The more I look at social media, the more it reminds me of storytelling. A person can be telling stories around a camp fire with a small audience, or telling stories around the world in mass releases of information. The better the story the more people that will engage with the subject and the better your social media efforts will be. Social media people must be excellent story tellers that can engage and get an audience participate in the story so that it becomes theirs.
The major issues with that are getting people to do an action. We are passive by nature, and you can see this in a great many things that we do, we are numb already, we find it difficult to take action as evidenced by this attack in the Seattle Metro Tunnel – people including those in authority stood by as a young 15 year old girl was attacked. The public outcry afterwards was a form of action, but our numb inactive society in the USA precludes people participating in the story. We view everything as a passive information flow from the computer or TV to our brains to be digested. Honestly under the good Samaritan laws I would have been in the middle of this trying to keep the two people apart screaming for the cops, but then that is the kind of person I am, I am rarely passive in my actions.
You can see a different form of call to action with Conversation Marketing supporting a Portland Oregon SEO firm that was attacked by a Colorado based SEO firm. But the call fell short when I read all the information on it, it seems that the whole thing is unhappy, but not a story that I will get involved with.
Then the final kind of argument that resonates and hits me where my belief system lives, and that is in Amber Naslund (From Altitude) where she talks about Social Media and Accountability. She spins a down to earth story in that yes we really can do the things we need to do to be measurable and accountable, even if we do not want to. This is a story I can dive into and feel the need to respond, even if there is not a good response other than “hear hear”.
Sometimes all we can do is agree with the story teller, other times we fail to engage because it seems like both parties were at fault, and in other ways we are so outraged that we have to do something. This is the art of good story telling, you get the response you need by how well you tell the story.
If you look at Dairy Queen as a case study and go back to all the places that DQ invested in, their blog, Facebook, and other systems, they are telling a story. But they are telling everyone’s story as they encounter the brand. You see behind the scenes processes and real people with pictures, contests, prizes and the ability to connect with DQ on a level that is impossible when you walk into the store. The story telling on the DQ Blog is enough to lead someone to the belief that they are real people doing real things to bring you tasty treats. Dairy Queen has made an art form of storytelling on the systems that they engage in. The approaches that DQ takes in their social media process is low key, responsible, providing an opportunity for people to engage on a much deeper level than walking into the local DQ and ordering a Blizzard.
It is the social media that fails that we see where the art of storytelling has failed. You see this in the thousands of fly by night twitter accounts, failed blogs and failed outposts in Facebook. It was not that these people did not have a story, but that the story being told failed to engage the audience. Of course there is always the chance at twitter millions for 29.99 (just drop a check in the mail), but you have to take a look at social media not only by what can be measured, but by what story you are trying to tell.
If you are a university and you want to talk about student life, do not just tell everyone about the great benefits that students have interview people and get their stories, post pictures of student life, have a podcast, have an outpost on Facebook for students, and engage students in how they access and consume information. If you are running an active student life section, do not forget the calendar to show what is coming next so that people can make plans to attend. Student life is not your life, it is theirs and they should be telling the story. You are simply the person in the middle that is writing text and editing audio and video segments.
This brings me to the many open jobs I have seen in social media over the last 90 days, because companies are starting to get serious about being on board with social media. I looked over a couple of the job openings and the first question I had is what is the companies’ story? You can go visit their web site and see what they do, you can go visit Glassdoor and Jobvent to see how happy the employees are, you can talk to current employees via Facebook or LinkedIn. But you do not get the companies stories; you get individual stories about the company through the lens of job satisfaction. This often leads to thoughts on corporate reputation management which in some ways what corporate level social networking is also all about.
On two different sides we are telling stories, we tell stories to tell what a responsible corporation we are (brand management) and we tell stories to engage people into action (to sell stuff). The question we need to start asking now of our social networking folks is “Just how good a story teller are you”?
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(Cross-posted @ TechWag )