According to a recent NPR experiment
, nine types of Facebook stories spurred engagement for local radio stations.
They were place explainers, crowd pleasers, curiosity stimulators, news explainers, breaking news, feel-good pieces, topical buzzers, provocative controversies, and awe-inspiring visuals.
That's great information to have if you're a radio station manager, but what if you're a communicator running a brand's Facebook page? Can those same story types draw engaged fans?
PR Daily asked storytellers and brand communicators which stories work best for them.
No silver bullet
Robert Rose, strategist in residence at the Content Marketing Institute, says brands' mileage may vary when it comes to particular story types. In general, "awe-inspiring" stories such as a soldier dad coming home from overseas or "cute overload" items with adorable animals drive the most engagement, he says, but it's not universal.
Likewise, Katherine Leonard, a digital content developer at marketing agency lonelybrand says feel-good pieces, particularly humorous ones, and awe-inspiring visuals drew a huge share of "likes," shares, and comments. A picture of a stingray photobombing a vacation snapshot, a funny picture of Martians pranking the Mars rover, and a Google Street View shot of a big flock of birds are among her agency's top posts, she says.
Of the top 30 lonelybrand posts, "100 percent were photos, rather than links or simple status updates," Leonard notes.
What really matters is whether the content is compelling, Rose says, and what makes it compelling is relevancy.
"What I advise clients that are looking to generate this kind of strategy is to go back and ask themselves why they are in business in the first place," he says, "what value do they provide their customers beyond the product or service that they offer."
From there, it's a matter of mapping out that message into long and short stories, Rose says. A company that does that particularly well is Coca-Cola, he offers.
"Their 'Open Happiness' brand theme is directly tied to the stories they tell across all their social media and they tag that as 'delivering happiness,'" Rose says.
Ed McMasters, director of marketing and communications at Flottman Co., says his company's No. 1 Facebook post told a success story. Specifically, it detailed how the company winning a 2012 Green Business Award.
"The post was reposted on everything from an organic dairy's Facebook page to the EPA Green Facebook page referencing the post as a 'green success story,'" he says. "Even if only vicariously, people want to feel ownership of your good deed and do so by sharing, reposting, and commenting."
Leigh Feldman, brand communications director for clients of agency The Octopus Corp., says visuals play a big role in engagement, but what really draws people in is the opportunity to see their own content prominently displayed on a brand's page.
"Obviously this allows a personal touch to be present, lets members get to know one another better and is shared with pride by the person who submitted the content into their own networks which expands the reach of the brand," Feldman says.
Jerian DeMattei, media relations specialist at Blue Chip Marketing, says caption contests tell stories while getting fans involved.
"We post a picture that is funny or odd, and relevant to the industry of the business or company, and then we ask the public to come up with the best caption for the photo," DeMattei says. "Consumers love to take part, and we usually receive hundreds of comments, as well as a good laugh."
That said, Erica Tevis of Little Things Favors says her company's attempts to engage fans through personal stories, blog posts, and polls on Facebook haven't yielded much in the way of response. Photos and contests spur the most interest, she says.
Dave Van de Walle, managing principal for public relations and communications firm Area 224, says he's not sure the push for storytelling on Facebook has many tangible results.
"Color me skeptical," he says. "During the Olympics, the brands that were able to report back to their stakeholders with the best engagement numbers were the ones who glommed on to the USA spirit. Whether those brands were able to report back to their stakeholders with increases in sales is probably beside the point. I'm quite sure that getting 10,000 'likes' by sharing a picture of a gymnast was all they were looking to accomplish anyway."
|NPR's top story types
What did local NPR stations find were their most-shared stories? These are the categories they fell into:
Place explainers: These items dig into local quirks and what draws people to specific areas.
Crowd pleasers: Such stories focus on accomplishments and events that create local pride.
Curiosity stimulators: Bits of weird news and looks at odd goings-on in a given locale.
News explainers: Stories that dig into the news and try to make sense of it.
Major breaking news: What's affecting the local area right now.
Feel-good smilers: Stories that are funny, feature kids, are about clever marriage proposals, and so on.
Topical buzzers: What's the talk of the town? These stories zero in on events people can't help but discuss.
Provocative controversies: These are stories that make commenters say, "Shame on them."
Awe-inspiring visuals: A picture can tell a story, too. These do that.
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.