5 Themes Driving Social Storytelling Right Now

Published on Apr 18th, 2019

Robert McEvily
Director, Marketing & Communications, Shareablee

We did a big audit of all of the content really resonating on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere on social, and distilled that there are five big themes driving social storytelling right now:

1. Usefulness
2. Being Timely & Exclusive
3. Human Interest Stories
4. Being Part of a Tribe or Community
5. Being Interesting and/or Beautiful

The savviest creators and publishers are leveraging one or multiple themes at the same time to really connect and inspire action across social platforms. Let's check out some concrete examples of how these five themes are actually showing up on social media, starting with Usefulness...

If you haven't seen any of the above posts on social, you may not be on social! "Do It Yourself" content with images typically shot up close, usually from above, with short vids that are beautiful to watch. For many people, even if they're not going to use these beauty hacks - this DIY style, these posts with great "pass-along value" - are great drivers of this content. Anything that can be pushed along to someone new who may find value in it is golden. And "Usefulness" with a DIY approach isn't just something we're seeing within the Beauty category; it's all over Fitness and Food - plus all genres offering "Life Hacks." Usefulness is a very dominant theme. You always want to be viewed as someone who passes along things of real value.

The second theme centers around Being Timely or Exclusive, projecting the image you're always "in the know:"

This theme is essentially "breaking news," posting real-time thoughts and images about what's happening in sports, politics, Hollywood, art, theater, anything of interest; anything people would typically flock to Twitter about to figure out what's going on - big world events, big scandals, big celebrity news, etc. This always works, yet the challenge is always this: Is it appropriate for you - you as an individual, you as a brand, etc. - to be mentioning the Grammys? NFL trades? If you ordinarily have nothing to do with these types of stories, the trick is finding your angle to become part of the conversation.

Human Interest is next - probably most dominant on Facebook...

The Human Interest (or "Human Spirit") theme is present on Instagram and Twitter as well, but less so. Heartwarming videos, shocking videos, images that make people cry, or remind them of loved ones or those they've lost - this theme comes up again and again and again. CBS News in particular does a thorough job of sourcing these types of videos, but there's also a whole slew of publishers on Facebook (Power of Positivity, Sun Gazing and others) that are all about human stories designed to uplift, occasionally shock, or otherwise inspire sharing.

Next is the theme of Being Part of a Tribe, or part of a Community...

This theme has emerged more recently; it's all about taming the vastness of social media. This vastness can feel overwhelming and anonymizing. If you can shrink your targeted audience down to groups of people who laugh at the same things, who feel the same way about stuff, you're taking long strides toward high engagement. The WorldStarHipHop examples above are on point. Same thing for sneaker news, musical genes, gaming, hobbies, anything and everything appreciated by small, select groups. Even sites like Fox News have built entire communities around specific points of view. Our hard-wired tribal nature, our sense of wanting to be part of a community, is clearly invoked in this theme.

Last but not least... If in doubt on social, and if you have access to the most interesting and beautiful things in the world, post them!

The Being Interesting and/or Beautiful theme feels almost "owned" by National Geographic, and has been for quite some time. It's certainly not exclusive. NASA posts some really fascinating things, many others do too. NatGeo consistently posts images that are intrinsically beautiful and fascinating to look at. The kinds of posts which - even if you had no idea what they were - you might want to save on your phone or place on your wall, or at minimum, share with friends.

Overall, in Q1 of 2019, Interesting/Beautiful was the dominant theme.

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