Whether marketers like it or not, social media has managed to create a revolution in the way companies market their offerings. This has put the customer more in control in terms of viewing content and sharing it. Plus, this has also caused a major shift in the consumer-marketer relationship, thereby proving that social media can have a huge impact on traditional power structures.
Marketers know that social media is central to their inbound marketing strategy, which is all about using unique and useful content to attract customers.
One of the ways in which marketers can make the most of this is by uniting the powers of social media and the art of storytelling. After all, it is through stories that we make a better sense of the world we live in.
The finest marketers have always used traditional storytelling structures to share their messages. And time and again, this has helped them connect with their audiences and inspire them to act.
Like every story, a marketer needs to understand that his story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Some of the questions that will need to be answered are:
What is the plot?
Who is the hero?
What is the situation?
What is the struggle?
What is the moral?
Why Brands Should Use Social Media for Storytelling
As already mentioned, storytelling is an art. It gives meaning and definition to any ordinary piece of information, and makes it interesting and engaging. Advertisers and marketers have used it as a potent tool to convince audiences by merging their ideas with emotion, which has proved to be highly instrumental in captivating the imagination of the customers.
Storytelling as a tool can be used for three main reasons:
To Explain Your Perspective
Every story has a narrative structure and if conveyed well, it helps establish a solid cause-and-effect relationship. People do this subconsciously on an everyday basis in their dialogues and conversations with their family and friends, for example, telling them about their day's events, meeting someone interesting, providing an explanation, and so on.
To Make Customers Feel
Storytelling can be considered a process which puts emotions in the driver's seat and skepticism in the back seat. When narrated well, most audiences start to relate to it and cast their rational considerations aside.
A well-built story will be replete with characters that are authentic and exciting. It will offer experiences that are universal, and the sense of a powerful product making it all happen. Combining an idea with a powerful emotion enables the audiences to not just listen to or see the concept, but also feel it. Once you make them feel, they will not forget.
To Make People Stop and Listen
If you think about it, people spend their money on products because they're sold on the story that the product stands for. Similarly, it is not your brand that strikes a chord with the audience, but the folklore that it is symbolic of.
After all, it is always more entertaining to listen to stories than look at graphs or go through the mountain of promotional emails in your inbox. Storytelling will always be effective and create a strong impact primarily because it is a part of the inherent nature of human life.
Using Social Media to Tell Your Story
Social media can serve as an effective tool to sell stories that engage customers, build brand loyalty and affinity, and generate sales. You can also include your brand's story in your social media marketing strategy.
Here's how you can go about it:
Decide on Your Goal
One of the first things to do before you begin to tell your story is to figure out what your marketing goal is. This knowledge will help you determine the right social media platform and the structure for your stories.
If your marketing goal is to increase sales, then your stories should tell customers how your product would be useful for them. If the goal is to build affinity, your stories can revolve around a few of the charitable causes your firm supports.
In short, being clear about your marketing goal will provide the direction for the right kind of narrative.
Learn How to Tell a Story
According to an article by Bryan Kramer on Business2Community, there are five basic elements to a good story: characters, content, motivations, conflict and resolution.
Apply this to marketing and this is what you get -
Characters: The best tales have at least two characters.
Content: This refers to who, what, when, and where.
Motivations: The reason behind the actions of the characters.
Conflict: The juiciest part of the story.
Resolution: The realization, epiphany, or takeaway.
As far as the structure of your story is concerned, the 'why' should reveal a call-to-action, which tells the customers what their next action should be i.e. to visit your store, make a purchase, or seek out more information.
Make It Relatable
People trust other people more than brands. This is why it may be a good idea to involve your employees in telling your story when promoting your offerings. Consider linking their names to your brand's name on social media websites. For example, Matt Cutts of Google was the public face of the company's web spam initiatives for many years.
Use Different Channels
Using more than one social media platform will open up several doors for your brand to reach out to new audiences who may still be unacquainted with your company. Each social media platform is different from the other and has its own strengths. Do not hesitate to exploit them.
For example, Facebook Timelines are perfect for sharing status updates, images and videos that tell a story over a period of time. The 'Milestone' feature can be used to share your brand's special moments (such as the founding date) with your customers.
If you have a platform of choice - say, Twitter - where you want to do a series of targeted posts with a message, you could try a "tweet storm" of carefully crafted tweets using a tool such as Tweet Jukebox. And once your tweets are live you could curate them chronologically on a single page using the aptly named Storify.
The 140-character word limit on Twitter is ideal for sharing breaking news and making announcements to capture the audience's attention, even if it is for a short span of time.
A lot of startups use photo-sharing websites such Pinterest and Instagram to create visual stories that aid their goals. Similarly, YouTube can be used to share a series of videos. Do not shy away from using multiple social media platforms. Remember, there are several ways to tell your stories. You can use the written word, videos, images, and infographics among other things.
Let Customers Do the Talking Too
One of the best ways of making your customers relate to your stories is by allowing them to share their opinions/comments on them, and may be even supplement them with images, videos and status updates.
Having a section for customer testimonials on your social media page can go a long way in creating an emotional connection with your followers and gaining their trust.
Make Your Stories Relevant
Make sure the stories you tell as are in keeping with the current state of affairs. Nobody will want to spend their precious time on social media to know about what transpired in the past. This is why the content on your social media sites will have to be updated with fresh and unique information on a regular basis.
While the concept of storytelling is an age-old one, many marketers still struggle to effectively convey their stories. Whether it has to do with the psychology of it or just figuring out ways to make it work for your brand, every aspect of storytelling is crucial to your marketing plan. The above tips and pointers should make it easier for you to understand the relevance of storytelling and include it in your social media marketing strategy.
Featured image source: Josh Hallett, Flickr (CC license)