Once upon a time on Social Media – It is all about telling your story
Long before there was social media or the internet, long before there were organised education systems, even before there was written language and books, people were able to pass on their history and their life lessons to their children and future generations. The method they used so long ago is still the most effective method available to us today: storytelling. The constellations were named because of stories invented to understand the stars and their movements, and navigation would have been impossible for centuries without them.
The last century introduced the brilliant concept of public relations and gave us the marvels of modern marketing (excuse me while I wipe the dripping sarcasm from my chin), but these hallmarks of progress almost killed the best vehicle for communication we have ever known by reducing our stories to soundbites and 30 second commercials. In the last decade we have seen a resurgence of storytelling, and the results are as should be expected – marvellous.
Push versus Pull
The internet has turned the tables back around. Whereas books and longform articles were considered dead only a few years ago, they are now making a comeback in a big way. Longform articles are more read now than 300 word blog posts. We want to know the “why” as much as the “what”.
We also don’t accept television commercials to give us the story of a brand. Consider how much money is poured into TV advertising still today. Now think about how many times you record your shows with a DVR and skip through the commercials when you watch them. That money seems to be largely wasted. Why do think that Netflix binging is so popular?
The flip side of that coin is the newer term “inbound marketing”. This idea encompasses all of these ideals. We see better results when we pull people in through effective storytelling than when we push quick advertisements in their faces. Gary Vaynerchuk is one of the people leading the pack in teaching people how to tell stories for their brands. He took his family’s $4 million wine business to $60 million in five years using storytelling, and then started his VaynerMedia brand consulting firm to teach other businesses how to do the same.
Last year at the Inc. 5000 conference, he told the audience “Everyone in this room could charge more for a service or product if they were better at storytelling.” The irony comes when you also realise that social media – not known for long articles – is the direction that marketing keeps moving toward.
It’s About the Collection
So how do you tell your story on social media, confined to limited space and even 140 characters? One bite at a time, the same way you eat an elephant. Every blog, post, video, tweet, and picture that you upload is one brick in the building of your story. Each one serves a different small purpose but should ultimately serve to overall goal. The step that most people skip is understanding the why before they get to the what.
What is the purpose of telling your story? If it’s to make a buck you’re doomed from the start. People can see through that these days. What are your goals? How do you want to help people? What can and will you do to make an impact on the world? If you can’t answer these questions thoroughly and confidently, you need to stop whatever you’re doing until you can.
Once you know your “why”, your social media interactions become clear, simple, and consistent. Everything you write or share should leave the viewers with the thought “that’s so ___(you).”
Windows and Doors
Picturing your story as a building also helps you understand the importance of using different mediums. If you only tweet, your building will be walls of identical brick with no windows, doors, landscaping, or elegant touches. In other words, boring. Instagram pictures add one dimension to the story. Blog posts add another. Tweets yet another. Curated content adds even more variety. Each one should be consistent with your story, but bring just enough difference to make the building a beautiful work of architecture rather than a simple metal storage unit.
Podcasts, videos, hashtags, commentary on others’ work: all of these things can be building blocks in your story, and the more that you can use – effectively, of course – the more complete your story will be to those who see it. Tell the world your story, there are many people who want to hear it. What they don’t want is a quick infomercial on why they should buy your product or service.