Storytelling and Social Media

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For the last two weeks I’ve had a massive case of writer’s block on my unlikely-to-ever-be-published fantasy detective novel (RIGA HAYWORTH, METAPHYSICAL DETECTIVE).  Maybe that’s why every time I boot up my computer I see something about the importance of storytelling.

There was a random tweet (now lost) about a storyteller who can craft your story either as web/ad copy or to help you gain personal insight.

A friend e-mailed about developing a sales training session for microloan officers, incorporating how stories sell.

Even the great communicator, Ronald Reagan, seemed to reach to me from beyond when I found a quote which roughly said:  You can give a speech that appeals to a person’s intellect but that’s only part of the problem.  You’ve got to get it into their gut, into their feelings, and a story is something that gets it across that way.

Finally, I saw an article about “The Business of Brand Storytelling” and thought, “Enough!”  It’s a great article (read it here), but its focus is on big businesses, with multi-million dollar marketing budgets.  I started to wonder, how could a small business use stories for greater impact in social media?

If you’re a small business owner, presumably you’re selling something.  And in sales, stories are powerful.    People relate to stories in ways they just don’t connect with sales pitches.  We begin to picture ourselves playing the lead role in the story being told, and wonder how we would react, how the situation would affect us, what we would do.  As I see it, there are (at least) three different types of storytelling that happen in the social media realm:

  1. Product/service stories.  These are authentic, genuine stories told by you or – even better –  your clients about how your product or service has solved their problem.  It could be as simple as a sponsored story on Facebook or a blog post on tips from clients about how your product can be used.  What it’s not:  manufactured b.s.  People can smell that from a mile away.
  2. Brand image stories.  These are the stories in the background that give people a sense of who you are.  These back stories make people want to engage with you.  Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company does a good job with this through a dynamic website and Facebook fan page.  I’m not sure if they’ve intended it as their “story”, but they’ve developed one as plucky local brewers who love beer and are having a blast at creating it.  And it sells beer.  These sorts of brand stories are probably most easily developed by posting photos of employees, event info, posts or blogs from owners or employees about why they love what they do, and even the tribulations of small business ownership.
  3. The story as the product.  This seems more rare to me and is primarily used by authors, celebrities and politicians.  For example, novelist Jayne Ann Krentz actually Tweeted a micronovel.  The guys at Redeye have a podcast that has nothing to do with politics, it’s just them shooting the breeze.  Basically, their “story” is their own celebrity.  Okay, most of us probably haven’t achieved celebrity status, but I felt awkward leaving it at only two storytelling types.

And hey… It worked!  The block is broken and I’m back to my manuscript.  Riga’s about to be attacked by a madman in a hospital elevator.  But don’t worry – she can handle it and though the story is noir, all my endings are happy ones.

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