Social Best Practices of Shareable Content, Part 4: Storytelling

Published on Dec 22nd, 2015

by Jack Weinstein

Puppyhood is the story of a man and his new Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy.

It’s a 3 1/2 -minute video produced by Buzzfeed for Purina. Max is walking down the street when he hears a dog bark through whatever he’s listening to on his headphones. He notices a sign in a pet store window advertising a puppy adoption. He looks down to see Chloe and, without hesitation, says “yep.” Then cuteness ensues.

Storytelling was the most significant of four drivers evaluated to determine whether to share Facebook content, according to participants in a study we released Dec. 8 . According to our study, “What Makes Brands’ Social Content Shareable on Facebook?” in the Journal of Advertising Research , 52% of the participants said they were more likely to share content if posts included a storytelling element.

The study surveyed 10,000 people who evaluated the 2,000 most-shared posts during a yearlong period.

This is the final part of a four-part series that provides social best practices of these shareability drivers. We’ve already covered social currency , emotions and usefulness .

As far as branded content goes, the Purina video is wildly successful. It’s the most-shared content from Buzzfeed Video this year with more than 1.8 million shares, almost two-thirds of its nearly 3 million total actions (likes, comments and shares).

To give you an idea how well it performed, consider the most-shared post from Purina Dog Chow, which featured a clip from the original Puppyhood video . That post generated nearly 64,000 shares, about one-fourth of its total engagement. Just because the campaign didn’t generate as much engagement from the original Buzzfeed post doesn’t mean it wasn’t a success for Purina Dog Chow.

Purina Dog Chow posted 38 times about Puppyhood in 2015, which accounted for 22% of its content. Those posts generated 34% of total engagement for the brand, which includes nearly half (48%) of the brand’s shares for the entire year.

The campaign continues generating engagement, especially since Buzzfeed Partner released a follow-up video earlier this month.

Puppyhood is one of many examples of why stories are shareable on Facebook. Some of the year’s most-shared content includes stories in different industries.

Health and Beauty

According to our study participants, 92% said they considered storytelling when sharing content from beauty brands.

Always leveraged the power of story to empower girls in its #LikeAGirl campaign. The most-shared post of the year was a video of girls telling stories about being limited and the brand’s campaign to help make them become unstoppable.

The campaign’s most-shared content included videos with more examples of society limiting girls, including the ad that ran during Super Bowl XLIX and examples of standing out #LikeAGirl.

Mary Kay told powerful stories as part of its Don’t Look Away campaign, which advocates for victims of domestic abuse . The stories were some of Mary Kay’s most-shared videos of the year.


Many top posts from media included heartwarming stories, which shouldn’t be a surprise since they’re in the business of storytelling. According to our study, 69% of participants said they considered storytelling elements when deciding whether to share content from publishers and news organizations.

TV network HLN set an all-time engagement record for its post about the story of a woman who was shocked by how strangers treated her when she literally put herself out in the open to make a statement about self acceptance. The post has generated more than nearly 3.4 million social actions, including more than 2 million shares. It captured more shares this year than HLN’s next seven most-shared posts.

Discovery Family posted one of the most-shared content pieces of the year with its video about an orangutan caring for some tiger cubs . It was by far the most-shared post of the year for the network with more than 3.6 million shares. It used the same formula as Puppyhood, featuring adorable animals, to capture 1,400% more shares than the next most-shared post.

The top non-food post by online publishers came from Upworthy. It posted a video from the love has no labels campaign , which generated more than 1.4 million shares with a powerful message.

Broadcast news shows generated their most shares with heartwarming stories. ABC News’ most-shared post was about a special education teacher while NBC Nightly News generated the most shares with its story of a boy who received a double hand transplant .

Financial Services

Among our survey respondents, 55% said storytelling was a factor when they considered sharing Facebook posts.

USAA generated the most shares among financial services brands with a post that told a patriotic story. The brand that provides financial services for military members and their families told the story as part of its #HonorReflectRemember campaign. The post generated 283% more shares than USAA’s next most-shared post.

Stories helped drive the most shares for Prudential. Two of its three most-shared posts were videos. One urged its audience to not be a follower when it comes to investing while another used a social experiment to prove the value of its #PlanRealistically campaign.

Allstate also used stories to create shareable content with its Mayhem character, which has its own social pages. Mayhem’s second-most-shared post of the year was a video about a how a burglary could take place if people aren’t careful .

Consumer Products

Consumer products brands also tapped into the shareability of heartwarming stories during brand campaigns in 2015.

Instead of waiting for the advertising bonanza that is the Super Bowl, Budweiser defied convention and released its spot about a friendship between a puppy and the brand’s famous Clydesdales three days before the game. The gamble paid off. Budweiser was rewarded with its most-engaged and most-shared post of the year by capitalizing on the excitement of the most-anticipated commercials of the year.

Kleenex also used a heartwarming story in its most-shared post of the year. Audiences likely needed its product after watching the story of a man in a wheelchair who adopted a dog that is unable to use its back legs . The post captured 2,300% more shares than Kleenex’s next most-shared post.

Shareability Drivers by Age and Gender

In addition to examining the type of content that our study participants said was most shareable, we broke their feedback down by age and gender. And some patterns emerged.

For Millennials, Story Takes a Different Form

Content that tells a story takes on greater importance the older one gets. According to our study participants, 19 percent in the 25 to 34 age group said storytelling was a driving factor in social sharing. Content that tells a story compelled 35% of those 35 to 44 years old and 34% of those 45 to 54 to share.

Surprisingly, storytelling was a shareability factor for only 10% of millennials. But, digging deeper into the data, we realized that it was not that 18- to 24-year-olds didn’t care about stories. They did. The difference was that they wanted to tell their own stories. Content that lets millennials tell their own stories is highly shareable.

After Puppyhood, this Buzzfeed Video slideshow with photos that only those who attended elementary school in the 90s would remember, was among the publisher’s three most-shared non-food posts this year.

Other brands and publishers took advantage of millennials’ tendency to share posts that allow them to reminisce and tell their own story. Many referenced growing up in the 90s or events that took place that decade including Complex , eBay , Spotify . Someecards was able to drive shares by relating to millennials in their 30s .

We also found that one-third of our participants in the 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 age groups said looking funny was most important. Looking intelligent was also important. Aside from storytelling, sharing to be useful was the least significant factor in this age group at 9%.

Shareability for Men and Women

When considering the four drivers of shareability—social currency, emotions, usefulness and storytelling—it should come as no surprise than men and women differed, according to our survey participants.

Both sexes acknowledged social currency factors. Both wanted to look good when sharing Facebook content, but women preferred to look intelligent and men would rather been seen as funny.

When it came to whether emotions were a factor when deciding to share, happiness led for women while men cited excitement.

One of the biggest differences between the sexes was how they felt about sharing useful content. Nearly half of women (48%) said they considered whether a post was useful when sharing while men said it wasn’t a factor.

To review earlier parts of our series, please see:

Part 1: Social Currency

Part 2: Emotions

Part 3: Usefulness

Have you found these four shareability drivers resonate with your audience? We want to hear what types of content generate the most engagement and shares for your brand. Please share what works best for you in the comment section.


Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Want to keep up to date with news, webinars, resources and product updates before everyone else?

Subscribe now

Shareablee Inc.

Now it’s time to get in touch!

With all the ways to talk to us, there’s no excuse not to.

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Shareablee Inc.
Subscribe Now