surprises until you fade out––no more build up, climax, and pay off. Go fast!” [4]

The Emerging Story Arc starts with fire. The narratives for your creatives have to be straight to the point and engaging. That allows viewers to drop out (and engage or click through) at any point. 

Now, from this macro vision lets zoom out and see the really big picture.

The single piece of the puzzle we’re looking at - your post, video or paid ad, belongs to a bigger “story” - sometimes referred to as a customer journey.

Meaning, the end of your video, does not mean the end of the story. There is always More Story For Those Who Want It. Your post or ad might lead to your landing page, that can lead to an offer, etc. 

In my opinion, that is key to keep in mind when planning any digital marketing campaigns to reach your marketing goals. 

Here is my 6 step plan of action for effective storytelling on social [TLDR version]

  1. When you’re planning to launch a new campaign or activity on social media - start with your audience and key message. Make it clear and simple. 
  1. Plan out the customer flows within the campaign or activity. Remember to include all the details, like image creatives, copy & links.
  1. Build your video creatives based on the Emerging Story Arc and remember to start with fire and present the core message fast. 
  1. Once you've got all your copy, creatives and funnels done, revise your user flows. Make sure that the micro piece (single video) is as effective as the macro vision, taking into the account the full user journey. 
  1. Launch and keep track of data & engagement to optimise your campaign and inform further development of creatives. 
  1. Most importantly, really listen to your audience and learn about them. That insight and flexibility will help you truly stand out and build something exceptional. 

Hope this sheds some light on paid social & creative content.

We’re sharing content regularly for those who want to grow their business using the digital space, with a focus on digital marketing.

If you have any suggestions, questions or just want to geek out over some creative topics, let’s connect on Twitter or Linkedin

Thanks for reading! 

Stay safe,


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