Social Savvy: The importance of storytelling in social media marketing – May 2022
By Irene Williams
Human beings are wired to tell and be told stories. Before a fancy, newfangled thing known as the written word took hold-which literally (pun intended) occurred surprisingly slowly over thousands of years-people conveyed information and purveyed tradition orally. Though we now navigate life with pocket-sized supercomputers and the word “stories” is frequently known as those fleeting posts on Instagram, we are all still neurologically wired to trade tales. Storytelling serves a host of useful purposes for us as human beings, and that certainly includes the way we participate in commerce in this technological era.
WE ARE WIRED FOR STORYTELLING
First, let me define storytelling. Though the meaning may seem obvious, it’s helpful to clarify it in the context of social and digital media. Much of the content we receive today via social/online platforms is quippy, fast and sometimes fractured or disjointed. Other content is created for search engine optimization (SEO) more than for factual/educational purposes, often to capture online leads. The storytelling I’m shining the light on in this article involves the sharing of a story with a narrative arc and a defined beginning, middle and end.
Even in the creation of short-form content that works so well for modern sharing platforms, we can-and I contend, we should-incorporate arc and structure into social storytelling. We can be quippy and fast and write for SEO yet still tell a good story! This is the best way to connect with audiences, aka customers, and guide them to confidently make purchasing decisions.
Here are science-based reasons why the arc and structure are essential and effective in storytelling.
• Neuronal activity, to help us remember: It’s good for our brains to share and receive stories that make sense-that start in one place and end in another to complete a thought and, possibly, make a point. Without getting into all the geeky brain science, I’ll just explain that stories light up many parts of our brains, increasing a kind of electrical activity fivefold. Neurons that fire together, wire together, thus helping us retain information and recall stories for longer periods of time.
• Body chemistry, to help us care: Storytelling releases oxytocin. Often called “the love hormone,” oxytocin is produced in the brain and enters the bloodstream to help create and strengthen connection. It helps bond us with each other, and we crave interaction. Imagine all the positive effects of storytelling as you build relationships with customers!
• Mental clarity and psychological continuity: The telling and receiving of stories is important for mental health. A recent post by a prominent psychologist stated that people who are not able to tell their personal stories to others suffer from what he called “mental hoarding,” an unhealthy jumble of experiences and emotions that burden the brain. In contrast, storytelling between individuals is beneficial long term for all parties involved. With this knowledge, we can greatly improve our approaches to customer service.
STORYTELLING AS A SALES TOOL
What constitutes a compelling story arc and structure? For the purpose of creating content to support business goals, keep these elements in mind.
• Relatability: application and meaning for the audience
• Novelty: uniqueness to stand out from other content
• Tension: presenting and addressing challenges or conflicts
• Fluency: sharing with a natural flow or rhythm
With the application of this understanding of storytelling, you can be off to the races to create meaningful content to support your business goals. Use the following ideas for video, website content, social posting and all forms of marketing communications.
1. Before-and-After Stories: In the flooring business, we know customers are drawn to before-and-afters-both the photos and the narratives of space transformations. Did you realize that the science of storytelling is a big part of what makes these so compelling? People relate with the tension of needing to update interiors, and they appreciate the beginning-to-end resolution of projects that turn out beautifully. Parlay more before-and-after storytelling into your social and digital marketing. Seek “before” photos and project details as vigorously as you focus on getting images of finished projects in order to offer your customers the complete arc, which will surely motivate more response.
2. Testimonials: It’s no secret that today’s marketplace is fueled by reviews and ratings. Many of your potential customers look for the affirmation of others via online reviews prior to interacting with your business at all. Hopefully, you’re already actively collecting and posting reviews. Now, bring what you’ve learned about storytelling to the review collection process. Request more than just the standard “happy customer” statements; ask for the full story from beginning to end. You can package these full-scope reviews into short videos, blog posts or captions on Instagram to tell your customers’ stories and help potential clients choose to work with your business.
3. Case Studies: Case studies make excellent content for social and digital marketing. By nature, these are full stories of projects that go beyond the more basic before-and-afters mentioned previously. Yes, case studies can be time-intensive and challenging to track down, but they are certainly worth the effort. As you collect case studies, be sure to address the elements of good storytelling. Identify the issues or challenges unique to the projects you feature and delve into the ways your team/products offered resolution. Include specific details to make the studies more story-like and relatable. Repurpose this content on your website, in press releases and across your social platforms.
4. Customer Service: Incorporate storytelling into your customer service practices to ensure that people who have issues are fully heard. In providing customers the opportunity to tell their stories from beginning to end, you innately invite them to move toward mental clarity and your frontline teams to move toward being more empathetic through receiving the stories.
5. Educational Content: Even when creating content where the goal is to educate, incorporate stories. Start your white papers and informational PDFs with stories and weave supporting stories throughout the content to illuminate key ideas. This will aid in making your information memorable and meaningful.
6. Team Training: Since storytelling is effective in creating connection and supporting long-term recall, make it a core component of your employee training programs. Give real-life examples, ask other employees to share experience, and always think “beginning-middle-end” when imparting knowledge and know-how to those who are on staff.
Once upon a time, the art of storytelling was the primary way to connect with each other. Even now, in the digital-social-mobile marketplace, it remains the most powerful way to relate to each other. In remembering that marketing is really all about person-to-person connections, we will always create content that is more meaningful, motivational-and helpful-for everyone.
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