The missing ingredient of social media – storytelling

“If you want to be more effective when sharing yourself and your work, you need to become a better storyteller. You need to know what a good story is and how to tell one.”

Show Your Work, Austin Kleon

First came the platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+.

And then the content (of sorts).

The next phase?

Stories…

We’re not there yet, but imagine a landscape where every business and every person has a blog, posts regularly and uses a multi-media led approach. How then will they differentiate their offering?

Not by hiring in more help.

Not by spending more money on better platforms.

And not by taking an extreme view, generated purely for effect.

The only way you’ll differentiate your business or yourself, is to tell better stories. And when I say ‘better’, I mean stories that people trust and are willing, not persuaded by dint of your share buttons(!), to share.

When I think about the people I follow, I’m not bothered by the nuances of their platform (it’s nice if it works on a mobile but it’s not essential) or the psychographics. What I care about is the authenticity of their voice.

Why is it that they feel that way?

What brought them to this place?

Why have they decided to drop something in favour of something else?

(Notice I refer to ‘people’. That still leaves a huge opportunity for businesses to persuade me of their offering.)

It might appear a blinding flash of the obvious, but so few businesses understand why their audience craves a story. Yes, they like the product or service but they would like it a whole lot more if you were prepared to open up and share something that resonated with their soul or passion for their lifestyle which, presumably, your business connects with.

Even if the sales message is subliminal, they’ll wear it if they feel your heart is in it and not produced along the same lines as everyone else i.e. ‘I’m only doing this because I’ve been told it will help with sales.’

Why is it that so few businesses are prepared to open up and tell interesting stories?

Perhaps they’re not interested in the business; or they think the product or service no better than Ho Hum; or they’re following a plethora of tedious brand or social media guidelines that provide zero leeway for experimentation. Whatever it is, I’m certain that it’s stopping them from expanding their online influence.

I know many businesses are still struggling with the vast space that has opened up with digital media, but it’s too easy to believe the hype that with lots of SEO rich content, and a page one listing on Google that that’s all that’s necessary.

Sorry, but that’s just the start.

My advice is simple: make storytelling, in whatever format, of strategic importance.

Up to now the message might have been, ‘How can we get better at social media?’ I would suggest you change this to, ‘How can we tell better stories?’

If you’re running a company here’s a few ideas to ponder:

Great stories are not for everyone. Pick some edges (see Seth Godin’s book, Ship It for an expanded list).

Go big.

Go small.

Go sideways (think suppliers, friends and loyal fans).

Look at the past. What’s changed for the better?

Look to the future.

R&D.

Bag a space – the sustainability ticket still has plenty of mileage.

Ask the boss for his best and worst moments.

Ditto the shop floor.

Who inspires you?

If you still feel totally uninspired, then perhaps you need to expand your reading online and off. I have to say that I’ve never yet been disappointed with a few hours spent reading an old book or blog post from a great storyteller.

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