The biggest threat to your social strategy? Your audience.

In an industry so obsessed with algorithms and big data, things that are quantifiable and easily measured and monitored, the world of social and digital is still a tricky place to navigate.

We can easily understand the technical aspects of each social platform, we can calculate when our audience is online and we can even take a pretty good stab at what kind of content Facebook is favouring this week. We go on training courses, we read up on the ’10 sure fire ways to achieve social media success’, we change our bios to say social media guru – but there’s still one thing we can’t control that has the biggest influence on whether a post really works.


People are the biggest and most unpredictable element of your social media strategy. When you’re dealing with social media, you move from the realm of digital studies and into the world of behavioural psychology. And I’ll tell you something, people are bloody unpredictable. The aspect that is so difficult to predict is the reaction. Of course you can take a pretty good guess at things, and you’ll think through every possible outcome (in your little client-pleasing driven bubble), but sometimes people will react completely differently to how you thought. There’s some great examples HERE.

So key point: Social success has a key ingredient, a strong story that triggers emotion.

Social media is as much based on emotion as it is on cold hard data. If you can illicit an emotional response from your content, whether than be anger, sorrow or laughter, you’re more likely to see your engagement score highly.

You’re posts need to make the audience mad, sad or glad, and storytelling is the perfect vehicle for helping deliver the message.

Deep down, our whole human nature is built on stories and the emotions those stories elicit, and this has been true since the days when we lived in caves and painted those stories on the walls, as well as retelling them from tribe to tribe.

A story can impact us in profound ways, making us take action or becoming personally involved. It can be a picture, a video or written.

Now, I completely appreciate that you can’t make your audience break down in tears of joy with every Instagram post, but ensuring that you put the story first and your agenda second (if at all) will give the post that little bit of a boost.

Even the issue of recycling can be given a narrative with an emotional trigger, ultimately driving action.

Some examples… Providing the context (or the WHY as Simon Sinek would call it) helps people understand your message and with that strong narrative, customers will engage, share and take action.

At Bromford, we use storytelling to help us deliver everything, from financial statements to customer announcements. In fact, we link every bit of data or pure fact to a story to help bring it to life and get people to connect.

Our content tends to be linked to one of two core themes; social currency (a key social message that people feel good sharing) or practical value (giving information or support). We also look for things that link to bigger stories that we can piggy back on with our content, or things that simply aim to cause emotion and encourage sharing (mainly which support our brand proposition).

I recently did a post for Staffordshire Wing Air Cadets (where I volunteer as media officer). It was just an off the cuff mobile video of an impromptu ‘homecoming’ for Christmas, showing the moment a member of the RAF on deployment surprised his two air cadet children who were on parade, by suddenly appearing next to them. Cue two uniformed young people embracing their serviceman father with tears and applause all around.

This wasn’t planned social content but it had some things that really stood out for me; a link to Christmas, the military and young people – oh, and plenty of tears. The emotion was clear and it had that happiness that I knew would work well. I didn’t predict so well though. At present the post has 100k views, 350k reach, 3k likes and 660 shares (and this keeps growing).

This was more social currency with a strong emotional trigger. A diamond piece of real life content I couldn’t have created at my desk, so has the very best impact.

Emotion drives engagement and the indirect benefit is we’ve received 100+ more page likes and lots more general awareness of the organisation just from that post.

Another more service related example; a video for Bromford about Christmas money saving tips focusing on presents for pets. Again filmed on a mobile with a bit of post-production polish, but simple in premise – less than one minute piece direct to camera to encourage better spending over the festive period (and ultimately ensure customers don’t struggling to pay their bills and rent). It’s delivered in a quirky way, it has stuffed toys for pets and makes you laugh. This post gained over 800 views in its first day, with above average reach for one of our posts and ended up featuring in print (strangely) and online across regional press. We’ll find out after Christmas whether our income team saw any impact and the true success, but from a social media point of view, we’ve already got the analytics to prove this was great content.

Finally, on analytics, one thing to remember is that not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. Analytics (as I mentioned at the start) are extremely important, but need to be used wisely and sometimes with storytelling, it just can’t be about the call to action. Sometimes that CTA, the key measure of success, might overtly identify your content as marketing and so water down the emotional aspect. That however, is another blog.

Click here to discover the techniques that enabled Bromford to increase their CTR by 560% and grow their followers by 199% in the space of twelve months.

About the Writer:jarrod
Jarrod heads up Bromford’s digital, content and colleague communications work. Having a number of awards to his name, including the Golden Hedgehog for best in-house communicator under 30, he is experienced in digital strategy and implementation, delivering results through social media and content marketing. Having been with Bromford for five years, Jarrod has led some of the social business’ most notable campaigns, including the Corp Comms Award 2016 shortlisted LHA Cap campaign and their work on the ‘Bedroom Tax’. In his spare time, Jarrod volunteers as a Royal Air Force officer in the Air Cadets, managing training development and media communications across Staffordshire.

If you’d like to connect on LinkedIn click here or follow him on Twitter @jarrodwilliams