Even if you’re not a published author, you are still, in fact, a storyteller. Every time you catch up with friends or tweet a photo of a mariachi band performing on the subway, you’re telling a story you think others will find interesting. It’s a behavior we’ve engaged in for thousands of years, and just as the Gutenberg printing press was a major turning point in the way people told stories, so too has social media made an impact of equal importance—for both our personal lives, and the lives of our brands.

But first we must take a look at how it’s happened in order to understand why it’s significant.

I remember the days when AOL Instant Messenger and MySpace were the coolest things ever; they were the platforms for communicating with friends and stalking beloved bands. Profiles, away messages, and status updates provided a channel for expressing how we felt, what we were up to, or simply complain about our parents.

Fast-forward ten years, and enter the prime of social media. Twitter, for one, has taken storytelling to an entirely new level that has even earned significant respect for its cultural significance. And it’s achieved this feat by forcing its millions of users to tell a story in 140 characters or less.

To adapt, we’ve had to get creative in the way we talk about our lives, our brands, and how we interact with others. Our stories have therefore become more concise, often choppy, sometimes witty, and incredibly dynamic all at the same time; if the available character real estate isn’t enough, we can extend our stories through links, videos, and images.

And this is important for brands for two reasons. One, companies have instant access to millions of people who might be talking about them and their products or services. Secondly, brands have an opportunity to communicate with audiences, and share stories of their own. Marketing is still about the stats, but there’s a new focus on how to improve them, and it all comes down to building relationships through content.

But why is there benefit in creating meaningful, short messages? Because people love a good story.

Jonah Berger, author and Marketing professor at UPenn’s Wharton School of Business, identified the common elements of what makes something go viral in his book Contagious. One of the elements necessary to get an idea to spread? Stories.

When discussing the tale of the Trojan Horse, Berger remarks on how it survived by being shared across multiple generations:

“By encasing the lesson in a story, these early writers ensured it would be passed along… because people don’t think in terms of information. They think in terms of narrative. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride.”

We’re witnessing the shift back to the importance of the story, and we should consider ourselves lucky that there are so many ways in which brands can tell theirs today. From brands that have launched a lifestyle content marketing strategy to those who utilize Twitter to improve customer service or post job opportunities, some have already embraced content marketing to capture their audience’s fleeting attention.

The big question now is, how will you share your brand’s story?