Stories sometimes trump facts in today’s age of social media ruled by affiliate marketers and influencers. Marketers often use a good, impactful story to cover up some dodgy details.

New research from social psychologists at Northwestern University indicated that a good story makes one overlook the facts. On the other side, the study found that stories weakened the persuasiveness of facts.

The situation is like a double-edged sword as strong stories boost the validity of weak facts, but essential facts should be left to stand on their individual merit. Every good story beats out bare numbers by increasing or multiplying sale. The magic of stories works on the ‘transportation’ principle, where consumers are virtually transported into the tale. Personal stories by influencers help consumers identify similarities in experiences and characteristics. Every individual experience story provides consumers the comfort to let down their guard, which facilitates both purchases and relationship building. The authors of the latest survey aimed to study consumer psychology, agreed that great personal stories lead to better persuasion.

The survey was conducted on 397 adults to validate some facts about a fictitious smartphone. They were asked to analyze at a set of categorically weak facts about a mobile brand. Half of the participants were just shown the facts, while the other half were asked to read a story that had the same facts embedded in the story. In the cases, where the facts were weak, the presence of the story positively affected the way people processed information. People were seen more likely to respond positively, even if the facts about the smartphone were not optimal.

This same experiment was repeated a second time with a completely fresh set of participants, but the results remained similar. In the third experiment, participants were willing to give their email information for a flu medication campaign, when the weak facts were backed up by a strong story. The reason audiences for online platforms are drawn to personal stories is tied back to the ‘narrative rationality’ theory, which was coined by Walter Fisher back in the 1980s.

As per this theory, humans are capable of processing information better in the forms of stories than understanding facts based on pure logic. No one has the time to check the sources and run calculations behind every statistic. However, stories and experiences shared by influencers on social media help consumers to quickly decide the difference between a relatable story, and one that sounds fishy. When social media influencers emphasize on creating a strong personal connection to a product they are promoting, it is highly effective in creating long-lasting brand recognition and customer retention. Stories present the heart of any good marketing strategy as social media has shifted trends back to focus on personal narratives.

Social media has shaped up to be the most robust platform for entertainment, news, and retail advertising, giving unprecedented power to influencers to convince consumers to trust a brand or product. Facts are not invincible anymore. When a compelling personal story is in play, facts and statistics always take a back seat.

Information can be twisted to match a person’s agenda or perspective, cloaking itself in flowery words of a perceptive social media influencer. This is what makes personal stories invaluable in selling services and goods.

Yet, it is all limited. This recent study highlights that secure factual data do not need a story to display their value. Otherwise, stories with a personal touch always end up overshadowing accurate data grabbing complete customer attention.