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How to Build Social Capital Using Storytelling

Social capital is a term that dates back almost to the beginning of the twentieth century. In a nutshell, it is “the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups” (Wikipedia). In present-day social media lingo, we might say social capital is the benefit of effective engagement.

 When we think of social capital we initially think of tangible benefits: increased product sales, referrals, and others. But the biggest value of social capital is one that is harder to measure: loyalty. One of the most effective loyalty models is Conversation Building.  In social media, the best conversations start with good stories.

Historically, we humans love stories. We read them to our children at bedtime, we buy tickets to see them at the movies, we go to plays, we attend sporting events, we take pictures. Storytelling is who we are. So how can we effectively use social media to tell stories?

One of my favorite ways to find good stories is to look at mythology. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, said to be George Lucas’ inspiration for Star Wars, is a good place to start. The premise of Campbell’s teaching is that every story has a common story--a hero on a journey. Campbell describes his monomyth theory here:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

So how can you find this region of supernatural wonder where fabulous forces are encountered? After all, you probably don’t have a Star Wars adventure in your organizational fabric. But, you do have what Sly and Family Stone called “everyday people.”

Here are some ways to tell a story that can build loyalty through the use of social media.

1. Expect the unexpected:  The University of Oregon excels in athletics. Their teams contend for conference and national championships on a regular basis. So, you’d expect them to tell stories about their victories on the field and their stellar performers. But the Ducks have taken a different approach with “O Heroes.” The motto: “champions on the field…heroes in the community.” The service-based program tells the stories of how student-athletes are impacting their community.  Their Facebook page and website are getting a facelift soon, and they use a news blog and photo gallery to help tell their stories. They have taken an already-invested fan base in athletics and used it to further their goal of serving the community. A nod here to Jessica Smith at the NCAA for passing this along.


2. Use your biggest asset: everyday people: Eagle Mount in Bozeman, Montana is a therapeutic recreation organization. They offer “adventures” in recreation for people of all ages and disabilities. Their facilities include a swimming pool, an equestrian operation, and a hugely popular ski program set in Rocky Mountain beauty.  Their best stories are their people--the volunteers and the people they serve. Eagle Mount understands the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Their Facebook page is loaded with pictures and videos of people overcoming the obstacles of life, and having fun doing it. They are building loyalty by show-and-tell, one everyday person at a time.

3. Turn the common day into supernatural wonder. Storytelling is an art. It takes skill to turn a common occurrence into something compelling. Invest some time in learning the skill. There are books to read, classes to take, and best cases to look at. Learn how to tell a story with multiple media: pictures, video, podcasts, blogs, and social media platforms. Listen to good modern day storytellers. Start with Garrison Keillor. Search social media in your sector and see who does it well.

Start a conversation today by telling a story. If you do it well, people will want to hear more.

Join The Conversation

  • ChrisSyme's picture
    Jan 19 Posted 4 years ago ChrisSyme

    Linda, you can email me at chris@cksyme.org.

  • ChrisSyme's picture
    Jan 19 Posted 4 years ago ChrisSyme

    Linda, you can email me at chris@cksyme.org.

  • Jan 18 Posted 4 years ago lindanaseer

    Hi Chris, 

    Many thanks for sharing that... its just amazing and simple to get it. I am in the process of doing my PHD around something really related, so my I ask you to contact please. I have couple of questions if that possible. 



  • ChrisSyme's picture
    May 15 Posted 5 years ago ChrisSyme

    Thanks so much for the compliment, Erin!

  • ErinCNelson's picture
    May 15 Posted 5 years ago ErinCNelson

    Hi Chris, 

    You are a great storyteller yourself. I have shared this on all of my social media outlets. More, please! 



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