If you’re a small business owner, you have probably wondered how to pique interest from your target audience—without spending a great deal of money. One of the best ways to get people to care about your company is to tell a compelling story.

What makes a story compelling? Emotion.

We all love stories – we’re born for them

At its conception, the phenomenon that would come to be known as “social media” seemed to be the answer businesses big and small had been waiting for: large, detailed sets of customers actively engaged in an accessible platform.


As we now know, social media plays a huge role in marketing for brands. With most brands recognizing and utilizing social media, it can feel overwhelming trying to make your brand’s voice heard. Regardless of whether you choose to use paid advertising or simply share content on your social profiles for free, breaking through the noise of social marketing can be challenging.

Of course, ads have become an increasingly prominent presence across social media, but the majority of businesses seeing real engagement are the ones that find their real voice to tell relevant stories. If your business is going to have a social profile, it can’t be a faceless machine! Have a depth of character. Care about certain topics. If appropriate, make fun of yourself. In short: be real.

Because social media is a place where consumers share their lives, a brand should share their own.  According to filmmaker Andrew Stanton, “Storytelling is joke telling. It’s knowing your punchline, your ending…knowing everything you’re saying from the first sentence to the last is leading to a singular goal.” A business’ singular goal might be to acquire and keep customers, but a brand’s singular goal is to make the customer care.

Make customers care by making them feel

Making the customer care is easier said than done (if it was easy, marketing would be a breeze!). That being said, one of the most effective ways to make storytelling a worthwhile way to build customer interest is by using emotional triggers. As Susan Gunelius of Entrepreneur explained, your copywriting should accomplish two goals: “It should make consumers feel something, and it should make them act on those feelings.”

Instagram storytelling

As consumers and users of mass media, we’re constantly on the receiving end of emotion-based content. Whether you’re watching an UpWorthy video or reading a Buzzfeed listicle, content is most successful when we not only choose to view it, but let it affect us, too. By being presented with a story that we can ultimately relate to our lives – whether the relation is direct or not – we slowly build our perception of a brand in our memories.

It doesn’t matter whether you are sharing your story on social media, TV or print – emotional triggers can be used effectively to communicate the need for your product in a memorable way.

Emotional triggers to use in your storytelling

While there are as many possible triggers as there are emotions, consider the following commonly used emotional triggers. Would any of these emotional triggers compliment the story that your brand is already telling?

  1. Trust: Allow customers to view your brand as one they can trust, whether the trust is in the form of a product guarantee, timeliness, or another positive differentiator of your brand. Example: Nationwide – “Nationwide is on your side.”
  2. Belonging: No one wants to feel alone. Tap into this feeling by showcasing how your product will bring people together, make the consumer be “cool” or become part of a group of people they aspire to be associate with. Example:  Skype – “The Born Friends Family Portrait”
  3. Value: At the end of the day, consumers want to feel like they are getting a good deal on their purchases. Market the value of your product persuade customers that they’ll feel like they made a great financial decision by purchasing your product. Example: Dollar Shave Club – “Our Blades Are F***ing Great”
  4. Fear: Sometimes the value of your product is most evident in what could be lost by not having it. Causing consumers to feel fearful at what might happen if they don’t purchase your product can help trigger action. Example: Capital One Venture – “Seats”
  5. Time: The appeal of having more time is universally understood. A product that does something faster, or requires maintenance less frequently, appeals to this desire to have more control over how you spend your time. Example: Verizion FiOS – “Half-Fast Internet”

With a story that tugs at the right emotions, you can spark interest in your brand from the right people. A great story can help a small brand make a big impact, no matter the marketing budget. Regardless of whether you choose to share your story on social media, print, or even TV, never lose sight of your goal to make the viewers feel.