The Ultimate Showdown: Finding The Best Way To Tell A Story On Social Media

Social media is the ultimate storytelling medium. Organizations have a plethora of storytelling tools at their disposal when using an online platform. There are so many, it can be overwhelming at times, which is why we put together this fun little competition to see which tool was best at the job of storytelling. These aren’t all the ways an organization, association or business can tell an engaging story to their audience, but it’s a list of the very accessible, very successful methods and while the effectiveness of each tool depends on the goal of the story, there’s one that reigns supreme almost every time. Let the games begin!

Quarterfinals

Video vs. Meme/GIF

Our first matchup pits the power of video against the small, but powerful content that is the meme or GIF.

Memes and GIFS can be a great way to make an impact and tell a story is a very immediate way. For example, tweeting a meme with picture of your association’s president talking to a member with a quote about what the association means to the president over top the photo is one way to capture a story of passion, value and leadership in one very succinct way to tell a tale. GIFs are like shorter videos that pack a lot of emotion and content in a few seconds.

However, video is just too versatile to lose this matchup. Videos can be long or short, serious or playful, can present a lot of context and background or get straight to the point, can include lots of interaction and creativity and, most important of all, can be used with similar effectiveness on most social media platforms. It’s no contest; video runs away with this one.

Testimonial vs. Roundup/Recap

The next competition in the first round sees the relatable testimonial square off against the information superstar that is a roundup or recap.

Roundups or recaps are two ways to tell a story about a recent event or initiative and focus primarily on facts, figures and a straightforward retelling of what happened. It’s strength is the substantial amount of information it provides to an audience. Roundups and recaps often offer links to a few different sources or the insight of a variety of people to capture as many viewpoints as possible and tell a well-rounded story.

Where testimonials have roundups and recaps licked is their engaging, relatable and passionate nature. Yes, a testimonial of an event, service, product or experience is only one person’s viewpoint, likely offers no behind-the-scenes exclusivity and lacks the thoroughness of a roundup or recap, but that within that one voice is a crystallized explanation that gets to the heart of what makes the element their talking about so special. It stirs in people that same feeling and moves them to act, share, engage and take part in that story as it moves forward. The winner here is the testimonial.

Photo Essay vs. News Article

The penultimate match of the quarterfinals has the eye-catching photo essay duke it out with the classic news article.

News articles are classic for a reason; they work. Articles can come in many shapes and forms, such as interviews, editorials, lists, tip sheets, survey analysis or long-form profiles, but the foundation of each one is their ability to spin a story using the written word and maybe a few pictures along the way. Articles are main storytelling vehicle in association magazine, blogs and even on longer-form social media platforms, such as Facebook. They are in-depth, informative and, if done right, can move people to act with the visuals they conjure up, the emotions they convey and information they carefully construct.

While news articles are a worthy competitor and could edge out their nemesis on some days, photo essays claim victory on most occasions. Photo essays are similar to news articles in that they tell a story of an issue or a person. However, whereas the ratio of written words to photos is 90/10 in articles, that ratio is reversed for photo essays. It’s telling a story through photos with some text to provide context and background. Photos provide a more visceral tale of what is happening and helps the audience connect with the subject matter. Furthermore, this method of storytelling is versatile and can be done with greater effect on more social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, a blog and even on YouTube. The clear winner is the photo essay.

Infograph vs. Audio Story

The final clash of the opening round pits the savviness of the infograph against the allure of the audio story.

An audio story is more commonly referred to as a podcast or a radio show. This medium seeks to tell a story through the use of sound and talking. It can be as short as a couple minutes or as long as over an hour and can include interviews, narration, music, sound effects, editorials, speeches or the like. Audio stories have the unique ability to take you out of the environment you are in and bring you to the setting of the story. They are personal, informative and engaging and easy to put online (on a blog, Facebook or Twitter) and bring anywhere on a smart phone.

While audio stories are very trendy right now with the popularity of podcasts such as Serial and This American Life, we have to give the slightest of edges to the infograph. An infograph combines stats and data with engaging images to build a cascading story about the state of a particular issue and its relevance to the audience. Numbers put the abstract into perspective for an audience and pairing this with some textual background and a lot of visuals paints a picture that can be powerful, engaging and shareable. They are easy to make, easy to upload to just about any social media platform and are very accessible for every type of organization, no matter the target audience. This broad appeal makes it the winner in this very tough matchup.

Semifinals

Video vs. Testimonial

Our first of the final four matchups has video vs. testimonial

This is a case where fire is fighting fire and, in our minds, video burns brighter. A simple testimonial can be passionate, powerful, concise, engaging and relatable. However, video can not only incorporate testimonials into its structure, it can do so in a much more visual way than a written or text-based testimonial that appears through a tweet, a Facebook post or an Instagram post. A video can also combine several aspects of a testimonial and make it part of a larger piece of content that overwhelms what testimonials offer, such as adding inspirational music and capturing the perspectives and exclusive looks in a much more interactive way. Because of its versatility and large skill-set, video cruises to victory here.

Photo Essay vs. Infograph

This competition pits two visual-based methods of storytelling against each other in a tight race for a spot in the final.

These two pieces of content are very similar. They both use images as their foundation and main tool to engage. They can both be shared on multiple platforms. And they can both be used to focus on a bigger picture issue or a smaller, niche subject. While it may seem like a coin toss, the photo essay squeaks out the win here because of its ability to tell a story every time as opposed to the infograph, which has the potential to become a rundown of boring, self-serving numbers if done incorrectly. Photo essays appeal to the human side of both the organization creating it and the target audience. While infographs can be fun and engaging and informative, photo essays can use stats and data in much the same way while also having the ability to use quotes, personal views and brief storytelling techniques, which all adds up to victory.

Finals

Video vs. Photo Essay

In the winner-take-all match, video faces off against photo essay to determine which storytelling method is best on social media.

These are two great methods of storytelling, especially when it comes to telling a story on social media. However, video wins this competition eight or nine times out of 10. The reasons are numerous; video combines images, sound, people, action, stats and text, whereas photo essays are, for the most part, static. The length of videos is easily manipulated to fit the organization’s goals and the type of platform it is shared on, whereas photo essays usually have to include multiple photos to tell a story. Video can be shared easier on the same or more platforms than photo essays. We can go on and on, from a more measurable ROI to the availability of resources and the number of content sources, video gets the better of photo essays every time. It was a valiant effort, but the winner is…

Winner

Video!

Video is a powerful, engaging and effective way to tell a story while benefiting the short and long term goals of the organization. While video is the best way to tell a story in many situations, it doesn’t mean that it always is. It’s important to look at what your resources are, what the story is you’re trying to tell, what social media platform you are using and what your goals are when developing a storytelling strategy. All these method are a great way and combining two, three or four of them together to tell a story can result in a more powerful and engaging result.

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