Social Selling: The Science Behind Storytelling

Stories activate parts of the brain that are responsible for experiences, development of empathy, and intelligence. We retain 70% of information through stories, but only 10% from data and statistics. This makes them the best way to teach, persuade, and understand each other, and a powerful tool in social selling.

Building relationships is a core feature of social selling: stories support efforts by helping shape your identity, your audience relate to you, and increasing the likelihood of you being top-of-mind.

That’s why it’s important to tell good ones.

Your stories must be memorable and convey a message if you want to establish yourself as an authentic, accountable, and desirable brand. Supported by the Ancient Greeks’ modes of persuasion, your stories should also be big, bold and brave.

Demonstrating logic, good business ethics, and social awareness will put you in good stead with prospects. But even though you’re looking for brand awareness, increased website traffic and a boom in lead generation, understanding how and why storytelling is such an effective means of communication will help you craft better strategies to, in turn, reach these goals.

At its very core: You’re looking to evoke emotions. Feelings over fact.

You want prospects to trust you, to be focused, and at ease. These emotions come from three very specific hormones: Dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.

New chapter
Photographer: Annelies Geneyn | Source: Unsplash

Are customers in love with your brand?

When a great story is told, the same hormones and neurotransmitters are released as to when you’re in love.

Of course, stories must be backed up with logic and credibility, but the easiest way to create an effective narrative is through emotion. As is the easiest way to establish meaningful relationships, of which social selling is built upon.

Storytelling is 'the process of making a connection with the customer first, and selling a product second'.

Building strong relationships with targets is crucial in any brand’s business, especially in this hyper-competitive modern climate. You should use social listening tools to create effective and catchy tag lines, grand ideas and innovative products that resonate with your target audience. Otherwise, what’s the point?

The power of storytelling is a power that your brand can, and should, leverage. Show people why they should care, give them a reason to buy from you that’s not just your product or service.

The message you’re delivering is critical in your business, but the delivery itself is equally as important when it comes to producing thoughtful and effective stories.

The language you use inspires the imagery they build, and every small element manifests itself within their brains. Done wrong, this could be detrimental. Done right? Leads, leads, leads!

Starbucks Card
Photographer: Rebecca Aldama | Source: Unsplash

How to tell a great story

Although light evenings had eventually begun to emerge from their winter slumber, something about this night was particularly dark. Perhaps it was the grey clouds masking both the setting sun and the rising moon, or maybe it was the dark undertone of why we were all gathered. Dan - who was late, as usual - bolted through the door. Soaked from the rain, he mocked himself. His humor, dry. His outlook, bright. An ironic contrast of the view outside.

I bet you were constructing that scene in your head, word by word, details being added as you read them. (Awkward if not…)

Everyone knows a Dan. Using a common name encourages a larger audience to identify with your characters and understand the narrative on a personal level.

And if you don’t know a Dan, you probably know someone who’s always late or has a dry sense of humor. By introducing your characters and giving them traits, and paying attention to detail, you nurture emotional investment as well as creativity and relevance. Photographer: David Clarke | Source: Unsplash

Photographer: Aumi | Source: Unsplash

The science-y bit of social selling and stories


The hormone you just experienced, the one that built that dark scene around you as you read, was dopamine.

Dopamine enhances focus, memory, and motivation. This is why you feel significantly more alert, attentive and become fully immersed in a story.

If you want to tell a story that keeps targets hanging on every word, it should be built around suspense and end on a cliffhanger. Keep them coming back for more.

Don’t you want to know why Dan is always late, or why the group was gathered?

Being invested in a character in this way leads on to the next critical emotion in storytelling: Oxytocin.


Oxytocin increases generosity, builds trust, and encourages bonding.

Shared personal experiences, being relatability, and vulnerability evokes this hormone, meaning you’ll be able to better establish a connection with your audience.

Again, this is where social listening comes in to play. You need insight into what your audience is talking about, what they care about, and what they’re clicking on.

The more authentic, raw, and in-tune you are, the more your targets will feel at ease. Creating empathy, where your audience experiences and feels with you, is essential in any brand development and storytelling.

That’s why, from the very beginning, you should be asking yourself why your company exists and personal experiences that sit behind it. Instead of marketing at someone, create an atmosphere of joint venture. Leave prospects feeling something rather than being told what to feel.


Endorphins are the next secret. Though naturally produced in response to pain, laughing is also a trigger.

If you make your targets laugh, they become more relaxed, focused and creative. Endorphins massively complement the hormones that we’ve already talked about, acting is the cherry on top of the cake.

When endorphins arrive in the limbic system - the part of the brain that supports emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory - you experience pleasure and satisfaction.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if every time a prospect thought about your brand, they associated it with pleasure and satisfaction?

Social Selling. Build relationships with your audience
What led you here? Photographer: Ian Schneider | Source: Unsplash

So tell meaningful narratives

Triggering these three hormones is clearly beneficial in successfully engaging and converting your targets. If all of the emotions derived from dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins can be associated with your brand, you’re off to a winning start.

Your audience will feel connected to you through shared experiences, empathy, laughter, and know what your brand stands for. And the limbic system is also where decisions are made, so leveraging such emotions is critical in encouraging buying.

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