Storytelling is an art as old as time. As noted Canadian author Margaret Atwood famously said “You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built in the human plan. We come with it.”
And despite the advent of technology and evolving communication channels and tools, storytelling remains a necessary facet of society, and even more so in a time when marketers need to be increasingly clever about how they can cut through the pervasive noise. Enter social media storytelling.
“Social media is primarily a storytelling platform,” Tyler Butler, ATB's senior manager of external communications, states. “When you can tell a story that captivates and engages your audience, that's when the true power of social media shines through.”
With over 25 million Canadians on social media, it is a forum that simply cannot be ignored. But while consumers are spending time on their social media platform of choice, they don’t want to be blatantly marketed to or feel like they are being tricked into purchasing decisions. When done right, organizations can craft a story that is meaningful and authentic and powerfully persuasive.
Social media is so critical to building your organizational brand that your social media handles should factor into your business name decision-making process. Butler advises that organizations “do the research to ensure your brand is available across all the major platforms before nailing down your business name. If it’s not available, you may want to reconsider the name.”
How does an organization embark on successful digital storytelling and conveying their brand’s voice?
Know your story well
No one knows your story as well as you do. When you set off down the entrepreneurial path, it was because you saw a need and saw the means to fill it. But your organizational story goes much deeper than that. It is in your corporate values, it is in your employees, it is in the way you conduct your daily operations. Be authentic in sharing your narrative - it’s easier to be engaging when the story is coming from a place of truth.
Rviita is an Alberta-based tea company that has a well-articulated story about seeking a healthier alternative to energy drinks and coffee. Their website states, “Rviita is about health. It’s about better ingredients. It’s about better packaging. Rviita is about becoming the best you can be.” And their Instagram account supports and communicates this story.
Understand your audience
One thing all audiences have in common is that they are not hanging out on social media waiting for the hard sale, so it’s important that organizations are mindful of avoiding pushy promotional posts. Otherwise though, unless you are Google, you are not marketing to the entire world at large, so accurately defining your target audiences will inform your social media story. Having a clear understanding of your audience will also dictate which social media platforms you are active on.
One look at the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for Blindman Brewing, a craft brewery based in Lacombe, and it’s clear that they have a solid appreciation for who their audience is - craft beer aficionados in Central Alberta.
Find your Ryan
Butler shares the following story from when he was learning to use Snapchat. “In order to familiarize myself with Snapchat, I started taking a snap of my co-worker Ryan every day. For three months straight. And then when I stopped, I started getting messages from people asking ‘where is Ryan?’ Repetition is effective. Find something unique about your company that you can build a long-term sustainable strategy from. It doesn’t have to be complicated: an office pet, a member of your team or a distinctive location are good places to start.”
If you’re going to be visual, do it right
It pays to post pictures. LinkedIn posts that are accompanied by a photo have an average of a 98 per cent higher comment rate. On Twitter, tweets with images are three times more likely to get engagement. With the advance of smartphones, with the variety in filters, with grid line features built right in, there is no excuse to take (or more accurately, there is no excuse to post) a bad picture.
A few tips for mastering the smartphone photo:
- Use the rule of thirds
- Avoid using the zoom feature – cropping or simply moving closer to the subject will ensure better quality
- Invest in an inexpensive tripod and mount
- Candid shots are great, and add a human element
Skin care company, Ellie Bianca Beauty, shows us how it’s done right on their Instagram account.
Involve your community
Imagine having access to an army of social media savvy members of your target demographic and activating them to creatively market your brand, product or service on your behalf. For free. That’s user-generated content (UGC).
UGC campaigns are brilliant. They are essentially personal endorsements from every participant, and when you consider that 92% of consumers trust personal recommendations over branded content, it becomes clear just how impactful UGC can be. Furthermore, UGC has that authentic feel that social media users desire, and it creates a sense of community. Look no further than Apple’s #shotoniphone UGC campaign for evidence of how far-reaching these campaigns can be (15 million posts and counting).
Relationships are two-way streets
While curating thoughtful content is an essential key to social media success, it’s equally important to interact with your audience.
“Ask broad questions that your audience can easily answer,” Butler suggests. “Social media is a place that your audience will come to you with customer service queries, good and bad. A general rule is to explore how you can add value with your responses, and as much as possible, try to resolve within the channel without redirecting them.”
Acknowledge thoughtful comments on your posts and respond to questions and concerns in a timely manner.
Learn from your wins (and losses)
One of the wonderful things about digital marketing is the plethora of data available to marketers. And social media is no exception. What posts are truly resonating with your desired audience, and what posts are getting weak responses? What time of day are you getting the best engagement? What posts are leading to an increase in followers? Factor these observations into your future planning.
Ultimately, a well-told narrative will build your brand and increase your reach, translating to more followers who can be converted into customers. Butler shares his single biggest piece of advice for those organizations that are looking to get active on social media. “Platform-dependent, tell the bulk of your story early on. Social media differs from, say an article, where you can take your time getting to the climax. You have a tight window in which to convey meaning and grab attention. If someone is giving a quick skim, it’s important that they understand what it is that you want them to understand.”
If you’re looking for a deep dive on everything you need to know around how to grow your business, our ATB X Accelerator program might be just the place for you. Alternatively, feel free to reach out to one of our entrepreneur strategists to explore where you are with your business, where you want to be, and how to get there!