Why is storytelling important?
Storytelling is the oldest form of communication for sharing a narrative with other human beings. From cave-painting and hieroglyphics , shamanic tradition and druidic practice to fables and fairytales all convey events in words, sound and/or images, often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture since time began, as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and instilling moral values. From a very early age we are conditioned to learn by listening, by reading and in later life by sharing stories.
What impact can it have on businesses to use social media as a storytelling medium?
Social media has made us all potential storytellers. Telling a story helps how others perceive us or our business. The biggest impact on businesses themselves is the change in thinking. Social is no longer a push or broadcast media like newspapers, radio or television before it. It's very much a pull mentality now, you have to be able to bring customers in to your business with engaging content.
How can a business make their story authentic?
Ultimately in this medium businesses have to be open and honest about what they stand for, the reasons they're in business and the history of how they got to this point in time. They need to get their employees involved to help talk about them from another perspective, to tell another side to the same story. It's not enough to just throw your story out there as much or as often as possible anymore. You have to earn your audience. You have to earn credibility. There has to be an element of social proof or you will never build trust with your audience.
What are some do's and don'ts businesses should follow when using social media?
The most important thing from my point of view is to do your homework; know your audience, where they are, what they expect from you, how they interact. You should always spend time listening before you even think about telling them a story. Do stay active; a storyteller is only as good as his last story. Do it whole-heartedly; your audience can tell if there's no passion or enthusiasm from you. Don't forget that your audience decides the success of your storytelling strategy, not you. Don't stop looking at new mediums or platforms to use to tell your story. Your storytelling has to evolve.
Isn't a story all about the business and therefore uninteresting?
I get asked this all the time! People buy stories before they even consider buying a product. Tell them the history of your business, how it was started, why the company does what it does. Very few companies are started because they simply wanted to be in business. Show them the passion behind what you do, because that's what's infectious. That's what really sells your product.
How can a small business leverage the power of social media storytelling?
The beautiful thing about social media is that it has completely levelled the playing field for both big and small businesses. They both share the same platforms now, which on the whole are completely free to use. A small business only needs a smartphone and some creative thinking to take photos or make video content to tell their story. In some cases I truly believe that small businesses have the advantage, because they can be more agile, creating content faster without a big budget, but their story can be just as compelling.
Is telling a story time-consuming?
It can be, I mean books and movie scripts can take years to write. There is an old journalists' saying that 'a good story writes itself', which is fortunate as we don't always have the luxury of time when it comes to social media. It moves in real-time and unfortunately if we took 12 months to plan the strategy for our story we'd get left behind. We're in an age of micro-blogging, video-blogging and snap-chatting. So feed your audience snippets of the story to get them engaged. supplement that with more content along the way. Livestream if you have the opportunity. There's always a way to tell your story regardless of how much time you have to devote to it. But as with anything, the more time you invest in it, the greater the results.
What do I do, when I think I don't have a story to tell?
I hear this one a lot too. Ever heard the expression 'there's at least one good book inside everyone'? Well, it's true. Sit down with someone that knows you or your business inside out and just ask them what your story is. You'll be surprised with how much they can give you and how much they remember about you. If you're struggling to find the story for your business, then sit down with someone like me and we'll help you find it. It's there, trust me.
Which companies are already doing social media storytelling well?
There are so many that have worked out how to do it, or have a particularly compelling story. You can probably think of some yourself. One of the standouts for me are Red Bull, who got very clever with their videos of the extreme sports athletes they sponsor, so much so that networks like NBC now buy that content from them. The skincare company Dove run some great story campaigns designed to make you feel good about yourself, which everyone is going to react to. GoPro have been clever with their marketing, empowering their customers to use their product to record their own stories and share them on the company's platforms. Effectively getting their customers to tell the company's story for them.
Anything else you'd like to leave us with?
If I could give just one piece of advice about storytelling it would be to just be yourself. Think about who you follow on social media and why. What do you expect to see from them? Now apply that to your storytelling platforms and think about what your audience expects. Do quotes and curated content tell your audience about you or your business? About your story? I doubt it. Think more about what they want and also where they want it; laptop, mobile, desktop, photo, video or audio? Then tell your story.
The #EngagORS tweetchat takes place every Thursday at 13:00 GMT and it's contributors are a great group of people to get involved with. Just follow the hashtag on Twitter and get involved. As ever, I'd love to hear your thoughts on social media storytelling , your experiences of it and who you think is doing it well, or not.