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:

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.