There’s real power in a story. So much in fact that a fan­tas­tic account, fact or fic­tion, often dic­tates the news cycle—regardless if it’s news­wor­thy or not. Sev­eral weeks ago I was reminded of this fact while lis­ten­ing to a Freako­nom­ics pod­cast. They reminded me of a news story that broke back in Feb­ru­ary about an 18 month old giraffe named Mar­ius from the Copen­hagen Zoo who was euth­a­nized and fed to the lions because of its less than ideal genetic makeup. Do you remem­ber hear­ing about this?

My intent isn’t to pro­vide a com­men­tary on whether this was right or wrong. It was with­out a doubt a sad event. But the Freakononom­ics pod­cast reminded me that despite sig­nif­i­cant tur­moil and esca­lat­ing civil con­flicts result­ing in many human deaths world­wide, this is the story that cap­ti­vated the nation, trump­ing most other news for an entire week. The New York Times, CNN, BBC, Time, and The Guardian among oth­ers may have given this story legs, but social media made those legs move. Social has given new life to sto­ry­tellers, and its power is clearer than ever. For brands, cap­ti­vat­ing con­sumers with com­pelling, engag­ing sto­ries that are rel­e­vant and mean­ing­ful is more impor­tant than ever.

What You Have to Say Matters

Why is it so impor­tant that brands learn to tell a good story? Well for one thing, con­sumers place more value on what their fel­low con­sumers think than what brands have to say. That’s noth­ing new; we’ve known for years that cus­tomers trust one another more than com­pany spokesper­sons, even the CEO. But here’s why it mat­ters. When a brand can relate to its tar­get audi­ence on a higher level with some­thing real—whether it’s a heart­warm­ing tale, a unique expe­ri­ence, or sim­ply a good laugh—customers lis­ten. A great story evokes emo­tion, per­suades, even com­pels. More impor­tantly, peo­ple who have felt some­thing while being lost in a good story want to share. If social media is the vehi­cle, your story can be car­ried away in an instant. What you have to say mat­ters. Make it res­onate and your mes­sage will cap­ti­vate the crowd.

A Pic­ture Is Worth a Thou­sand Words

By now, most of us have real­ized that our con­tent is bet­ter received when com­ple­mented by pic­tures. Per­haps it’s because we are a visual learn­ing soci­ety; as many as 85 per­cent of peo­ple describe them­selves as such. Social media posts with images increase click-through rates con­sid­er­ably. On Face­book, for exam­ple, research has shown that the engage­ment rate dou­bles if a pic­ture is added to a post rather than just a link. Think about your own posts to Face­book, do your pho­tos do con­sid­er­ably bet­ter than just your thoughts or links shared? Mine sure do: http://​blogs​.adobe​.com/​d​i​g​i​t​a​l​m​a​r​k​e​t​i​n​g​/​s​o​c​i​a​l​-​m​e​d​i​a​/​t​r​u​s​t​-​b​u​i​l​d​i​n​g​-​l​e​t​-​e​m​p​l​o​y​e​e​s​-​l​e​a​d​-​w​ay/.

Con­tent in long form ben­e­fits sim­i­larly: a blog post or arti­cle with images receives 94 per­cent more views than those with­out. It’s more than that, though, because today’s mar­keter has a unique oppor­tu­nity to cap­ti­vate, com­pel, and per­suade through images. The pop­u­lar­ity of plat­forms like Insta­gram, Pin­ter­est, Tum­blr, SnapChat, and other image-sharing plat­forms is only expected to increase, and the growth of video in just the past year is stag­ger­ing. And let’s not for­get the value of video in sto­ry­telling, a topic wor­thy of vol­umes of books on its own.

Here’s a for instance. A Thai cell­phone com­pany called True Move H pro­duced a video enti­tled “Giv­ing” that chron­i­cles a pow­er­ful story of com­pas­sion, giv­ing, and pass­ing on good. The video’s story is unmistakable—a tear­jerker for sure, leav­ing the viewer want­ing to do good for oth­ers. To date, it has gen­er­ated tens of mil­lions of views across the world. It is a pow­er­ful story, but it is also on-brand for the firm that cre­ated it, which believes in the power of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and connectedness.

The Social Busi­ness Is Storytelling

When we think about what it means to design a social busi­ness, we can’t ignore the role of sto­ry­telling in the process. More specif­i­cally, brands who engage their cus­tomers do more than describe their lat­est prod­ucts or ser­vices. They tell the story of who they are, not only the peo­ple behind the brand, but also how their cus­tomers con­nect to their prod­ucts in ways that give them the abil­ity to do more. These are the sto­ries that bring dif­fer­en­tia­tors to life, that illus­trate the why and how behind the what and where. The social busi­ness is sto­ry­telling. The faster we start reveal­ing, the bet­ter off we’ll be.