How to Use Story Arcs on Social Media

A week ago I promised to share more awesomeness from the Facebook Small Business Bootcamp and one of the burning questions folks had was: What is a story arc and how can we use it on social media?

So, today I want to share with you how to use the power of story in your posts.

The more I read what the social media blogs say, the more I’m convinced that they are clasping at straws. I’ve seen some funny posts doing the rounds lately.

“Images are out?”

“Facebook is going to stalk you outside of Facebook!”

“If you stand on your head and scream “I love Facebook,” more people will see your posts.”

Alright, maybe I went a bit overboard there, but you get the point. The key thing I want you to take away from this is: tactical posting will get you nowhere..

What do I mean by tactical?

Tactics are the by-products of strategies, but if you implement tactics without strategy you are just reacting to what is (or in many cases, is not) happening. In my uni days, when I was studying PR at QUT, it was drummed into us that we must not put tactics before strategy but sooooo many businesses do. What happens is, you see everyone else posting images of cute bunny rabbits with quotes, so you think: “I must be missing something here. Everybody else is posting images of cute bunny rabbits with quotes, so I’d better jump onboard and do it too.”

What’s missing here is the “Why?”

A business colleague of mine recently reviewed a manuscript of my up-coming book and shared with me: “People want to know your “Why?”

And that’s why using a strategic method to tell your story is so important. Story arcs enable us to not only share our “what” but our “why?” I love a good brand story and I love seeing how brands make a difference.

What is a Story Arc?

A story arc is commonly used in fiction. Have you ever noticed that your favourite TV series often features mini-plots within a larger story? Take, for instance, Doctor Who. My kids will LOOOOVE this! Their idea of a brilliant Christmas is one where Doctor Who shows up in his Tardis instead of Santa.

In a typical story arc, some great wrong occurs and the protagonist (that’s the good guy/girl) first tries to avoid fixing it, then gets some gumption and tries to fix it, then fails and everything goes wrong, so they come close to giving up. Then they are talked into trying again and they beat the odds and win.

In Doctor Who, there have been lots of story arcs, not just within episodes. The ongoing saga surrounding River Song (yes, big Doctor Who nerd alert) is a story arc. See here to quickly catch up on the story of River Song:

We don’t know the full story yet and we want to know more (well, I do anyway).

But Doctor Who doesn’t just use story arcs in the actual TV show. The BBC use story arcs on their Facebook page by releasing snippets of information about up-coming episodes to keep fans guessing about what happens next.

Now, I did write and ask the BBC for permission to use some screen shots of their Doctor Who Facebook page, but as, technically, I’m not a journalist, they won’t respond to me. At least, that’s what their website says.

So, in lieu of that, I’m just going to link to their page here ( and to the various posts that form a story arc surrounding the up-coming Christmas episode.

So, let’s set the scene (beware, spoilers for anyone who has not seen the latest episodes yet): Amy and Rory were sucked into pre-war Manhattan never to return. The Doctor is devastated and now companion-less. River has other things to do apparently.

So, for Doctor Who fans, rumours of a new companion being introduced in the Christmas special are rife.

To feed this thirst for information about what is going to happen next, the BBC releases are series of teasers, the first being this picture of actor Matt Smith dressed in Victorian costume.

Following that, the BBC then releases some images from the Christmas special, including the name of the episode.

Next, the BBC release the prequel mini episode which they are also leveraging to raise funds for Children in Need.

Here’s the video (for all the Doctor Who fans out there):

So, now fans know that the next episode is called “The Snowman,” that the new companion is the same girl who played Oswin a few episodes back, and that the Doctor has given up.

So what happens next?

The BBC release a trailer for the Doctor Who Christmas Special:

After that they release some interviews with the actors and writer, and little by little, a story starts to form…. and fans are hanging on every word.

Now, I know it’s easy to form a story arc around a TV show. However, all you need to do to use this technique effectively, is to think about what your followers are itching to know.

The thing is, people relate to people and they want to know your story and the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on beyond the page wall.

Take the example of the Support a WAHP Christmas magazine (yes, I realise it’s not quite as riveting as Doctor Who, but you have to start somewhere right?):

Post Number One:

example of a story arc on social media


Post number two:

example of a story arc

Post Number 3:

In this string of posts, I made an attempt to share the story leading up to the publishing of Support a WAHP’s Christmas e-magazine.

Here’s another that I’m doing right now:

Post number 1:

evans and evans logo reveal

Post Number 2:

evans and evans website reveal

I already have some ideas of how else I can include story arcs in my social media posts. So, expect bigger and better things than the examples above (which are my first attempts really).

How are you incorporating story into your social posting strategy? If you’re a pro at using story arcs, why not post a link below to show us how it’s done?

  • Rodney Bukuya

    Hi Cas,

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve never heard of using story arcs before. But I think that maybe exactly what I’ve discovered in the new blog series I just posted about.

    You’ve helped me settle my mind that I’m on the right track.

    • Cas McCullough

      Good to hear Rodney! Thanks for your comment!

  • Julie Myers

    Cas, “Story arcs” is a new term for me, so thanks for sharing and explaining. I agree that telling a story helps get the “why” across and is more interesting. I also appreciate you sharing examples of how you’re doing it. I’ll have to give it a try!