SOCIAL MEDIA

7 Ways to Tell Stories (Truthful Ones) to Sell Online

Want to make social media work for you? Tell a story. A personal, honest one about you, or an employee. Not effective? Try again.
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Consumers don't care about you. They care about what you mean to them. And meaning comes from stories. When you tell your company story, you become more relatable. And when consumers relate to your brand, they'll buy from you. 

Social media allows you to tell your stories at scale and build powerful relationships with your customers. In the past, storytelling to the masses was expensive and only possible via large media firms. Now, storytelling is free, or near-free, via accessible social media tools. 

Here are seven simple ways you can become a more effective storyteller on social media:

1. Tell your brand's story.

While not every company was started with a wedding, every company has an interesting beginning with a founder and a dream. Every organization's humble beginnings have the potential to resonate with consumers. When a consumer hears the story of how your company was born, he or she can feel an immediate emotional connection with you. 

2. Tell your employees' stories.

Your brand has real people behind it, and each one has a story to tell. Maybe it's a staff member who worked her way up while going back to school and raising a family. Maybe it's someone who always has a smile on his face when he serves customers. Find the compelling stories and tell them through social media. As an example, check out the story of Mary from McDonalds.

3. Tell your customers' stories.

Develop a story that helps consumers connect the dots between what they need and what you deliver. Consider how your customers have benefited from your company. What have you meant to them? Any successful company has many stories about happy, inspired customers. Whatever your company does, it solves problems--you just have to figure out how to create emotional connections for your customers around them. 

4. Inspire your customers to tell stories.

The only thing better than telling your customers' stories on social media is inspiring them to tell those stories themselves. This is the modern-day equivalent of a testimonial. It has always been a key component of word-of-mouth marketing, but with social media it can happen that much faster and easier. Look to your most passionate customers or those who have had the most significant interactions with you. Then give them the tools to tell others about you. With just a little encouragement, you can prompt customers to initiate a movement of storytelling around your brand. Consider hosting contests. You can use a service like North Social to create an outlet for your fans to tell about their experiences with your brand. (Full disclosure: North Social is a client of Likeable, my company.)

5. Use images often. 

A picture is worth a thousand words. It may be a cliche, but a picture really can tell a story that much more effectively. The growing popularity of social networks like Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr support this. When telling stories online, pictures can powerfully relay behind-the-scenes stories about your brand, your office, and your staff. Consider using Instagram to showcase a selection of your filtered images directly to your Facebook page.

6. Use video even more often.

A video is worth a thousand more words. Online videos ranging from 30 seconds to two minutes can captivate online audiences just like big budget TV commercials. Try uploading short clips of staff and customers telling their personal stories. Make it emotionally captivating so your customers can relate on the other side of the screen.

7. Be human.

Just because you're using social media to tell stories, it doesn't mean you should act like a computer when you do. Quite the opposite. If you're not telling your stories with an authentic personality, you have no shot at building a real relationship with your customers. Poignant stories can humanize you and make your company more likeable, no matter your size, or current success.

You may be the best storyteller in the world, but if you don't use your stories to convert your audience into customers, the effort will be meaningless. Simillarly, if you have the wrong people listening to your story, even the best story won't sell. The good news is: storytelling online is far cheaper, with less risk, than old-school traditional marketing. So if the story you tell today doesn't resonate, tell another one tomorrow.

IMAGE: iStock
Last updated: Feb 15, 2013

DAVE KERPEN | Columnist | CEO, Likeable Media

Dave Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable Local. He is also the cofounder and chairman of Likeable Media and the New York Times bestselling author of Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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