Using Storytelling in Marketing

by CHERYL GNAD on March 29, 2018

dreary view out of a window from a dark room

“It was a dark and dreary night and the wind was blowing in gusts that caused the leaves to fall off the trees and thrash across my window. It was the beginning of…..”

Using Storytelling in Marketing

to Tap into Your Customer’s Imagination


As a child, story time, or that part of the day when the teacher did some storytelling about something exciting that happened, was a time that would open the mind to all kinds of images in the imagination. It was very exciting! Often it was far better than any images shown you from the book. Right? You may even have found you and your friends reenacting the story or pretending to be the characters of the story! This is the essence of storytelling! This creates the same results in your marketing.

Using storytelling in your marketing will conjure up images or ideas that are REAL to the listener! It becomes THEIR STORY, not yours if done well.

Their problems are symbolized in YOUR telling of a story and the finding of an answer to a solution of a heartfelt problem they want to be solved. YOU became the problem-solver. Then your business becomes the go-to person or company for solving their “itch”. Now you benefitted, as long as your solution “matched” what they “envisioned”.

How to trigger their imaginations to work for you.

There are many ways to incorporate storytelling but one thing for sure is to not make it all about you and your accomplishments! Create stories that may have been yours but your problem is like THEIR problem and your solution is one that they can use in their own working out the solution. Elements that will help you trigger their imagination are:

  1. Bring your audience INTO the story – like THEY ARE THERE!
  2. Help your audience to engage with their emotions that stem from the story. Invite with words like – “imagine”, “can you see it?”, “visualize”, “picture this”, “create the dream of…”
  3. Stick to the “short and sweet”, don’t go into too many details. You will lose them. Give them 3 short details and then leave the rest to your audience’s imagination. Only give them what matters most.
  4. Spark their emotions – get their buy-in or support to solving the dilemma presented in the story.
  5. Be sensual – i.e. use SIGHT, SOUNDS, FEELINGS, and TASTE. Be very descriptive.
  6. Grab your audience’s attention by beginning in the MIDDLE of the story! This is where the interesting things are already happening! The audience will follow you to the beginning to figure out how they got there!

Also, consider having these five elements in your STORYTELLING.

Storytelling in Social Media

Social media is basically a conversation. However, you need to grab their attention with – a story! Marketing via social media is the same as using storytelling as a marketing tool in blogs, websites, emails or in conversation. In social media, the use of the video truly aids the work of your storytelling. The suggestions still apply!

Good stories are meant to surprise us. They make us think of how we would feel. Stories stick in our minds far better than numbers, statics or graphs! Create pictures!

Video Storytelling

Storytelling -Woman expressing herself with arms raised upI mention video storytelling because the video is becoming very predominant in our social media marketing. If using a video, determine the “mood” that you wish to create. Keep the story short for social media posts. Certain platforms have places for the videos and each has their own time limits. Apply adjectives, make that into a list. Choose an adjective or two and assign a color or location that seems to depict the mood. Set your dialog to resemble the idea that you are wishing to match. Be sure to take a variety of short videos so you can piece them into a sequence that will take the viewer through each step of the story. Don’t worry about making the ONE video shot do all the storytelling. A variety of angles and focus will help make the story happen during editing.


“You can upload videos with unlimited bitrates, up to 1 Gigabyte in size. The max file size and time length, though, are 1.75 GB and 45 minutes. But if you go beyond a 1 gig file size, then you must limit a 1080 HD upload file to a max bitrate of 8 Mbps, and a 720 HD file must be limited to a max bitrate of 4 Mbps.”                                   (

Facebook Ads

Facebook ads have a different “story” for their success. Here is a chart to help you figure out the optimum time or length of a video ad, which has become very popular. The shorter the better. See the chart below on Facebook videos.

Storytelling video - completion rates

Facebook LIVE videos

When you do your Facebook LIVE, it then will convert to a video recording automatically on Facebook. This is deemed the best form to get great engagement in Facebook. (NEW algorithm as of April 2018 caters to this). Facebook LIVE does its own conversion into a recording for you on Facebook. You will also note from the chart above that it gets the highest length watched – 44% dropped off after 30-60 sec. However, the greatest number of people, 46%, dropped off at < 15 sec.  Which is why Facebook created STORIES for up to 20 sec. – see below.

Facebook Stories

There are a variety of types on Facebook that enhances the engagement level. Facebook Stories will create short video clips. By adding to the story with short clips you create a “storyline” that will move from one clip to the next on Facebook. Compare Facebook to the other Stories of Instagram and SnapChat. Most Stories in each will last only 24 hours, then disappear, so be sure to cultivate them on a separate system to keep them for a future use.

  • Facebook  – 20-second clips
  • Instagram – 15-second clips
  • SnapChat  – 10-second clips


Live Video: 1 hour
Video Post to Your Instagram Profile: 1 min
Video Post to Your Instagram Story: 15 seconds


Keep your videos short. Under 3 minutes, but know that the first 30 sec. are crucial if you want your audience to watch more. Most will only watch the first 30 sec. so get the important message out by that time frame.


The most popular video form is those of Youtube. A video with good engagement and activity run between 1 – 10 minutes. A large window of time but it fits with the limited attention span of most views.

“On an average day… we found that in the top ten most popular YouTube videos, the shortest was 42 seconds, and the longest was 9 minutes and 15 seconds. The average video length was 4 minutes and 20 seconds,” reported MiniMatters.

A great article to read for further information on the video lengths for each platform is from Nishi Sood: How Long Should Your Video Be? 

Now you can see how each “video” supporting platform is using video. They KNOW that the attention/reach/and engagement are higher with video. Your message WITHIN your story has to be enticing to keep them and it needs to be delivered in the first 30 seconds in most cases! So, be sure to “get to the point” fast!

Longer videos

When you finally get the luxury of holding your audience’s attention with long videos, like for a popular series, a presentation, or coursework/webinar, you will want to set up your Story in this format.

  • Setting
  • Characters
  • Conflict
    • BIG IDEA
  • Solution/Resolution

(If done in a presentation, avoid using just bullet points. Those are boring! Again, the spewing of facts and data will soon put your audience to sleep! Tell a story!)

When doing a presentation or a talk on stage that shares about you – begin STORYTELLING!

  1. Tell as much as to who you are as much as what you do. What is your MISSION?
  2. Tell stories that MATTER!
  3. Tell STORIES that contain moments of EMPATHY and emotion!
  4. Tell the STORY in order for you to WIN! – Close the deal or bring about a business victory! This is the CTA (call to action) for your audience to consider.

Marketing via a video will be a huge part of your arsenal of reaching your customers. Video shows who you are in a much more intimate way. Connection via the emotions to their problem and bringing about a solution through YOUR expertise in a concise form, with a bit of education or entertainment, will grant you the success you desire. So are you “READY?” then “ACTION!”

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Written by CHERYL GNAD


Cheryl Gnad, of owner/social media consultant with Social Focus by CG, offers coaching and consulting for small businesses looking to incorporate social media into their advertising strategies. She is a self-developed business owner, and a trained social media manager with names like Kate Buck Jr., Amy Porterfield, Kim Garst and Sandi Krakowski. Follow her on Facebook at Social Focus by CG, Twitter@SocialFocusbyCG, and on Linkedin.

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