Story Arcs for Social Media

Getting Started

Story Arcs for Social Media

Mar 13, 2012 | Getting Started

Story Arcs for Social Media

Mar 13, 2012 | Getting Started

The following is a guest post from Lisa Sirkin Vielee, owner of Gracie Communications.

Heather Rast’s recent blog about creating a conversation (or social media) calendar provided a great planning tool for integrating social media into an overall communications strategy.  Social media is distinguished by its two-way, conversational elements. So it may seem unnatural to suggest planning content for a medium that seems so spur of the moment.  But, as Heather points out, it is crucial to “learn accepted language, tone, voice and style” as well as plan content that is more likely to be shared and retweeted.

It isn’t as hard as it may sound. Heather’s planning calendar outlining possible topics for your social media work is a great first step. At Gracie Communications, our next step is to create story arcs around key messages and events to make sure we are providing opportunities to engage followers and resist being overly promotional.

What is a Story Arc, Exactly?

Think back to your favorite book. It had a beginning, a middle, a climax and an end, right?  It probably also elicited an emotional response; it made you cry or laugh or gave you something to think about.  Good social media campaigns, like books, can build suspense, create interest, and give followers something to think about as well as a chance to weigh in.

Creating a story arc can help you map out this kind of interaction and interest in what you are saying on social media channels. The best way to explain is with an example. Let’s say your client asks you to use social media to as part of the public relations for a conference. Pulling from content you’ve developed for media releases and stakeholder communications, your story arc could look something like this:

  • Chapter One:  Promote the date and time of the conference by creating a Facebook event and sharing with existing followers
  • Chapter Two: Build excitement by introducing the keynote speakers and key panelists. Use photos, video links and blog posts to give a taste of the topic.
  • Chapter Three: Engage the audience by inviting them to virtually interact with the speakers
  1.  Invite reviews of books and previous speeches
  2. Ask for questions prior to conference to share with speakers
  • Chapter Four: Create a “who’s who” list of attendees
  1. As the event draws near, acknowledge those with social media presence who are attending
  • Chapter Five: Logistics – share parking, registration, lunch details, event hashtags, wifi connections and other details that show the customer service side of the conference
  • Chapter Six: A couple of days before the event, ask people to share what they are looking forward to the most
  • Chapter Seven: Live Tweet and/or post from the conference itself
  1. Video posts with speakers and attendees
  2. Key statistics and information
  3. Encourage others to do the same (reach out to key stakeholders using offline tactics as well as online)
  • Chapter Eight: Share testimonials after the conference from event surveys
  1. Invite others to share lessons learned online
  • Chapter Nine: Blog new findings
  • Chapter Ten: Thank organizers
  • Epilogue: Invite attendees and others to provide input into the next conference

This story arc offers more than the who, what, where, when, why of the event.  Followers will learn a little bit about the experts prior to the conference, which may encourage them to come learn more. They’ll see what is important to their peers within the industry from the comments section. Media contacts will see visuals that are available for possible broadcast or podcast. Most importantly, a story arc helps maintain the all-important conversational tone necessary for social media. (Think of it as a book club discussion for your social media communications plan.)

Does this kind of planning take more work? Absolutely. But it also gives you an opportunity to create deeper client awareness and position your client as a well-connected source of information.


Gracie Communications owner, Lisa Sirkin Vielee has more than two decades of experience in the communications industry and has trained a wide range of nonprofit, government and small business clients on social media best practices.  Gracie Communications also offers strategic communications planning, public relations and writing services. Prior to forming her own business, Lisa served as Deputy Press Secretary for Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan, where she provided marketing and media guidance to nearly 70 state agencies and coordinated high-level campaigns. She also has served as director of communications for the 2001 World Police & Fire Games.

Written By Jennifer Spivak