Using storytelling to create effective social media content

Today I met with a client who was at the end of her tether. For months she has been pouring time and money into Facebook - but the results have not been following. She believed in the potential of Facebook, but she’d had enough.

Over the next two hours we overhauled her page, her strategy and discussed better ways to present her content. In the coming weeks this will turn around her results. I know this because I see it happen all the time.

As we finished up, she told me “I thought I had a pretty good idea of how facebook works, but you have opened my eyes! You have energised me and I can’t wait to get home and start again!”

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See what I did there?

I could have just said “One-on-one training sessions: $95”.

Instead, I told you a story.

1. A protagonist: my client
2. An obstacle to overcome: poor Facebook results
3. Action: overhauling the strategy
4. Resolution: improved knowledge, improved Facebook page and renewed energy

Stories are everywhere - yes, even in the most mundane of products and services. And everyone - everyoneknows how stories work. They are how we make sense of the world, and each other.

Good stories make us feel something. You know what else feelings can do? They can make us buy stuff. Feeling sad? Buy shoes. Feeling angry about animal cruelty? Donate. Feeling stressed? Book a holiday.

Yet in my work I see people failing to take advantage of this, instead just posting their product or service and assuming it is obvious why their customers should purchase.

Think about this: on Facebook or Instagram, what is the difference between a photo of a sneaker on the wall of a shop with a price tag, and a photo of the same sneaker running on a dirt track, or perhaps a video of the sneakers running on a dirt track in the summer rain, dodging puddles and keeping pace to a fun music track?

The first is a picture selling a product - a product you can get anywhere.

The second is selling an experience, a lifestyle, a moment in time. It appeals to runners’ collective memory and it tells a story.

When you show people how to use your products, it is far more powerful than just telling them. If they relate to the image or aspire to the image, they will pause, and read or engage with your image.

Other stories can be composed around the qualities of the sneakers - the brand, the benefits, the composition, the price, the store location. Why they are a good running shoe, how they can be machine washed, that they come in a range of colours...all of a sudden, photographing those sneakers on the shelf with a price tag seems quite mundane.

If you are a service-based business you can also tell stories. For example: a tax accountant will complete your tax return for $199 with a 2-week turnaround on the return. Yawn. But, what could your clients spend that tax return money on? How time-consuming and frustrating can it be for them to do their taxes themselves and what could they be doing instead? Sell that!

Storytelling should be a vital part of your social media strategy. Your images, video and text should give the reader more than just a sales pitch.

So, how do you improve your storytelling?

  • Interview your staff; what is their background, what are their interests, how did they come to be working for you? Do they have a specialty within your business?  Have they used your products or services?

  • Listen deeply to your customers. If you sell camping gear, ask them where they have camped, which products they used. Maybe ask them about their funniest camping story. If you run kennels, every pet has a story (and owners love to tell stories about their pets). No matter the business, there are stories to be uncovered.

  • What problem does your product or service fix? Stories always have an obstacle to overcome.

  • For each social media post, ask ‘will this story make my readers feel something?’

  • Look for the different, the quirky, and the unusual.

Consider this video from Mirabeau wine:

It is 49 seconds long, a single take, and has over 11 million views. When I watch it, I feel something (amazed - seriously, a shoe! Who knew?)

It’s the perfect example of a quirky, unusual story amid the everyday business of running a winery.

Another example: local councils are forever being blasted for not dealing with potholes and keeping roads up to scratch. Yet over in Western Australia, the Shire of Moora has had more than 15 million views of a road being built:

You have to admit, it’s mesmerising watching the road roll out so...neatly. But this video also tells a story for the council: “we are making progress. We are getting things done.” I’m sure a dry announcement that this year’s budget included x million dollars for road upgrades would not have had the same impact.

I call this 'show, don't tell'. You don't have to employ this technique all the time but you'll find it has a greater impact when you do.

The challenge is always to stand outside your business and look at it with fresh eyes - difficult, I know! But in doing so, you will uncover some stories that are gems - perfect for sharing on social media.

Why don’t you try writing a story about one of your products and see how you go.

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If you’d like to learn more about how you can improve your social media content and strategy, please get in touch.  

If you would simply like to brainstorm content ideas, join me for a content smash - in person or via Skype. You can give me a call or book online here and I’ll get back to you to work out a time that suits.